You realize that denial, as a coping mechanism, may compromise your creativity and self-expression and rob you of opportunities for healing and growth. Beneath this directive to be in denial that anyone will read your writing lurks the disempowering notion that it’s not OK to speak your truth.
I slip into the numb illusion of safety that denial offers when I think—consciously or not—that by writing I’m doing something wrong or when I worry that others might disapprove of me or what I’m saying. In the past, I’ve taken these thoughts very seriously.
It was a relief when I learned that just because I have a thought doesn’t mean it’s true. I am not my thoughts; I have thoughts, but I am no longer constantly fused with them. Resisting the natural inclination to identify with my thoughts means that when I become aware of them—I suck as a writer; I’m not good enough; no one will ever give a shit what I have to say—I recognize that they are just thoughts.
I can choose to believe them and invest time and energy into them, which will enlarge them—or not. Limiting, hurtful thoughts are expressions of fear. And not just any fear but destructive fear.
There’s productive fear, and then there’s destructive fear. Productive fear is a response to a real threat in our environment. It is present-moment-focused and keeps us safe. Destructive fear happens in our heads. It stems from our imagination, from scary or unpleasant stories we tell ourselves about something that happened in the past or that might (but probably won’t) happen in the future.
Understanding this can lead us to ask ourselves, What choice will I make? Am I going to listen to destructive fear, which has a reputation for being the world’s biggest liar? Or am I going to honor my desire to write and express myself, which is a generative, creative, and soul-affirming process? Which do you trust—destructive fear or your eternal soul—to guide you through your writing and your life?
What makes memoir writing, and the exposure that comes along with it, so rich are the opportunities it presents for personal transformation and growth. The process asks us to cope with the feelings our writing draws out. It challenges us to practice acceptance and forgiveness, toward others and ourselves, which enhances the quality of our lives. We learn to say yes to our dreams and to ourselves. We grant ourselves permission to be who we are and to share ourselves through our writing. This is an act of generosity of spirit.
Writers in general, and memoirists in particular, are called to show up in their writing and in their lives wholly and unapologetically. Exposure is daunting only when a lack of self-acceptance lurks in the shadows, when egos swell, and when validation is sought from the outside, instead of within.