Brave?

I think I mentioned that my cousin lectures me pretty much all the time on how to take a compliment gracefully, because apparently I don’t know how. I thought of her last night when at the thing I was so worried about because people kept saying such nice things about my work.

It’s especially weird to hear people describe me as brave. I think, if you read here, you know why. I don’t feel brave. I feel afraid and anxious and like a walking mess. I guess I don’t quite understand what brave really means when applied to me. Brave is actually doing shit which I do not do. I am, at best, brave-adjacent.

So, anyway, when complimented, I’m trying not to launch into my usual, “Oh, no, it’s not that big a deal,” because it annoys my cousin and it then spurs the person into trying to talk me into it being a big deal, which then prolongs the massive discomfort I feel.

I am, instead, trying to just say, “Thank you.” But I feel like I must not have a very good poker face because I can tell by their reactions that people don’t believe that I believe their compliments.

It’s funny to think about it too much. I mean, first of all, I know I look at other writers and I see them getting heaps of praise and I kind of envy that, like, wouldn’t it be nice if everyone thought I was so awesome? And then I send my fiction stories out into the world and they make barely perceptible tiny ripples and I still envy the people who are good at it.

Meanwhile, I go out back, wrestle with pigs, and when people cheer for me, I don’t know how to take it. It doesn’t make me feel satisfied. I feel like it’s kind of embarrassing that people have noticed I have this dirty hobby.

I think, though, that this is really unfair to myself and I need to stop doing it. I need to just view writing as writing and not look down on one way I do it.

Anyway, there was no massive blow-up like I was so worried about. She didn’t even talk to me and I was busy talking to other people.

4 thoughts on “Brave?

  1. Brave doesn’t mean an absence of fear; brave is what you are when you do the thing despite your fear and anxiety. Honestly, I don’t know if an action even qualifies as brave if your knees aren’t knocking at least a little. The thing is, when you’re the one doing the thing, the fear lasts with you much longer than the action takes to perform, while people looking at you from the outside can look more objectively and see how significant that action was without seeing it through the filter of your nervousness.

  2. Sometimes it’s brave just to get out of bed in the morning. There’s a place I go twice a week and have done so for almost 3 years now. In the beginning they would call me a warrior and I would just laugh because I didn’t feel like a warrior. I felt like an inadequate so and so who couldn’t do anything I was asked to do. However, I have recently realized that every person who walks in the door of that place is very brave. And I AM a warrior and I’m winning (most days). It hasn’t been easy and some of the failures have been the stuff of legend, but if I can do it so can everybody else. What Nina says is true – I still feel terrified occasionally. The key is to keep on trying. And when you can finally do it, you move on to the next thing. Every success gives you the confidence that you can do more.

  3. There are two things I tell myself when I am tempted to push away compliments:

    1. It’s not polite! People want to compliment you because it makes *them* feel good. You should let them, even if you think it’s a load of horse-hockey.

    2. The voice in your brain that doubts all you do, if you’re a woman, is at least partially the internalized voice of patriarchy, which fears female excellence above all things. There is nothing the patriarchy wants more than for women who do well to be devalued and men who do nothing/terrible things to be exalted (i.e., the current election). So accepting a compliment and letting yourself, as a woman, be a tiny bit elevated is pushing back against that toxic ugly miasma of wrongness. Even if it makes you uncomfortable.

  4. All three of these comments are wonderful and insightful (accept my compliments, please, you guys!). And you are brave. And strong. And I’m sorry you even have to wade through the bullshit (pigshit?).

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