Live Through This

Give Up Giving Up

How to fight the self-saboteur in your head.

Illustration by Marjainez

There’s something you really want to do right now. Maybe you’re thinking of performing on open-mike night at a comedy club. Or applying to your dream school. Or submitting your work to a magazine, journal, website, TV show, etc. Or trying a new sport or musical instrument. Or just asking someone out. It’s something you’ve never tried before, and it could get you one step closer to a dream of yours. But, right this minute, you’re already talking yourself out of it.

How do I know this? Because everybody does it. I myself do it all the time—I think of something that sounds like a good idea, and then find a way to sabotage it before I’ve even begun.

Why do we do this to ourselves? And why do we, especially—meaning girls and women—do this to ourselves? This is a sweeping generalization, and of course there are lots of exceptions and nuances, but I have rarely heard a male friend say, “Eh, they probably won’t hire me anyway,” or “I just don’t think I’d be any good at it.” Instead, they tend to try everything, and worry about the consequences later. (I think this is why so many of them ended up with broken arms from jumping their BMX bikes over janky ramps made of found wood and rusty nails.) This isn’t to say that girls don’t engage in risky behavior or make bad decisions, too—but since we were raised in a world that told us not to be too confident or assertive, we tend to second-guess ourselves more than boys, and that makes us say no to a lot of stuff just because we’re scared of failing.

It really sucks, because over time, when you’ve said it over and over a million times, no becomes your default. You REALLY want to learn how to skateboard, but you tell yourself you won’t be any good at it. Or you want to learn how to play guitar, but your first thought is how embarrassing it will be if you mess up a chord progression. Sure, if you talk yourself out of trying something, you are guaranteed not to fail at that thing—but failure is where all the learning occurs! That’s the secret to getting good at almost anything: you stink at first, but you don’t care—you keep doing it because you enjoy it (or you know you will enjoy it once you’ve gotten better at it). And then, after you’ve practiced doing it for a while, you get much, much better. Maybe you get great. You can’t get there, though, if you don’t give yourself room to fail at the outset.

There are, of course, plenty of times when it’s a good idea to say no–you probably don’t want to go to a club for the first time without friends, or try to drive stick shift without some practice in an empty parking lot. But when it comes to dyeing your hair or taking an improv class or learning how to sew, why are you denying yourself a chance to really shine? And how do you learn to say yes?

You can, in fact, retrain your brain to focus on the positive sides of trying something—you know, like This is a thing that I want, that might make me really happy—instead of sabotaging yourself with negative thoughts. Self-sabotage involves a lot of self-talk (“What’s the point, everyone will just think I’m lame”); you need to counter that with a new kind of self-talk that’s about how great you are (“Oh man, it’s gonna be so cool when I can shred on that guitar”).

First, recognize how often you actually say no to things you secretly want to do. If it helps, write it down every time, or make a check in a notebook or something. Seriously, every time. A couple of years ago I noticed that I was talking myself out of doing a lot of creative things, and I wasn’t sure why, so I started carrying a tiny notebook around, and every single time I had a negative response to one of my own cool ideas, I drew a little line in it. After seven days, there were 75 lines in the notebook! That’s a lot of opportunities to become happier and more awesome squandered in a single week. (Granted, sometimes I was rejecting the same idea more than once—I don’t think of 75 new cool things to do every week!—but that still seems like a lot of naysaying, right?) I never would have thought it was so frequent—that’s why the first thing you have to do is try to keep track. It’s easy to underestimate how often you do this. So grab a pen and paper and start paying attention to your own brain for a bit. At the end of the day/week/month, look at how many times you’ve talked yourself out of doing something. Are you astonished? Now that you have a baseline, let’s get to work.

Your brain is already really good at talking yourself out of stuff. What you need are powerful counter-arguments. So, here are four of the more common self-sabotaging thoughts out there, and some strategies for silencing them:

“Someone has already done this, and they did it MUCH better.”

Yes, Steve Jobs was a genius. And you’re probably not going to reinvent the personal computer tomorrow. But why should that stop you from trying? Jobs started with a garage and an idea. We still don’t have flying cars or teleportation, and someone has to do it, so why not you? Your success is not directly related to anyone else’s, and their success doesn’t mean you have to stop trying. If either of those were the case, there would be only one book and one song in the world, because everyone else would have given up after that.

A great way to get over this type of thinking is to be a little patient with yourself. If you start messing around with computer parts now just to see what you can make, in 10 years you might invent a cellphone that automatically recharges itself using solar power every time you’re outside, or a robot that will walk the dog for you, and become a billionaire.

“People will tell me I suck, or leave terrible comments.”

Kathleen Hanna (of Bikini Kill and Le Tigre and Julie Ruin) recently said in an interview:

Beyoncé isn’t Beyoncé because she reads comments on the internet. Beyoncé is in Ibiza, wearing a stomach necklace, walking hand in hand with her hot boyfriend. She’s going on the yacht and having a mimosa. She’s not reading shitty comments about herself on the internet, and we shouldn’t either. I just think, Would Beyoncé be reading this? No, she would just delete it, or somebody would delete it for her. What I really need to do is close the computer and then talk back to that voice and say, Fuck you. I don’t give a shit what you think. I’m Beyoncé. I’m going to Ibiza with Jay-Z now, fuck off. Being criticized is part of the job, but seeking it out isn’t. That’s our piece to let go.

I mean, obviously Be Beyoncé is the best advice for everything in life, but I love what Hanna is saying here. It’s not about just idolizing Beyoncé for her music/acting/videos/amazingness, but recognizing that being influenced by detractors is a choice. You can spend a ton of time and energy worrying about what other people think, or you can put it into your own projects, or into things that make you feel good. Time and energy are both finite resources—there’s only so much to go around.

Whether or not people criticize you is out of your control, anyway, so you have to decide that their commentary doesn’t matter (really, it doesn’t) and that it won’t stop you from eventually ACHIEVING GREATNESS. Then, have so much fun while you’re learning this new thing that the people criticizing you look like fools.

In the course of your entire life, you will have much more fun trying 100 new things than being great at one thing.

“I just want to try something new without everyone finding out or having expectations of me.”

This is a legit worry, because sometimes people will want to project their own feelings onto your experience. Like, if your dad always wanted to learn how to skateboard, and now you’re giving it a shot, he might be ULTRA interested in your progress in an annoying way–buying you all the gear, following you around with a camera, talking about it at dinner–when you really just want to see if it’s something you’ll like.

Find a way to get started without much input, so you don’t have outside pressure to stick with it. Whether or not you end up doing this new thing you’re trying for the rest of your life is besides the point; it’s much more important that you get into the habit of trying stuff. If you want to skate, can you borrow a skateboard from a friend and practice the next street over? Or, can you save some money to get your own stuff, and put it somewhere where no one will inquire about it for a while? What if you want to write, but you’re afraid your ideas are terrible and you don’t want any feedback in the beginning stages of finding your own voice? You can always keep a pen-and-ink journal, or hide your diary in a password-protected file on your computer—or, if you need your words to be somewhat public as motivation to write regularly, start an anonymous blog on a free site like Blogger or LiveJournal or WordPress, and disable comments.

“I’m afraid I’ll succeed.”

This one might seem weird—doesn’t everyone want to succeed? Why would anyone be afraid of success? Well, I can tell you from a lot of personal experience, this is a real fear that can put you in a rut and hold you there forever. Let’s say you get really great at something, or you win a prize, or you try out for something big and get it. You’ll probably start to get a lot of attention from other people, which can be uncomfortable enough for some of us on its own, but even worse, some of that attention is going to be of the hater variety. Some people might resent your success and try to make you feel bad about it. In these cases, you should always default to Beyoncé (see above).

But sometimes it’s success in and of itself that we’re scared of. When you’ve reached your goal in life, what do you next? Where is there to go from there? And what if you get there, right where you’ve always wanted to be, and you realize that you’re still not happy? Or that you actually hate the Ivy League/acting/tennis/being a doctor/fashion/jazz music/etc.? Relax—success isn’t some permanent mountaintop that you reach, then you’re stuck there. Instead of concentrating on GETTING TO THE TOP, maybe define success as whatever has the most potential to make you happy—which will change many, many times throughout your life (sometimes throughout a single day). Keep chasing happiness, not success. That way you’ll never feel like there’s nowhere left to go.

Concentrating on happiness will also help you brush off other people’s expectations. I have a friend who is easily the best photorealistic painter I’ve ever seen. Everyone expected her to go to art school for college—and she did, for a while, but she hated it. But she loves science! So she switched majors and now works in a biochemical lab. Everyone who sees her paintings in her apartment can’t believe she doesn’t paint for a living. Some people act like she’s betraying her talent by not making it her life’s work. But art school taught her that painting is fun for her only when he doesn’t have to do it every day. You can let yourself be great at something without letting it take over your life forever, just like you can be good at something you grow to dislike and move on to something new.

And you don’t have to be good at that new thing right away, or ever. Give yourself enough time and space to figure out what you like and whether or not you feel like sticking with it. Now is not the time to worry about whether or not you’ll be a wild success. Get in the habit of positive self-talk and see where it can take you. That you’re trying at all is enough. ♦

107 Comments

  • Emma November 26th, 2012 7:08 PM

    I love this. I have been considering getting a pixie cut for the longest time, but I keep talking myself out of it. I think I will get it now, though!

    • Danielle November 26th, 2012 7:51 PM

      Yay, send us pictures!

    • soviet_kitsch November 26th, 2012 8:00 PM

      I got a pixie cut last year. You’ll love it!

    • Mer November 26th, 2012 9:57 PM

      Oh my gosh that’s so funny!! I’ve been thinking the same thing! I’ve always wanted one and I’ve been talking about it for months finally my mom called and brought me there so I couldn’t back out. I got a pixie cut on Friday and I love it! Do it and just remember its just hair it will grow back. And people will think you’re a total badass and cool for it. I’m glad with my decision and I hope you do it.

  • Faith November 26th, 2012 7:13 PM

    The solar powered cellphone charger is actually a really good idea..

    http://vintagereverie.blogspot.com

  • taste test November 26th, 2012 7:38 PM

    thank you for this article, it’s great!

    also, thank you so much for saying you don’t have to let one thing you’re good at take over your life. that is something no one ever seems to say. I love writing and people have said I’m good at it, but the college I’m at doesn’t even have a creative writing program. I have taken so much shit for this. people act like it means I am WASTING MY LIFE OMG. but I would hate having to write things for grading & for workshopping all the time. I write for me. if I can make a living from it one day, it would be cool, but I don’t want to have to. and there are lots of other things I like.

    • Danielle November 26th, 2012 7:54 PM

      So smart! I like that you’re keeping it for yourself while you try other things. If you ever feel like sharing with the world, you can, but what’s the harm in keeping it as a fun hobby? Especially if you’re in college – that’s a great time to take lots of different classes or expose yourself to different hobbies. Good for you!

  • ElleDesi November 26th, 2012 7:57 PM

    This is so relevant! I literally just bought my first ukulele a few days ago. I had been talking myself out of learning an instrument for the longest time. Thanks for this!

    • chloegrey November 26th, 2012 10:48 PM

      ukuleles are the best instrument for this cause they’re a snap to learn and SO much fun and you can carry it everywhere and get good-looking hippie vagabonds to start conversations with you because of it (if that’s your thing)…. literally I could go on and on :)

      • Kathryn November 27th, 2012 11:38 PM

        Really? I’ve been wanting to learn how to play the ukulele but I was scared that it would be too hard… I’ve tried playing guitar but I can’t get my fingers to reach/not cover up more than one string at a time, so maybe on a smaller size it would be easier? Maybe I just have fatty fingers.

        • doubleshiny November 28th, 2012 6:24 AM

          Hi Kathryn, if your fingers are not reaching/covering up more than one string it is just a matter of practicing, I promise it gets easier.

          I have tiny velociraptor hands and it was tough for me to learn guitar too but the more I practiced the easier it got. It won’t always sound perfect but who cares? What matters is the overall sound you make, not how perfect every little part is. You can also get guitars different sized necks, maybe your guitar is just not the right fit.

          Songs like Call Me Maybe, Somebody That I Used To Know and We Are Young are good practice songs because the chords and changes are pretty easy and they are fun to play and sing.

          Good luck!

  • Fae November 26th, 2012 8:06 PM

    Hey, if you guys could stop reading my very soul and then posting articles about it that’d be great.
    But really.
    I’ve been figuring out ways to put off doing an open mic for so long.
    You guys are amazing+incredibly familiar with my life.
    xoxo

  • ElephantPrincess November 26th, 2012 8:13 PM

    This is so relevant and encouraging. I constantly turn down offers to join someone’s band when I know music, singing, guitar, is what I love to do. I always think of archaic reasons not to do it. But now, an old friend of mine has asked me to sing in his band and go to his band practice, and I will not turn down this opportunity after having read this!

  • MeredithCWS November 26th, 2012 8:23 PM

    It’s funny because the thing I was just considering “giving up” because I “could never do it” was submitting an article for next month. Thank you because this is perfect!

    • Danielle November 26th, 2012 9:37 PM

      YES, do it! And do not give up.

  • Kardvark November 26th, 2012 8:31 PM

    The only caution about telling yourself how great you’re going to be is that you might not turn out to be any good at a particular hobby or skill. I’ve been trying to play various musical instruments since I was 11, and it took me years to accept that I’ll just never be a musician, or even a mediocre player, no matter how hard I try. But I think I set my goals too high, because I wasn’t prepared for the possibility of failure. It was a crushing disappointment, because I always wanted to play piano or saxophone or guitar. And no matter how much I practice, I just suck.

    Since then, I’ve learned not to have any goals or expectations when I try something new. I just do it to see what happens. If I like it, or if I turn out to be good, I keep at it. But having no expectations of success means that anything I do turns out to be an accomplishment.

    • Stienz November 26th, 2012 10:38 PM

      Hey. As someone who plays piano and guitar (and a little clarinet), it takes really really long to sound any good. Years long – depending on what you see as ‘good’. Especially piano. Like, it’s very possible you don’t actually suck. So if you’re up for it, stick with one and try again (but I guess you’ve already heard that). Also, it’s true about expectations.

  • xin November 26th, 2012 8:33 PM

    I feel like my mind is telling me to pick one job and stick with it for the rest of my life because that would be a safe/failproof choice . But a part of me really doesn’t want to make that choice. Like,I want to be a pilot for half my life,but then maybe a lawyer,and then maybe a writer and so on.I want to experiment with a small variety of different careers but I’m too scared to do so with my life.
    /end rambling

    • Danielle November 26th, 2012 9:39 PM

      I am not exaggerating when I tell you I’ve had over 20 jobs in my life so far. If your quality of life is what you want it to be, you can find work doing anything. Sure, I don’t have a million dollar home or anything, but I have amazing friends, a great relationship, and a ton of great, fun stories.

      Also, a pilot lawyer who writes about her life seems pretty dope to me.

      • tsmargin November 27th, 2012 3:19 PM

        About the pilot lawyer who writes about their life, that’s basically what Romain Gary was and he was a total badass. There should be more pilot lawyers writing and you could totally be one.

        • thirsty-pretzels November 27th, 2012 4:25 PM

          Romain Gary is brilliant. It makes me so happy that you mentioned him!

  • Hannah November 26th, 2012 8:41 PM

    So, since reading this article, I’ve decided to stop talking myself out of learning to skateboard, and I’m going to find a picture to finally cut my hair off and have a awesome short hair cut.

    I’m so scared of that damn skateboard though D:

    • Danielle November 27th, 2012 12:00 AM

      The worst thing that can happen is that you fall down. Okay, you *could* roll into traffic or something I guess. I practiced on a dead-end street, and even had my friends pull me around on a rope to get the feel for it at first. You can do it! Falling down isn’t so terrible! Wear a helmet for crying out loud! But get out there!

  • galaxypirate November 26th, 2012 8:46 PM

    I’m about to transfer to a really academic school and I was starting to get worried. I’m so ready now, though. Thank you so much.

  • Ladymia69 November 26th, 2012 8:48 PM

    I think this article was sent by fate for me to see. I am struggling with this so hard right now, and I am 33. I have been struggling with it most of my life, but more and more as I get older…but I am beginning to really buy into the whole “feel the fear and do it anyway” thing.

  • Kaleidoscopeeyes November 26th, 2012 8:54 PM

    So relevant, as always. I’ve been considering a. trying to learn some dances and b. submitting some of my stuff here for the last few days and had just talked my self out of it.

  • LilySew November 26th, 2012 9:03 PM

    Before reading this I actually didn’t realise how many things i talk myself out of doing, and really i do it alot. :D

    http://sewoverdressed.blogspot.com.au/

  • pigbloodprincess November 26th, 2012 9:10 PM

    It’s articles like this that make me really grateful for Rookie and everything that you guys are doing for young (and not-so-young) girls (and boys). I flip any teen magazine over and all I find is fashion tips and hair styles. Then I get online and find this, REAL LIFE, USEFUL information on what to DO with your life and how to get the GUTS to do it (I’m struggling with this one myself, guts are very hard to acquire). Living in a world that tells us that IT’S NOT OKAY TO BE NOT OKAY, and then hearing Rookie say IT’S OKAY TO BE NOT OKAY, it’s okay to want to give up, but also, HERE’S WHAT YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT.

    BRAVO

    (sorry for the overzealous use of all caps, this article was very strong & empowering & great!)

  • princesskitty November 26th, 2012 9:13 PM

    The first time I ever read that quote by Kathleen Hanna about Beyonce, I cried so hard. It just made so much sense, I don’t know how I didn’t think of it first!!

    • Tavi November 26th, 2012 9:15 PM

      it’s actually one of the best things i have ever come across

    • Danielle November 26th, 2012 9:43 PM

      I wrote it down, emailed it to myself, the works – it’s just the best thing I’ve ever heard. So simple, so true.

  • aud85220 November 26th, 2012 9:23 PM

    Thank you so, so much for posting this. I really loved the part about how there would only be one song and one book. I really want to be an actress on Broadway when I grow up, but sometimes I look at other people’s success and talent, and decide that since my end product won’t be exactly like that one, therefore it wont be good at all. Which is just completely insane when you really think about it. So, thank you, Danielle!! <3 You rock!

    • Danielle November 26th, 2012 9:45 PM

      I do this, too, the talking myself out of things because other people are so much better. But then I realize the goal isn’t to be better, but to just DO the thing, you know?

      • aud85220 November 26th, 2012 9:59 PM

        I think my soul is dead. A Rookie writer knows I exist. IOGREOIOWROJGK. You have officially made my life. :’D

  • Kathryn November 26th, 2012 9:37 PM

    SUCH A GREAT ARTICLE, DANIELLE!

    All three of today’s articles are so on point in my life right now! (Can’t wait to read the vintage glasses one! I want new frames– preferably horn-rimmed or cat-eyes– so this will be perfect!) THANK YOU, ROOKIE.

    PS: I noticed that “I just want to try something new without everyone finding out or having expectations of me.” isn’t bolded in the article. Just thought I’d point it out if you missed that!

  • Mimi7 November 26th, 2012 10:02 PM

    This is perfect timing because I’ve noticed myself doing this more lately. I’ve been thinking of interning for a magazine near me over the summer. I went to look on their website and they said something about being in collage (which I’m not, I’m in 9th grade) and having to submit a resume which I also don’t have. I think I could actually do a good job but I’m just scared of rejection which is likely. Thank you though for this article, I may as well give it a try. Why not? I’ll just be back where I started or better.

    • missmadness November 27th, 2012 11:36 AM

      Most publications love youthful enthusiasm almost as much as they love free labor ;). I would schedule a time to talk with the editor or whoever is in charge of the internship. Even if you don’t get the internship, you’ll have a foot in the door for the future.

  • Harley November 26th, 2012 10:07 PM

    It’s so easy to say NO to something that you secretly desire, but learning to say YES is amazing.
    I’ve wanted to learn to play the bass since I was a wee little fifth grader. The summer before my senior year, I bought a bass guitar and I love it more than life itself. Because of my own self-encouragement and some patience, I can play some of my favorite songs by ear now! (Although I have eight years of experience with the violin so that really helped!)
    I waited way too long to do something amazing, and I wish I had started learning this new instrument sooner. I’m just glad that I finally said yes to that desire, because I have increased my abilities as a musician and as a person.

    • Danielle November 27th, 2012 12:01 AM

      \m/ (this is nerd for rock n roll)

  • smasey November 26th, 2012 10:23 PM

    thank you –

    i needed this kick in the pants more than anything. whenever i start to like something, i general end up not pursuing it further out of pure laziness or self loathing.

    <3

  • SarahHach November 26th, 2012 10:33 PM

    This couldn’t have been posted at the most perfect time. I’ve been doing research about social anxiety, and I’m starting to believe that I might have developed it in the past year or two. I’ve always been very outgoing but I’ve noticed that recently I have to build up the courage just to contribute to a simple conversation. The thought of any social rejection gets me anxious and for the most part I just sit in my college dorm room all day and do nothing. I’m working everyday to get to a better place and go back to the outgoing mental state that I used to be at. This article REALLY helped. Thanks, Rookie! ♡

    • Danielle November 27th, 2012 12:02 AM

      I’ve felt that at times, too, usually when I’ve changed something major in my life (moved, new school, etc.). I’m glad you’re finding ways to build yourself up again. :)

  • kzspygv November 26th, 2012 10:57 PM

    UUGGGHHHH I’ve been wanting to do stand-up comedy for so long, but I’m terrified….!

    • Danielle November 27th, 2012 12:04 AM

      Alright, you should do this, for real. Can you start with storytelling? Like, instead of throwing yourself in front of a huge crowd expecting a solid 15-minute set, maybe just work on telling ONE funny, 3 or 4 minute story to a group of friends and build from there?

    • neffersions November 28th, 2012 12:13 AM

      or a free improv class! (or a paid one, for that matter.) the great thing about improv is that it’s everyone’s job to be funny, not just yours.

  • sarahisoverthere November 26th, 2012 11:08 PM

    Great article, man I really needed this. I’ve been really down lately and have been wanting to start doing creative things (writing poetry, fleshing out my idea for a screenplay, etc.) but I’ve been putting it all off for reasons that generally fall into the “nobody will like it and i suck” category.
    But this helps put things back into perspective. c: thanks danielle!

  • R. November 26th, 2012 11:24 PM

    This is such a relevant article!
    PS: isn’t it “open mic” nights instead of “open mike”?

  • Esteoli November 26th, 2012 11:43 PM

    I also have a problem with other people’s expectations of me.
    Many of my friends and family members believe that I am incredibly talented. This is great, and I am so thankful for their support. But at the same time it makes me put a lot of pressure on myself. The last time I submitted a piece of writing I won second place in a short story contest. Now people think I am a great writer but I haven’t submitted anything since (it has been 6 years, yikes!) because a part of me is terrified that I will prove all these people wrong. The same goes for art and acting. That little taste of praise or success makes me want to hide everything I do because people expect you to continue to be successful at these things. Do I want to care? No. But I gotta work on my Beyonce and keep putting it out there. I am getting better at it.

    • Danielle November 27th, 2012 12:05 AM

      “I gotta work on my Beyonce”

      I’m going to cross stitch this onto a pillow. LOVE IT.

  • asleeptillnoon November 27th, 2012 12:14 AM

    thank you for this! I have social anxiety and self talk is a BIG part of therapy. it’s crazy how many times a day I get an idea and immediately think of a reason why I can’t or shouldn’t go through with it. For this reason, I am really good at coming up with excuses, haha. I actually made a bucketlist and I’ve actually got a lot done this year thanks to positive self talk and surrounding myself with people who also like trying out new things :)

  • Michelle November 27th, 2012 1:12 AM

    I love this article but it missed one major reason why I talk myself out of things: I already have most of my time filled with school and activities, so if I want to try something new, I have to give up something else. I have always wanted to pursue theatre, but I just don’t have the time, and I’m scared that if I give up something to do theatre and then it turns out I’m bad at theatre or I don’t enjoy it, I’ll regret it.
    Other than that, this article really hit home for me, especially as I’m currently in the process of doing NaNoWriMo (national novel writing month – NaNoWriMo.org). For anyone who loves writing stories, or who might want to try it, NaNoWriMo is a great way to do so in a supportive, self-controlled setting.

  • spree November 27th, 2012 1:40 AM

    Thank you so so so much for this! This article is perfection, and so are you!
    Self-doubt has pretty much been the bane of my (recent) existence, and this article addressed it so well! I keep talking myself out of all sorts of things: I really want to write a play instead of an academic essay for an English project, but then I kept thinking about other girls in my grade who would probably do the same thing but write things that are so much cleverer and wittier than mine. Now, I think I’m going to try it out anyway, no matter what! :)

    • Danielle November 27th, 2012 8:53 PM

      Did you check to make sure it’s cool with your teacher? If so, go for it!

  • emine November 27th, 2012 1:42 AM

    I couldn’t have read this at a better time. Lately I’ve been holding myself back from so much; applying to colleges that I think would be too much of a reach for me, pursuing standup comedy because I feel like the people around me (especially my family) would be disappointed, and I finally worked up the guts to save up and buy myself a guitar, but now it just sits in a corner staring sadly at me because all my friends and family told me it was impossible for me to learn by myself.

  • blaine.e November 27th, 2012 2:39 AM

    Oh, Rookie, you always seem to post exactly what I need, exactly when I need it. You guys are like mind-readers! I always have the tendency to hold myself back from trying new things, and lately I’ve been trying to work on my ‘just go for it’ attitude. I think one of the most important things is learning to accept failure/negativity, and to keep pushing forward despite it. Everyone looks like a total fool sometimes, but it’s a lot easier to keep pushing forward if you take it in stride and learn from your mistakes. And if you’re having fun and you like what you’re doing, why should you care what other people think?

    http://goosesgeeses.blogspot.com/

  • ghostprincess November 27th, 2012 2:49 AM

    pretty good summary of me and my rookie submissions (sorry)

  • Bethany November 27th, 2012 3:42 AM

    Thank you so so so much for this article!! I was up all night talking myself out of ever doing anything creative again ever. So yes reading this article at the start of my morning was exactly just what I needed. <3
    I am so happy Rookie exists :))
    xxxxx

  • Moxx November 27th, 2012 3:57 AM

    This was spot on. I often have trouble with finishing things or doing things because I am so fervently afraid that I may fail.

    Also, I agree with above that the Beyonce quote was PERFECT

    Does anyone know this blog? a friend showed it to me and I laughed hysterically for about 5 minutes straight:

    http://amibeyonceyet.tumblr.com/

  • julietpetal November 27th, 2012 4:10 AM

    So right now I’m meant to be writing my proposal to get into university to do post-grad and I’ve known since about July that I need to apply by November 30th and have been putting it off for SO SO long and meant to do it last weekend but everytime I sat down to do it, ended up painting my fingernails or watching youtube or whatever, and last night I meant to do it but randomly decided to teach myself embroidery instead (kind of relevant because my post-grad year will be in textile design but still not what I’m meant to be doing) and now I need to get it done tonight so I can get it checked tomorrow and its 10pm and I’m less than 1/4 of the way there and yet STILL I am sitting here reading Rookie and typing this comment instead of doing it. What is wrong with me? I really want to go back to uni next year! I daydream about it when I’m at work! I’m 25, I should totally know how to not-procrastinate and talk myself out of things by now! Oh man.

  • Sorcha M November 27th, 2012 6:08 AM

    I’m so terrified of failure in absolutely every way that I don’t try anything. Consequently I’m in self-imposed solitary confinement with serious commitment issues and no evidence to show I am actually awesome, but now I’ll just think, What would Beyonce do? I think I’ll make a t-shirt with that on. I love this article. Thanks a lot.

    • Danielle November 27th, 2012 9:14 PM

      Fiber arts. Yarn is very forgiving, and if you mess up, fixing it is part of the fun. It’s pretty ridiculous to say that knitting helped me overcome my fear of failure, but knitting helped me overcome my fear of failure a little bit! I realized that the worst that could happen is a big knot that forced me to start over again, and by then I’d usually learned how NOT to recreate that mistake.

      This is not meant to sound trite – tiny steps to empowerment are still steps in the right direction. I just want to encourage you to try something small, something that no one else will know about but you, and realize that you’re probably better at more things than you think.

  • Serena.K November 27th, 2012 8:01 AM

    THANK YOU FOR WRITING THIS. When I was younger I was always doing something creative, like writing stories and drawing and making up songs, until some time in middle school when I went through a really long dry spell. After a while I figured I wanted to go back to doing all that stuff but I was scared I wouldn’t be as good as before since it had been so long. I had also discovered music in middle school and wanted to teach myself guitar, but I was scared of being bad at music too. And I’ve been in this suspended state of fear and doing nothing for years now, and it’s only made me more angry at myself for not just GETTING UP and DOING THINGS. But this post kind of just answered all my questions and put my doubts and fear to rest, so thank you for that, really. Also, I’m printing out that Kathleen Hanna quote straight away.

  • abigaylelaura November 27th, 2012 9:44 AM

    This is perfect <3 I've been wanting to start a fashion blog for ageees but I've always been put off due to the fact that I'm not exactly the skinniest/prettiest of people and people can be mean. But I REALLY love fashion lately and putting together outfits but I think my confidence majorly sets me back in every area I wish to succeed in. There's also that lame old worry that it'll never amount to anything :(

    Might just start it now <3 <3

    • Danielle November 27th, 2012 9:19 PM

      The BEST fashion blogs are the ones that have their own flavor and style. Would it help to think of it not as a fashion blog, but as a daily documenting of your outfits? If you don’t want to share it with others, do a completely private, password-protected site just to get into the rhythm of posting/taking pictures. At worst, you’ll have a great portfolio of your own style, and at best, you’re Grace Coddington in 20 years.

      • abigaylelaura November 30th, 2012 7:08 PM

        I like the idea of starting out privately (and maybe sharing it when I gain more confidence?). It’s not like I want fashion to be my career but I feel it is something that can help me anxiety wise, if that makes sense.

    • Mary the freak December 9th, 2012 5:54 AM

      GO START YOUR BLOG!
      I,have been blogging for half a year now, and it’s my LIFE. Before I started , I was worrying about for almost a year. and ten I just set a day, and promised to me, “Girl, this is the day where you star your fuckin blog.” . and I did. One of the best decisions I did nor me, ever. Blogging opened a new world for me : I have got to know so many amazing people, swapped zines, developed more and more my own style, got more,self-confident and discovered so much great stuff. It’s incredibly wonderful. And yes, there are some peole telling me why would I do that or some mean things, but look at all those supercute comments on my style. Blogging always makes,my day.
      Start your blog, I promise it will be great. And contact me, if you did, wanna become,a reader!

      http://birdiewearsatie.blogspot.com/

  • Erin. November 27th, 2012 11:11 AM

    Ah, this is so me. I can talk myself out of everything, even small stupid things like not commenting on a forum. Sometimes I’ll even write out a whole comment then delete it because I convince myself that I don’t know what I’m talking about and no one cares what I have to say. It’s really weird, especially since I’m a writer and I generally do know what I’m talking about. ^^;

    The “be Beyonce” quote is one of the best things ever.

    Also, what I find helps is thinking “someone has to make it, someone is gonna be a great, famous writer/artist/scientist/etc, so why shouldn’t it be me? It will be me!”

  • Stienz November 27th, 2012 12:30 PM

    This: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eaIvk1cSyG8

  • ShockHorror November 27th, 2012 12:55 PM

    Read the second sentence and nearly died.

    Seriously though.

    Comedy is everything (k not quite EVERYTHING) I love and I really want to it.

    But I have no idea where/how to start writing or performing or anything and.

    I don’t know.
    But the whole ambitions and stuff is really getting me down i don’t know what I’m doing about anything and erghhhhh.

  • VivaViviana November 27th, 2012 12:56 PM

    This is exactly on time! I’ve always wanted to learn to tailor my clothes to fit me and turn thrift store finds into beautiful, one of a kind pieces fit just for me, but I just can’t seem to buckle down and learned to sew.

    it gets worse (or better?), because my boyfriend bought me a beautiful computerized sewing machine for almost $200 last christmas. A whole year has gone by and this holiday is fast approaching. I have nothing to show for it, and the machine is sitting on a table in my room.

    I’ve been so bad at time management, and the guilt has been driving me even further away. Plus it seems I don’t know anyone who would be willing or have the time to teach me, and I can’t afford to pay an instructor. But dammit, Rookie, I’ll find a way!

    • tsmargin November 27th, 2012 3:36 PM

      Hello ! Sorry for the random reply, but If you’d like to learn to sew/use you machine, I’m sure there are plenty of people who’d be willing to help you, and there are lots of online resources (and books) you can use if you give it a bit of time.
      Usually computerized machines come with an instruction booklet and a demonstration DVD/CD-rom, so if you have them I’d suggest you take a look if you havent already, they’re the best way to get a bit more familiar with your machine !
      You can also find lots of videos online of how to use your machine to do specific things, so you don’t need to learn everything to get started !
      Hell if I lived near you I’d come over and teach you !
      Computerized sewing machines are wonderful once you know how to use them, so let me tell you it is really worth learning.

    • farawayfaerie November 27th, 2012 3:38 PM

      You don’t need an instructor just start! start on t-shirts or cheap things, start by sewing a cushion! anything, but getting practice is great. Online tutorials are always super helpful, but the best way is just to start. I’ve never had a sewing lesson and while I’m no professional, I’ve successfully altered things, and made two skirts and a top! sewing is really fun, and it’s a great way to channel creativity.

  • a-anti-anticapitalista November 27th, 2012 1:15 PM

    Maybe guys have pressure not to express those feelings in public, especially in front of gals? It’s also something very dependent on cultural context/economic background/ethnicity/ etc. But this perspective you are giving represents an experience that is just as valid as all others, of course.

    • a-anti-anticapitalista November 27th, 2012 1:29 PM

      (By the way, this was super useful, thankyou)

  • selinau November 27th, 2012 3:27 PM

    It’s funny that at the moment I started to read this I was just talking myself out of trying to write a film. I was saying to myself that I won’t be good at it and that I wouldn’t probably even do it and that Sofia Coppola, Woody Allen and Pedro Almodovar already exist but now I’m actually going to do it or just try it out.

    Thank you so much Danielle for writing this article and reading my mind!!! I kind of didn’t even recognize this a problem before now. I’m so glad right now.

  • farawayfaerie November 27th, 2012 3:33 PM

    This is a really great article and the comments are really sweet and it’s so great to see everyone deciding to say yes to things. But what about when the thing you have to not stop trying at is school, and it’s really hard and not at all fun, yet it’s something that parents and teachers and peers and universities think is really important. I’m writing exams at the moment and they’re apparently important and I really don’t feel like I can do them. I find studying really hard and I get so distracted and then work myself up and now I’m in tears. I’m really scared of not doing well, because I feel like I know a lot of stuff but none of it is relevant. I just want it to be over with, yet I know that being in school is supposed to be fun and I feel like everyone else can handle it.

    • Danielle November 27th, 2012 9:32 PM

      First, I’m sorry school is stressing you out so much. This article is more geared towards the creative stuff you might want to do, but I still think some of the ideas apply. I had a really long response typed out but I was starting to sound like a nagging mom type, so I’ll just bullet point it as:

      a) A lot of people struggle with school, especially tests (raising my hand), and it does not mean you are not intelligent or wonderful

      b) Maybe you want a tutor or an extra study group? Lots of schools have some kind of structure for these things already in place, so you don’t have to suffer alone

      c) If you get distracted when you work, change how you work. Write for an hour and then give yourself a 20-minute break; change the room you work in; reward yourself with a walk around the block. Set tiny goals to help whittle away at the bigger task (it helps, I promise!)

      • farawayfaerie November 28th, 2012 1:41 PM

        Hi Danielle! Thank you for reminding me that logic is key! Sometimes I get so caught up in *emotttiions* that I forget that there are ways to problem solve. Your bullets were perfect and I am definitely going to look into getting a tutor – at least for maths. I think also just making lists and planning things in advance – as well as actually getting things down in writing (which includes your three bullet points- so thank you) really helps to contextualize everything and makes it more manageable.

        Also, I have summer holidays coming up (southern hemisphere excitingness), so I’m definitely going to get my creative Beyonce on and sew and draw more!

        Thank you for being such a great writer and for putting effort into answering me – you’re really sweet and made me feel a whole lot better. x

  • chawi November 27th, 2012 3:45 PM

    The Beyoncé paragraph is the best advice I have ever been given, I want it framed!! It’s so true that every girl does this, and how often, since reading this I’ve tried so many new things :-)

    http://sunshines-and-blue-skies.blogspot.co.uk/

  • Jeanne November 27th, 2012 3:50 PM

    Sometimes, I write a short story or a song and I read it and I’m like: “Wow, this is really bad.” I get all upset, because I just tryed to express myself and I failed. Creating things are terribly personal to me. I’ve never made something I was proud of, probably because I have to high expectations of myself.
    One part of me tells me I should just do the things I like, for example reading, going to art galleries and museums, but the other part compaires me with the succesfull people and It makes me feel really… Lame.

    • ShockHorror November 27th, 2012 3:57 PM

      Can I just send some kind of an internet hug to you? I (maybe?) know how you feel. xx

    • Danielle November 27th, 2012 9:33 PM

      This feeling sucks, I agree! But I also feel like it’s another reason to keep trying things – maybe you just haven’t found your medium yet?

  • ♡ reba ♡ November 27th, 2012 4:28 PM

    well this is the best article EVER. i have bookmarked this and i just know come back to this as this is always how i feel about everything – even really silly day to day tasks :-( the Kathleen Hannah Beyonce quote is just every thing. ROOKIE ROOKIE ROOKIE xxxxxxx

  • LeavesThatAreGreen November 27th, 2012 4:34 PM

    Thank you so much, I really needed it. Like reaaaally needed it. Thanks.

  • Christine November 27th, 2012 5:11 PM

    Thank you so much for this article! Right now I’ m crying and all. It feels so good to get empowered.

  • Mayabett November 27th, 2012 5:35 PM

    I bookmarked this piece! So inspiring!

    This is definitely the attitude I have with my Rookie submissions…but I’ll keep submitting until I succeed!

    This is also encouraging, especially with all the college-related comments, because I’m applying to a lot of reach schools and my counselor was really discouraging at first. But I’m so excited to go for it!

  • cherrycola27 November 27th, 2012 5:39 PM

    The first sentence had me hooked. I HAVE been wanting to try out an open mic comedy night. I also want to ask this guy out, and cut my hair short. I’m so scared of all three I just keep going back and forth! But I’m gonna do them! All! Now!

    • Danielle November 27th, 2012 9:35 PM

      You should cut your hair ON STAGE and work asking the guy out into your act! (just kidding) :)

  • artobsessed November 27th, 2012 9:10 PM

    this is so great. i submitted something to rookie, in fact… it was a 3AM-I-am-a-prodigy kind of moment… very embarrassing in retrospect, but perhaps someone else is actually a sane writer!!
    REACH FOR THE STARZ GIRLIEZ

  • cleobea November 27th, 2012 11:17 PM

    thank you thank you thank you. Just what I needed to hear

  • Nat4lya November 28th, 2012 2:38 AM

    Thank you for this article! it means a lot to me! :D

  • Narita November 28th, 2012 12:49 PM

    The fact that you added ‘afraid to succeed’ in here means a lot to me. Where I live, I’m kind of succesful as a writer: I’ve done a TED talk, I’ve been on well-known websites, I’ve been interviewed for the national newspaper. Never expected any of that to happen, because I just started putting things on a blog, that’s it.

    If I knew all of this was going to happen, I probably would’ve never shared anything I had written.

  • SweetThangVintage November 28th, 2012 5:31 PM

    I definitely relate to the fear of success, but not for those reasons. If I succeed once with something, that means people will know I’m capable of doing it, and expect me to do it again.

  • Nishta November 29th, 2012 6:49 PM

    this is ALL kinds of true. I just turned 30 & I’m finding that I need to re-teach myself how to “be Beyonce” and generate my own badass-ness and confidence.

    my downfall lately has been comparing–lots of comparisons to how other people seem to be doing, how perfectly packaged & coordinated other people’s lives/wardrobes/homes/holiday cards appear to be. I keep reminding myself that “comparison is the thief of joy.”

    thank you for this!

  • Johann7 November 30th, 2012 4:51 PM

    This post is made of pure win. It’s seriously some of the best life advice out there.

  • BritishFish December 3rd, 2012 3:12 AM

    I feel this way about my tattoo ideas all the time..

  • katiestarrynight December 3rd, 2012 1:03 PM

    I was always supper nervous about starting a blog because I thought that people from my school would find out and it would cause me loads of embarrassment. Little did I know, two of my friends had exactly the same dilemma, and we all started our respective fashion, nail and lifestyle blogs at a similar time. It’s nice because we can support each other as we grow and develop as bloggers, which is kind of awesome. I haven’t got to the stage where I’ll willingly share my blog with everyone I know, but I’m getting there. Thanks for this Danielle!

    http://gravityandshe.blogspot.co.uk/

  • rafa December 3rd, 2012 11:19 PM

    i’m 23 and i spent my whole life giving up. Past year i spent the whole time feeling like i could die, like you dont have guts to do anything that you really wanna do with your life so you just forget and try to disappear.
    This year (in april) i went to a Bjork’s concert, and i dont know how to explain, but right when she appeared in the stage i started crying so desperately, because that moment i realized that if i will care about what people think about me, i will never do anything. That woman with a blue/orange wig certainly never cared about other people opinion, and i have to do the same! it was a powerful moment when i realized that i could do anything i want (even write comments in a terrible english). i know that seems simple, but its not.
    that for me was my moment beyonce. :B

  • Elspbeth December 7th, 2012 1:07 AM

    I would just like to say thank you so much for this article! The night I read this I was considering whether or not I was brave enough to go to a model search held by my cities major agency the next day. After reading this I decided to go and stop making excuses for myself, and even if nothing came of it trying is still more than many do. Well I didn’t win BUT today I had a meeting with the director of the agency and they’ve signed me! So thank you so much, Im never going to stop myself from doing something because I think there’s no point etc etc ever again. I love you Rookie xo

  • Mary the freak December 9th, 2012 3:58 AM

    I have been thinking about a new hair style for ages… But I always was afraid, you know ( I may look better now, I may look like a boy, It may take ages until my ages till my hair is grown back, stuff like this.). I wanted to DipDye my hair in blue, actually. I have been thinking about completely cutting it off, getting a pixie cut, but my hair is as well healthy and long and many people tell me how beautiful my hair is, I have been thinking, no, I WANT to dye my hair peach, but then I think about ruining my hair, peach won’t fit my clothing, and then I sabotage my idea by not buying dye in the internet. I also thought of getting dreads, but I am afraid it would look to “extreme” . My latest thought was getting an undercut.
    I think I should just Do it now. My hair will grow back, I can dye it brown, if I don’t like the color. I hope I will find the braveness to Dye my hair soon.

    http://birdiewearsatie.blogspot.com/

  • fierybeacon February 8th, 2013 2:57 AM

    I love this article so much, Danielle. Recently when I feel myself starting to convince myself out of things, I come back to this article and have actually worked up the courage to try some new things since! Thank you for writing this!

  • piisaa November 8th, 2013 1:10 AM

    Yes yes exactly what I needed thank you awesome!