Self-Motivation at the Start of Something (kind of) New

Week one of the new year and I can’t say that, blog-wise, I’m feeling all that great.

I don’t mean that I’m already falling behind on my writing – I’m publishing this post on schedule and sticking to my commitment - so I’m actually quite proud of myself in that regard!

I mean that motivation can be quite tricky to maintain, especially when I’m just starting something new…or, in this case, picking it back up. And in week one, I’m already having a rough time feeling motivated, inspired, and confident in Kate the Writer, Take 2.

I think most of us can relate to the desire to see our projects and ideas take off as soon as we start – we want to feel successful right off the bat, right? Except that’s rarely the case when starting something new. Building a business, a blog, a following, a channel, or whatever is it we might be constructing, takes time to gain momentum and take off in the direction we want it to go.

And while many of us are probably logically aware that it does take some time (though often more time than we would like) before we even begin to see the fruits of our efforts, it can be emotionally challenging to get over that hump, and that in itself can stop many of us before we’ve even started.

Not to mention, success is never guaranteed. Even if I mentally prepare for the slow beginning, there are questions in my mind that typically linger: “What if I do all of this work for nothing? What if it never goes anywhere? What if these efforts will be wasted?” And if those questions root themselves deep enough, then they might just convince me that this idea is doomed to fail and I should spare myself the pain and disappointment before it ever happens by just walking away now.

(Although, just as much as success is not guaranteed, neither is failure, pain, and disappointment. But my brain doesn’t like to remember *that* when I’m contemplating whether or not to pursue an idea…)

All that to reiterate what I said earlier: beginning a project is tough. There’s really no way around it – at least, not that I’ve found.

And in my case with this blog, I’m not just starting it – I’m starting it again, which adds an additional layer of challenge. Yes, I’m starting this project anew in the new year, with a new purpose for my writing, but I’ve also tried once already. I initially started my blog last February, and I fell off that commitment wagon real fast.

Which means, on top of the insecurity and fear I’m already facing at starting my ‘new’ blog, my brain is also whispering to me, “You failed at this once; what makes you think you can succeed now?”

My own brain is working double-time against me. Not exactly a reassuring start.

… … …

Some people have the confidence and fearlessness to forge ahead despite the uncertainty and challenge of beginning the climb; they dive headfirst into a new project or idea with zero regard for whether they will succeed or fail. More often than not, those people seem to succeed because of that fearlessness, but when they do fail, it’s no skin off their backs. They seem to shrug their shoulders and move onto the next exciting idea or opportunity.

I deeply admire those people.

I, on the other hand, typically need some kind of external reinforcement or validation to help drown out those profoundly uninspiring internal messages that I mentioned above, in order to find the courage to even step across the starting line to begin with. And then I continue drawing on that same external reinforcement to help me maintain the motivation to keep running while I wait to see the fruits of my effort bloom.

For example, when I first set out to start my blog last year, I wanted to know that at least someone would read it before I started writing because I knew how quickly I would quit and walk away if I was posting regularly for an audience of zero. But I knew nothing about how to promote a blog and attract readers.

So I started a small readership base with the people in my life that I knew would support me no matter what: my parents, my sisters, and my best friends. I asked every single one of them to subscribe to my blog, whether they were actually interested in what I wanted to say or not, just so I could feel supported in my website while I worked on building it.

And that worked for a few months. I wrote posts regularly and published 2-3 times a month – but then COVID hit, and, long story short, I became increasingly distracted and uninspired, and my family and friends had their own COVID-related challenges to deal with, so my blog came to a steady halt about 6 months after I had started it.

Despite that I had stopped writing, though, I never wanted to give up on my blog entirely. In several attempts to manually reignite my motivation, I mentioned my desire to get back to my blog to those people who had initially supported me; however, the contrived restart didn't seem to work too well.

But a few weeks ago, my creative little spark reignited on its own. I finally felt genuinely excited to find that inspiration again, and I resolved to recommit to my writing by publishing one blog post per week for the entirety of 2021. I nailed down a new purpose for my writing, and off I went.

However, a post a week isn’t exactly a small undertaking. That’s 53 posts in total over the next year. And while the new purpose of my blog is for myself and my own emotional discovery and expression, it’s also still a blog – it’s meant to be read by others. Which means I still hope that it grows in readership and support over the coming year.

So once I found my spark again and committed to my yearlong endeavor, I started to tell my friends and family about my idea to enlist their support in my blog to help me overcome my brain's new set of wholly uninspiring messages – and so that I could draw on their love and support when I needed a little extra motivation while I worked on growing my blog’s reader base.

But when they didn’t seem nearly as excited, supportive, or enthused about this newfound rededication as they had the first time, my heart sank, and the messages of failure playing between my ears got a little louder.

… … …

I’ve heard the stories about how people persevered in spite of no one believing in them or being on their side; they recount the stories of how they came out the other side of those roadblocks and went on to accomplish great things.

Those stories are wonderfully inspirational, and I’m happy for the people who are able to overcome so much by themselves. And they remind me that it's no one's responsibility but my own to keep myself dedicated, committed, and inspired to do the things I say I'm going to do.

But I’ll be honest, I’ve never been able to figure out how to actually do that – how to not need anyone’s support or guidance, but to rely solely on my own internal motivation and belief in myself to maintain those commitments.

I wonder if there’s something wrong with me for not being able to carry on with my goals and ideas and endeavors by myself, with no one actively supporting me. Why can’t I just be satisfied doing what I’m doing and push through even when I have zero positive feedback or see zero growth or progress? Why do I seem to be so needy and reliant upon the feedback and support of other people?

Here's the thing, though: my friends and family do support me – I know they do!

It's just not up to them to make me feel motivated and inspired. I felt excited and proud of myself for deciding to restart my blog. I wanted them to join me in my excitement; they didn't. I felt defeated and disappointed.

But that's not their fault. It's not their responsibility. And I don't blame anyone for 'making' me feel a certain way because they didn't – my feelings are mine to deal with.

So I sat. For over a week, I sat, feeling defeated and disappointed, but curious about why.

Why did I feel like I needed their enthusiasm to do what I set out to do?

Why am I so concerned with the approval of others?

Why do I default to believing the negative, critical messaging when someone outside of myself doesn't actively disprove it?

Why am I so worried about failing at this? What is it I believe I need to prove to the people who already love me and support me?

… … …

A few days ago, I read a message from someone who had just started reading my blog last week.

They were excited to hear what I have to say in my writing and get to know me better throughout the next year, and they said it sounds like I’m entering a season of “like it or not growth.”

And that’s how I’m trying to look at this early experience with my blog.

Yes, I felt a little disheartened that no one shared my excitement in restarting my blog.

Yes, I wanted someone to recognize the significance of what this means for me personally and creatively.

Yes, I want someone to tell me they believe in me and to keep going even when I see no results or growth in my work.

But this is a season of “like it or not growth” and it’s up to me to find a way to stay committed, even when I don’t feel motivated. It requires curiosity to observe and ask questions about the ways I react to people and situations – and myself. It asks me to stay open to new ways to responding to myself and the world around me.

In this case, it called me to accept that I didn't get the reaction I would have liked from others when restarting my blog; that's okay. It called me to turn around and ask myself why I felt I needed that, and then it called me to try something new: forging ahead in my own creative journey without the emotional help of others.

Because at the end of the day, this blog is for me. If nothing else happens, I’m writing this to help express my emotions and experiences through words. And that in itself is huge. I absolutely hope my blog grows – I hope it reaches more and more people. But if it doesn’t, it’s important for me to take this opportunity right now to learn how to stay committed and find the motivation within myself, even if it’s merely “you committed to this; you need to stick with it.”

So that’s what I’m doing – and regardless of who reads it, I’m here to write anyways.

And just like that, I’m feeling a little bit more motivated again.

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Photo credit: Angelina Litvin on Unsplash