I sound jaded and scared of how unpalatable I appear to others when I link to press or speak of my own success. There’s something called humility. I’m finding I have a hard time knowing when it’s right to be humble or when it’s just destructive.
"Having a low view of one’s own importance" the dictionary defines Humble.
I’d always thought that to be humble was an admirable quality. Yet, I don’t want to raise children who have or show a low estimate of their own importance. I want them to be proud. Period. To be grand and extraordinary and to think of themselves as such. Why would we ever want to downplay who we are, speaking of our accomplishments as if they’re inconsequential or ordinary? I think it’s possible to be gracious and polite without being self-effacing. It’s possible to be out-loud proud without showing excessive pride and self-satisfaction in one’s own abilities and achievements. It’s, I hate to say it, about speaking only when spoken to. That is, only offering up such details when asked. Otherwise, you’re a conceited blowhard, and you should be given a wire muzzle.
When on book tour, a few people asked me, "Aren’t you so excited! I mean, you’re a published author; did you ever think this would happen?" Here’s the thing:
When it all began, when I was featured on the cover of The Independent, I was soaring. It’s always the case that we feel our most elated when something great happens we hadn’t at all anticipated. Good surprises lead to the most euphoric feelings, much more so than the ones we worked hard for, the ones we kept at, struggling for, which in the end never really feel as we’d thought they would. We feel proud, then, for accomplishing what we’d set out to do, but "proud" is a slightly different flavor than "ecstatic." As I’ve written before:
Intense emotion is felt when we’re blindsided by an event, when there weren’t visible indications of the sharp turn we were approaching. He breaks up with you out of nowhere (either you missed the signs completely or you ignored them—either way, the pain is magnified when you don’t have the chance to predict how you’d respond). Someone phones to tell you your dreams just came true, out of nowhere. You never had the opportunity to even imagine the happiness, so you experience it deeply. There was no expectation. (read more about impact bias here)
I wasn’t just soaring. I was afraid to talk about it, worried I’d seem too boastful. I’d written:
You want to invest your luck properly, be conservative, despite being young, you want to hoard the moments and keep them. Terrified you’ll piss off the fate gods, you think before speaking, worried you’ll say the wrong thing and jinx things. You don’t know whom you can tell, or how much telling is an overindulgence…Is this really happening? Like, can I tell the cab driver? Is that safe? What if I whisper it? It will stay closer to me if I just whisper it.
I’ll never forget those firsts. The thrill in them, and I’ll never stop being grateful. It’s why I make an effort to read every email and comment, why I try to help and offer advice when I can. It’s the least I can do. I’ll also add, though, that after a while, I sometimes forget how lucky I am. I sometimes take it for granted a little bit. I have to deal with the reality; that being a writer, whether it’s blogging, books, TV, or film, it’s a business. Negotiations. Marketing. Lawyers. Critics. Readers. Book Clubs. Cat & Mouse games. Interviews. Schedules. And all that tends to take over a bit of the day to day, where my energy isn’t spent swooning about how thrilled I am to even have the opportunity. It’s why I loved being on book tour (and why I’m heading out again in November–to Atlanta, Denver, San Antonio, and Houston). Because I was reminded, with each question, that these really are good problems to have. I feel incredibly blessed, and with that, still, comes that sting of fear… that moment when we all worry it will be pulled out from under us. When we worry we’re coming off as too boastful, when we opt for humble in place of ego. Whatever the balance, I’m still, I have to admit, pinching myself. It’s why I can’t ever imagine a day where I won’t still be blogging, even the self-indulgent posts like this one, where I struggle to find my footing on the lines we draw.
*Represented by CAA, I’m now officially writing and will be co-executive producing a show with ABC Studios and Brillstein Entertainment Partners. That’s all there is to say right now, but I’m very excited about the opportunities and am ready to kick some little Jack horner in the coochie coo.
**Only because you asked, and only because I fucking love it and feel ridiculously privileged to wear such a sentimental gift: here are iPhone photos (sorry they kinda suck) of my new engagement ring setting, appropriately enough, posted today on our second year wedding anniversary.