Whoa, have I been busy. Not only have I been getting prepared to publish, but I released Sophia’s War: The End of Innocence (Volume 1) last Saturday, and I’ve been engaged with very little free time ever since. Since I finally have a moment to breathe (but not too long…Volume 2, Lies and Allies, comes out next week), I figured I’d better sit down and blog. It’s what all good authors do, I’m told, so I need to get on that! 😉
I was going to post another blog similar to the one I posted a while back on relating World War II with our relationship with God, but another idea struck me. So I decided to write about something a little more raw and personal, if you will, but something I’m passionate about nonetheless.
Now, for this post, I need to share with you a little bit about myself—something that might be seen as a target for Internet wolves and trolls, but I’m not going to admit this for their benefit. The truth is, I’m a relatively sensitive person. Always have been. I take things said against me (or about me) very personally. I carry words spoken harshly about me like a suitcase full of bricks; it doesn’t make sense and it hurts me, but I have trouble letting it go. Since I was a little girl, I’ve always wanted people to like me, and it always disturbed me greatly when others would express to my friends that they didn’t. I am very shy, and because of this timidity, many have interpreted it as me being “stuck-up”, or feeling “superior” to everyone else. That, however, couldn’t be farther from the truth.
I have been a singer since I was 4 years old. I have had at least 8 years worth of voice lessons, have many experiences and contests under my belt, and have even made two albums (albeit they were covers and were not commercially produced). Indeed, it took a lot of confidence for me to stand in front of anywhere from a handful to thousands of people to sing the national anthem, or to sing and dance “like no one was watching”, performing on a stage in front of both judges and onlookers who, let’s face it, are judges in their own way.
Some people who knew me by name but didn’t know me admired me for my ability to do this—to sing my heart and soul out in front of countless strangers. Then, there was the other kind—the kind who confused my confidence as arrogance, and were convinced I sang in front of people because I thought I was better than everyone else. I believe they took it personally, as if my singing was somehow a slight to them. I know you may be reading this and thinking, “How foolish! Well, those people were just ridiculous. Don’t even give them the time of day.”
That’s easier said than done, especially when you are a child—and especially when you are a teenager where high school girls in particular are cruel and vindictive anyway.
Anyway, I took my art seriously. I would practice 3-4 hours after school on vocal exercises and “routines” for upcoming talent shows, competitions, etc. I had voice lessons at least once a week (2-3 times a week in college). I worked so hard that usually in the moment of my performances, I didn’t even think of the negative voices. I just sang my heart out. I am so grateful for the many people who were supportive of me and would give me so many compliments that the muscles in my mouth would ache from smiling so much. My hometown in particular was amazing. Somedays, I think if I never do anything else with my life, at least I can say that I had a whole town behind me at one point. That is an accomplishment, wouldn’t you say?
So why did I let the Negative Nellies’ voices be louder than my fans? I remember hearing really sad, untrue things about myself growing up—even from people in my family (not close family). I remember praying often, even as a teenager, for God to protect my heart and keep me from becoming conceited. The idea of being full of myself terrified me—it still does. I never wanted to be that person; I never want to be that person.
This is all coming to the forefront of my mind once more because now, I am a published author and will be working hard for the next few years to get my name and my work out into the world. I will soon be back in the spotlight, though in a different way. I will be promoting myself not because I think I’m just the most wonderful thing on the planet, but because anyone in my position HAS to promote who they are, otherwise you remain stagnant. I want this to be my career someday! And you can bet your bottom dollar I’m going to do everything I have to in order to reach my goals—in order to be one of the ones who make it. That is who I am and who I’ve always been. As with my singing, I may realize in a few years that God has another path He wants me to take in life, but that doesn’t mean I need to sit still now. It doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be moving toward my goals and my dreams…
I used to resent these hurtful people. I used to ask myself, “Why me? What have I ever done to them? I just love singing. Why do people want to hurt me?” My mother could see how much this hurt me, especially being as sensitive as I was as a child. She was very supportive and has never shied away from confronting people who spoke harshly toward me. Those closest to me would tell me, “People act that way because they are jealous of you!” I think there was some truth to that, but that statement is misleading. Let me explain why.
The older I’ve gotten, and the more mature I’ve become, I’ve had time to think about and assess the words from my past and present with a wiser mind. I will never be able to erase the rude things said to me (or about me) regarding both my talents and my character. And though most people would suggest to me to “forget about” such people, I can’t and I won’t. I read a quote a while back by Robert Brault, an operatic tenor, that explains where I am now perfectly: “One learns to ignore criticism by first learning to ignore applause.” I know this may sound contradictory to what I was just saying, but I suppose what I’m trying to say is there has to be a balance. You need to hear you are good. You need to hear that people love you and want to hear more from you. But you also need to accept that you are not perfect; that you make mistakes and that there are areas of growth that will only make you better once improved upon. This is called constructive criticism. I’ve received a lot of it in my life, being a singer and a writer. I am thankful and grateful that God graced me with enough humility to accept these things, as well as give me the strength to improve on my growth areas. That is a blessing.
But let’s talk about those other people. Let’s talk about the people who have absolutely nothing nice to say and only offer destructive criticism. Do you want to know how I used to respond to these people? Stephanie—the arrogant, superior, “stuck up” girl—used to cry in her room or in her mother’s arms and ask “Why?” Stephanie—the girl who thought she was “better than you”—used to have pretend arguments in her head with you, pointing out all the ways you were wrong, but smile at you politely in passing as if she knew nothing of it.
I’m sharing this part of my life with you because I now know I am not the only person who has been made to feel this way. Let me tell you what I wish I had understood much sooner:
These people are jealous. But not of you. They are jealous of your ability. They are jealous because they don’t have a passion (noun) that makes them come alive. They are jealous because they do have a passion (noun), but they believed the lie from other cruel people that they didn’t have what it takes. So they take it out on you, because they aren’t fearless, and seeing you on a stage, on a basketball court, or with your name on a product makes them envy you. But you and I both know putting yourself out there like that doesn’t mean you are without fear—it just means that the scale has been tipped in the direction of the desires of your heart, and nothing anyone could say can change that.
I used to resent these people. But now that I’m older, I feel sorry for them. I wish that I could talk to them one on one—get to know them and let them get to know me—not to defend myself, but so I could be a voice of encouragement; why? Because it makes my heart hurt to think that there is someone out there who has never heard:
“You have what it takes.”
Harsh words still hurt, but for me now, they hurt much less. I am convinced that those who have a passion (noun again) don’t make fun of those that do. With all the work I have put into my singing and especially my novels, I respect and admire those who are dreamers like me. They may be a carpenter, or a ball player, or a dancer, or an artist (none of which I have any talent in, whatsoever), but people like us, we understand each other. We understand that it takes more than talent; it takes dedication, it takes courage; it takes knowing that your raw, naked soul is going to be out on display and that people will criticize you for it…
But that merciless people won’t change a thing.
You have what it takes. It’s okay to be afraid. Let flattery help build your confidence, and don’t flinch at constructive criticism meant to make you better than ever. And don’t hate your attackers…
Chances are, they are just trolls under the bridge who never had a true friend.
Don’t forget to check out my novel, Sophia’s War: The End of Innocence (Volume 1) (Available in both paperback and Kindle editions!)