If I were to be brutally honest – if I weren’t, why the hell am I here? – then I would admit that I might be having a very itsy-bitsy teeny-tiny crisis of confidence right now.
It’s not that I mind owning up to the vulnerability, but rather than I feel a great deal like throwing a pity party right now, and that never comes across terribly well, online or off. Wah, I’m saying. Maybe I’m not as good at things as I wish I were. Maybe I’m not as sharp as I think I am. Maybe I should drink this gin straight from the bottle. YES let’s get this party started.
So, fine. I’m having a crisis of professional confidence. I’m having trouble writing here – which is to say that I’m writing, hitting “publish,” and just as swiftly hitting “delete.” I’m unwriting a lot of tweets. I’m swallowing opinions when they get stuck in my throat. I’m second-guessing myself constantly at work.
Sometimes this sort of thing arises from a sense of entitlement – being told all one’s life that one is so smart and pretty and good at things, only to grow up and realize that many, many, many people are smarter and prettier and better at things, and then getting angry with one’s parents for not praising in an accurately relative manner – sure. (That’s called “being 21,” right?) (See how I asked that as a question, instead of just stating it? Case in point.) (Wow, this party is just wallowing in navel-gazing.)
But in this case, I think the root cause is inconsistent experience. Listen: I am so, so deep into content strategy. I read every book I can get my hands on. My Twitter feed is 90% content strategists. I click every link and read every blog. I try to clarify my own reactions to the information I read by writing things down.
It’s hard to feel confident in one’s opinions when one can’t see the results. I only come across a content strategy project every couple of months, and in the meantime, I have to trust my gut – not real data. Not real experience. Not “here’s what we tried and here’s why it did or didn’t work.”
In Up in the Air (the George Clooney film set in Omaha, and, yeah, that does make it a bit nearer and dearer to my heart), Anna Kendrick’s character, Natalie, is basically a young upstart who thinks she can make their business much more efficient – their business being firing people – with technology. Why fly all over the country to fire someone in person when you can do it with a webcam? George Clooney’s character, Ryan, resists Natalie’s solution, feeling that the process of firing someone is intensely personal; but Natalie doesn’t get this because she lacks experience, the day-to-day human realities of her industry.
I don’t know why this example leapt to mind, but it did; I see her inexperience and I get it. I could spout off opinions about navigation and CTAs and writing for the web, but – well, I just think I don’t have much of a leg to stand on when I’m not acting on said opinions. I’m not inexperienced, just – limited. I have ideas, but I want to prove them before I share them.
Maybe that’s my mistake. Maybe this is the space for sharing ideas, even at the expense of having to retrace my steps and say, “Wait. I might have jumped to too hasty a conclusion.” I don’t like that; I like certainty. I like a consistent narrative. That’s just who I am. (Notice I still don’t publicize this space. Because WHAT IF SOMEONE THINKS THE DESIGN IS BAD or something)
So. So what: Maybe I become okay with making more mistakes. Maybe I have to be okay with writing something down and then writing something down that contradicts it. Maybe I have to trust the instincts that I do have, the experience that does inform me. Maybe that’s not enough, but. Maybe it is.