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Self-Coaching 101 Again!

June 24, 2009

Right now I feel stupid. I submitted a short work of fiction for a contest being held by a local publication. I’ve been published by them a few times before for works of non-fiction, so I’m familiar with their guidelines.  When I emailed my contest entry I attached it to the email and typed my bio line into the body of the email. Within a couple of minutes the editor sent me a friendly but firm email back about how the writer’s guidelines state three times in bold red that that biography must be written at the bottom of your manuscript, not in a separate spot.

Sigh. I immediately got defensive (only in mind, not out loud to the editor). For the last couple of months the contest has been advertised as a print ad in each month’s issue; I ripped one out and saved it. When I read the guidelines there it only mentioned emailing your story and bio to the email they listed, plus the mailing address to send your payment for entry. So, it’s not super clear on the printed ad that the bio has to be on the actual manuscript, but the on-line submission guidelines do, as the editor mentioned, state three times in bold red that the bio should be where mine wasn’t.

Why did I get defensive? Why did I need to prove to myself that I hadn’t made an error? Why did I feel so damn icky inside? This seemed like the perfect time to practice some Self-Coaching 101 on myself, so I got to it!

This is the model to follow for Self-Coaching 101:

  • Circumstance: In my case, I received an email about something I had done incorrectly.
  • Thoughts: I’m stupid. I’m wrong. The editor thinks I’m stupid and can’t follow directions. I’m an idiot. (Wow, nice self-talk, huh?)
  • Feelings: I’m having a hard time classifying this as one of the four “mad, sad, glad, afraid” categories. When I let myself really feel the pain I started crying, so I’d say sad definitely came up. Sad that I’d let someone down, sad that I let myself down. Sad that I made a mistake and someone might think less of me.
  • Action: I sent an apologetic email to the editor with my explanation as to why I did it wrong, thanks for another opportunity, and attached the corrected document. Also took the time to self-coach. Also cried and felt bad about myself.
  • Result: Feeling bad about myself did not help anything, although crying and feeling my pain resulted in my self-coaching, which is still a positive outcome. Another result was that I felt the need to explain myself instead of just resending the document with thanks, which at this point feels like overkill.

The next part of this model is to understand that we can’t change our circumstances, only our thoughts, which influence the rest of the equation. This is how I tried to reroute my thinking:

  • Circumstance: I received an email about something I had done incorrectly.
  • Thoughts: Wow, I’m so glad the editor took the time to let me know about this instead of just disqualifying my entry. Also, I’m glad she put a smiley face in her email to me. Whenever I submit something in the future I know I’ll do it correctly!
  • Feelings: Happy that I wrote the story and was given the opportunity to resubmit it with the proper biography placement. Thankful to have such a helpful person guiding me.
  • Action: No action needs to be taken, everything is fixed and AOK.
  • Result: A properly-submitted article and a feeling of well-being. And I don’t feel stupid anymore, like when I started typing this!

This exercise really and truly does help. I am well aware that my thoughts are what influence how I’m feeling and therefore how my life is going, but I still struggle with keeping them rosy. My strong reaction to such a small incident indicates that I have some deep feelings of self-worth attached to doing things perfectly and having other people think I’m good at what I’m doing. I will have to continue to look at the story I tell myself about why I can’t mess up, but that sort of healing takes time.

When you’re feeling bad, I believe the most important thing you can do is to reach for a better feeling thought. Even if you can’t completely change your outlook, if you can find something that feels even a teeny bit better, it will improve your mood.  I know I feel much better thinking “I’m so glad I had a chance to resubmit my work” rather than “I’m stupid and the editor thinks I’m stupid”.

Give it a whirl and try to remember what I’m busy telling myself right now: Life is for enjoying. Spending time worrying about things gets you nowhere. Be present now and live life!

Be Joyful!

Edited: I just got an email back from the editor who thanked me and said how happy she was to see more writing from me. All of my worries were silly and pointless, AS USUAL!

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Michelle permalink
    June 24, 2009 4:00 pm

    Have been reading your blog periodically when I catch a link to a new post on Facebook. Enjoy it all the time but this one was ESPECIALLY great and super helpful. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in that exact kind of situation. Thank you!

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