Simplifying Your Self: Can You Make it Not About You?
Huh? What's She Sayin?
I admit it, I’m a self-centered gasbag–one of those souls who will go on and on about some element of their lives which is utterly fascinating to them or which they think is relevant to some larger idea. Unfortunately the relevance often escapes the listener/reader and the gasbag ends up only indulged by her nearest and dearest.
Here on this blog there are classic gasbag posts: great big paragraphs, too many paragraphs, a point of view that’s all about me and not too much that reaches out to you unless you are a particularly keen journal reader. Truth be told, this blog began as a journal of going on the Minimalist Path, and I’ve deliberately avoided any sort of advice-giving or coaching. After all, who the hell am I?
- Do you ever feel like that?
- Do you stick to your own story and avoid being instructive or illuminating because it seems presumptuous to do so?
- Do you feel that you should not step past journaling because you haven’t gotten your doctorate in Psychology?
- Do you find yourself annoyed or intimidated by others who are equally unqualified and yet go public with their 5 Steps to Utter Happiness?
- In short, do you have a lack of confidence?
Becoming Minimalist recently had an excellent post on self-confidence, how it keeps us from getting lost in self-destructive behaviors. I’d like to make some further observations, specific to self-improvement, blogging, and, ahem, gasbagging.
Going on the Minimalist Path is unquestionably a form of self-improvement–paring away the unessential clarifies what is important to you and why. Yet like many other forms of learning new habits there is a dicey period of time where you don’t feel like you’re one thing or the other. It can be unsettling, and your self-confidence can be wobbly during this time.
Self-confidence suffers during periods of self-centeredness, and all of us on a path of self-improvement are by definition self-centered. It’s neither a good or a bad thing, it’s just part of the process. If you are really making changes in your mind or in your habits, it will simply take time before you have your sea-legs, before you’re truly confident in your new M.O.
You can see this happening in a lot of new bloggers when they change their blog one right after the other, trying to find their voice and message. I love following new bloggers and watching them evolve. I love following the ones who started about the same time I did and are running circles around me, too. There are so many wonderful voices out there, and they sound better and better the more self-confident they get.
Even the really experienced bloggers change their message as they evolve. A perfect example of this is Leo Babauta, who in a recent Zen Habits post writes about his changing point of view, from being goal-oriented to having no goals. He is famous for his self-improvement story. But now, having absorbed those new habits he can simply live them, and know they will take him to where he wants to go. That’s real self-confidence.
Many gasbags are self-centered, and thus lack self-confidence. Some of them are just that way out of habit–a bad habit. I took a step back from my blog and noted the evolution of the posts from almost terse to topping the 2,000 word mark. On one hand this shows a growing sense of voice. On the other hand it belies a lack of confidence in declaring the useful points rather than storytelling them. Time for a better habit!
If simpler is better, there is no better self-improvement for the world’s gasbags than simplifying our stories. A funny thing happens when you try to do that:
- Take a personal anecdote, a story about yourself that you’ve told others, and distill it to its essence.
- Is there anything of you left in it?
- Can you distill it further to a universal story, a universal lesson, a universal experience?
It is deeply humbling to distill your personal stories this way, and yet it is wonderfully affirmative. When you distill your stories, your self, down to the essence, the lowest common denominator, that’s the point at which you can start to become self-confident, because then You are no longer the focal point, or the Message. Your experience of a universal story doesn’t get in the way of sharing it. That’s the change that needs to happen when moving out of journaling and into blogging, from self-centeredness to self-confidence.
Thanks to my friends and family for their patience and good humor, and for their really helpful support