I Am What I Am

Having the courage to stay true to yourself

A few years ago, I was sitting across the desk from my insurance agent. We were talking about work and how each of us were doing in our businesses — she in insurance and I in graphic design at the time. Then she said something that has never left me.

“Chris, I love selling insurance. I am what I am. You know, like Popeye used to say,” she said.

I sat in the chair and let that sink in. “Am I what I am?” I wondered. “What am I?

At the time I was an unhappy graphic designer helping my clients build their brands. It made me realize what I wanted most in life, but had been denying myself — writing. I felt like Cher in Clueless when she tried to rationalize every reason she didn’t like Josh only to conclude, “Oh my gosh, I like Josh!”

Denying Who We Are

For a few years, I talked myself out of why I should become a writer. I had excuses and I used them all. Maybe you have, too. But now is the time to just accept that we should just write. It’s who we are. It doesn’t mean that we have to stop everything we’re doing or quit our jobs, it just means that we have to acknowledge that we deserve to be who we are and not what we think others think we ought to be. The typical denials we play out look something like this:

  • My family won’t understand…
  • My significant other won’t support my decision…
  • I’m really not that good…
  • What if no one likes my writing…

We say all of these things, when the bottom line is simply, “I’m afraid.”

Change is hard; unhappiness and discontent are harder, though. Be who you are. Be a writer. As you accept it and face your fears head-on, the denials start to look like affirmations, like possibilities:

  • What if my family is excited…
  • What if my significant other becomes my biggest cheerleader…
  • What if I am really good at writing…
  • What if people love my writing…

Then the perspective changes: “What have I to fear?”

Addressing the Issue

Fear and inadequacy are the challenge. We have been conditioned to steer away from creative lives. They don’t pay the bills, they won’t make you rich, they won’t win you respect. These objections don’t come from ourselves. They have external influences. The truth is now may be the greatest time for writers. In an age where individuals can become brands, you have the power to build a website, launch podcasts, sell products, self-publish books, create videos, develop a presence on social media and the best part is that many of these tools are free. So, yes, you can write and pay the bills. Yes, you can write and be wealthy. Yes, you can write and be successful. Will it be easy, no. Will it be an adventure? Absolutely!

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