Al Franken did a bit on Saturday Night Live in the 1990s called, “Daily Affirmation With Stuart Smalley,” a mock self-help show where the mild-mannered Smalley discussed his and his celebrity guests’ struggles with various addictions and afflictions.
Each satirical sketch ended with Smalley reciting his catchphrase in the mirror, “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!”
Sure, Stuart Smalley is a caricature of a person plagued with low self-esteem. But because all satire is rooted in truth, I would contend that there’s a little bit of him in all of us. I don’t know about you, but even in the best of times, I need a periodic — if not daily — reminder of my worth.
I wrote a post last year about my struggles with self-doubt here, especially related to my freelance writing and media consultant business. The longer I am in business for myself, the more confident I’ve become about my abilities and potential for sustained success, but I still falter from time to time.
Case in point: I’ve had a couple of encounters recently where I’ve channeled another SNL character, played by the late Chris Farley: a bumbling doofus of a talk show host who asked legends like Paul McCartney and Martin Scorsese some truly dumbass questions.
Farley: “Remember when you were with The Beatles?”
Farley: “That was awesome.”
Those types of Captain Obvious questions were bad enough, but then Farley would venture too far into idiocy and admonish himself with a violent smack to his forehead, “Idiot! So stupid! That was a dumb question!”
Oh. Em. Gee. I have been doing the mental Farley head slap for what seems like the entire month of February.
I had a great January, but February has been a little slow. A drop off in new projects has shaken my confidence a tad, so I’ve been feeling a little desperate for work, even though that’s based in irrational fear and not fact. (In looking at my client roster, bank account and workload for the upcoming spring, I will be fine. This is just a brief lull.)
Unfortunately, however, my mostly unfounded anxiety has spilled over into many of my interactions with potential clients, where I'm sure it seemed like I was trying WAY too hard.
In other words, in attempting to come off as smart and impressive, I have found myself talking out of my ass and putting my foot in my mouth, all at the same time. Oh, and then beating myself up for sounding like a total idiot for days afterward.
There is one woman in particular who I have been frantically trying to impress with my knowledge and skills, but every time I've seen her (three separate meetings now), I have heard myself spewing a bunch of nonsensical crap. I knew what I wanted to say, but it’s like my brain was not communicating with my lips at all.
I could tell by the look of horror on her face that she was thinking what a total moron I must be, if not a complete nutjob. My heart sank each time. (What a shitty feeling, lemme tell ya.)
The last time I ran into her at a coffee shop and pulled a Chris Farley, I literally sat in my car afterward and beat my head on the steering wheel. “Why can I not form a coherent sentence when I am around this woman??” I asked myself out loud.
After much thought and consideration (aka obsessing), I think I found the answer:
For starters, this lady is really fucking impressive herself. She has prestigious college degrees and is a high-ranking official in the military. She is dynamic, gorgeous and smart. She is a kickass single mom, business leader and a college professor, which makes her intimidating as hell to me. She also happens to be the leader of a nonprofit association that would be a fantastic anchor client for my business.
I really, really want the contract with that group, and it hinges on a successful response to an RFP the organization put out last week. It’s due March 1, and I have been agonizing over it ever since I got it.
Here’s the kicker: there is a risk involved here, and it’s bringing up a lot of fear. I have competition for the job, which means there is a chance I may not get it.
Because I really want it, my anxiety is high. Even though this small, part-time retainer contract won’t make or break me, it feels like I have a lot to lose here.
If I didn’t have a dog in this fight, so to speak, I wouldn’t care what the woman in charge thinks of me. Because I do, I am overly concerned with wanting her to like me.
I'm sure that my perception that I’ve blown it in all three of our interactions is not 100 percent reality, but carrying around the feelings that I fucked up not once, but THREE times, is spilling over into my other interpersonal communications.
I had an appointment with another potential client on Friday where I got all tongue-tied. I stepped all over my words when I was chatting with some new friends on Saturday night. And I sounded like I had a speech impediment when I said hello to a neighbor at Kroger on Sunday.
This will not stand, man. I’ve got to get it together!
When I have nothing to lose or don’t care what happens, I don’t get these damn butterflies that seem to be swarming around in my belly right now. (Screw you, emotional investment. Why you gotta be so hard?)
What it comes down to is this: I think I need to get this RFP off my desk so I can let go of the outcome. It has hijacked my serenity, my ability to hold an intelligent conversation, and it’s just plumb getting in the way of everything.
So here are my affirmations for today:
I am good enough and smart enough to land this contract. If I don’t get it, then I will remember that rejection is God’s protection, and there is something even better around the corner.
I am fortunate to have a lot of people in my life who care about me, so I know I am a generally loveable person. If one woman is not wowed by me or just decides she doesn’t like me simply because of a few incidents of accidental verbal vomit, I will get over it.
I will stop beating myself up, because even the best marksmen misfire once in a while.
I'm just gonna keep on shootin’!
About Amy Higgs
A former newspaper columnist, Amy takes her random, slice-of-life stories to the web. After nine years, she's still just saying.