Friday, April 16, 2010

30-Day Confidence-Building Challenge: Confidence killer #2 Isolation

Last week, I wrote about how comparing ourselves to other writers makes us miserable and is the fastest way to kill our confidence.

Today, let's talk about another confidence-killer: Isolation.

It's an occupational hazard: If you're self-employed, you're spending a lot of time by yourself. And if you're lucky, you're spending a lot of that time working. But there's the rub: Especially if you're newly self-employed, you've got more time than work, and that alone time, with all those doubts and insecurities nagging at you can wear you down to the point where you're doubting everything:
  • Doubting your skills ("Everyone else out there has more talent/more tech skills/is younger/better connected than me")
  • Doubting your ideas ("Everyone else out there probably has better story ideas and it's easier for them to generate them.")
Before not too long, you find yourself doubting your career path ("Everyone else has always been focused/knows what they're doing/is going to be more successful than me") and then to your very place in life ("Everyone else knows what they're doing with their lives. Oh my God, what am I doing with my life?!?").

And bingo: Paralysis.

No work is getting done. No queries are being sent. No effort is being made to find new clients or expand your creativity. How could it? You've decided it's all pointless.

And you're certainly not talking to other freelancers about your doubts, because you've already convinced yourself that everyone else has it all figured out/has it all together/is wildly successful, while you slowly decompensate into a mass of quivering insecurity.

So how do you cope with the fear, especially when being alone is a part of the job?

Here are a few ideas, and please share your own in the comments:

Go to writers' events
I know they're scary. I know you feel awkward. I know you don't know any of them, but that's the point. You have to get out there and meet freelancers and build a network of other creative professionals you relate to and you can call. Don't go with making the goal of getting work. Go with the goal of meeting other creative types and trying to find out about social get-togethers, potential co-working set-ups and people you might want to have lunch with and talk shop.

Get an action buddy
Now that you've met some people, start asking them if they'd be up for. Tell them what you have in mind: Daily or weekly phone check-ins on your progress and how you're doing. The key is that both of you need to participate. That way, you'll hear the struggles of another writer and be reminded, perhaps daily, that you're not the only one with those doubts.

Join a writer's group
I've suggested this before, but I'll tell you that it's my lifeline. Getting together with a group of freelancers and talking about successes and challenges, and checking in on goals gives me a built-in place where I can talk about my doubts. It also reminds me that everyone has doubts, that everyone struggles. It's incredibly freeing.

Have lunch
Whether you meet them through writers events, Facebook or other organizations, you'll inevitably find freelancers who might want to get out of the house regularly and meet face-to-face with a real-life human being. Get together. Have lunch. Make a goal of doing it once a month, and you'll be out of your house and away from those running thoughts more often.

The key is to interrupt those spiraling fear thoughts.

How do you break the isolation and the downward spiral?

Photo by chad_k.

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