Be yourself. It’s all that really matters.


I have to tell you, this social media stuff blows my mind.

Have you ever noticed how one person can shout all over social media “The sky is purple” and (s)he gets a thousand followers, but if you say the same thing, you’re ignored or laughed at? What the heck is that all about?  I’ve got a couple of friends who can shout out, “Life is awesome!” and they’ll get 1000 people to comment and follow them on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.. However, if I said the same thing, hardly anyone would ever notice.

I don’t get it.  The experts tell you to socialize with others. Do things for others. Be kind and it will come back to you ten fold.

The experts lied.

I talk to people. I mean, I genuinely talk to people. I ask them about themselves, what they love, what they dislike. I talk to them about their pets. We share pics of our pets. I post pictures of books I’m reading. I comment on books they’re reading. I do everything my fellow successful socialites do, and while they continue to get 2k followers a month, I remain at 200 after a year or more.

I’m not exaggerating.

So, what’s the scoop?

My 17-year-old inner Gollum says:

Sometimes, I think he’s right.

Even as a kid, I’ve never been the one to catch the attention of others. You know how some people can walk in a room and everyone gravitates to them? Or someone speaks and everyone listens? Yeah, that’s not me. I was always the speck in the corner that was lost in the shadows of the silk plants. I was and am the one who gets passed over in a conversation. It happened twice this Christmas. I was telling a story and someone else butted in with whatever he wanted to talk about, focusing everyone’s attention on him, and I was left standing there, thinking What the hell? Did this person not see or hear me? The second time, I retreated to the kitchen and washed dishes while blinking back the tears.  The sad thing was, it was my husband who interrupted me twice. And never once did he apologize or even recognize he hurt me. When I told him later he hurt me, he waved me off and said the same thing my mom always said: “You’re being overly sensitive. You need to get over it.”

I shrank further in my shell, and another small part of me died. That’s what happens to someone who has been verbally abused all his or her life.

Remember that old saying, sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me? Yeah, that ‘s a lie. Words do hurt people, and every time a person is beaten down with words, the more that person retracts into a hole where (s)he can’t get hurt. A place where other people can’t come in. A sad, lonely place where tears are frequent and praises are too few to count. A place where self-image is clobbered until there is no self-image left. People like me find socializing a horrible chore. We feel and believe that we have nothing of value to say or any words worth listening to. So, to keep from being hurt, we say nothing at all, or as little as possible. We nod and smile. We make pleasant talk when out with others. We might even take a Xanax to keep the anxiety to a minimum. But to those of us who have been and continues to be verbally abused/ignored, and then told we are being over-sensitive when we expose our feelings, we never learn to Grow up and get over it. We learn to keep our feelings inside because no one cares to hear them.

One of my favorite songs when I was a teenager was At Seventeen by Janis Ian. The words echoed everything I believed about myself.

I can’t tell you how many times I contemplated suicide as a teen. Even tried it once, and grew angry at myself because it was one more thing I failed at. Of course, now that I’m older and have kids of my own, I’m glad I didn’t succeed, but at seventeen, eighteen, all I wanted to do was die so I didn’t have to feel the pain anymore.

Why am I telling you this now on the heals of Christmas and the start of a new year? Because maybe someone who feels the way I did as a teen (and sometimes now as an adult) will find my words, and maybe my experience and words will have some sort of impact. A new year brings new beginnings, and for someone suffering from verbal scars, every day needs to be viewed as a new beginning.

What advice can I give to a teen who is hurting from bullying or verbal abuse?

  1. Seek help if you can from someone you trust. It could be a friend’s parent, a dear friend, a counselor at school, a teacher. Maybe even a certified counselor if you can convince your parent(s) to take you. These feelings are real, they hurt, and they shouldn’t be ignored.
  2. Try to find something about yourself that you love and focus on that. Do you have pretty eyes? A contagious smile? Are you an artist? Do you like to write? Focus on those things that are wonderful and  unique to you and immerse yourself in those things. It helps to push the negativity away and develop some self-esteem.
  3. Create a mantra and say it to yourself every day. Put notes around your room, inside your books, on your mirror, notes that will remind you of how wonderful you are when you think no one else can see it.
  4. Be yourself, no matter what. I know how much you want to fit in and be like others, but if you have to be something you’re not so you can “fit in”, then that’s not the crowd you want to be a part of . Find those who love you for you. They are out there. They are who you need to be around.
  5. If you are a teen and suicide seems to be the only way out, please contact any of the following:

Teen Line

Teen Suicide/Youth Suicide 

Teen Health and Wellness Hotline

If you are an adult, please call:

Suicide Prevention Lifeline

Take it from someone who has been there, suicide is not the answer. There is a beautiful, new world waiting for you, a world that is willing to embrace you. Life is not as bad as it seems. You also don’t have to go through the pain alone. There is help out there.  Never give up. You do matter to someone, even if you don’t think you do. And try to remember, you may be like me. You may never be the one who gets all the dates, or the accolades or even all the raises and praises at work. Sometimes, it may feel like the entire world is against you. You may not be Mr. or Miss Popular, you  may never be GQ handsome or Vogue beautiful, but you are you, and that is something no one else can be. Take pride in your individuality. Hold your head high and face the new year with hope. There is always hope, even beneath the darkest cloud.  Life may not be perfect, but it is a wonderful adventure.

Trust me, if I can get through the dark days, so can you.  All you have to do is believe.

 

Advertising and the Affect on Teens and Young Women


I found these videos called Killing Us Softly.  Everyone – old, young, male, female, needs to watch this series and understand advertising’s implications on our teens’ and young women’s self-esteem.

There are 4 videos and I’ve linked them below.  Personally, I’m sick of female objectification.  Everywhere we look, women are turned into nothing more than sexual objects. I cannot go to a movie without seeing T & A.  Heavens, I just watched the Wolf of Wallstreet and I couldn’t get over all the naked women and the way they were treated as if nothing more than whores.  I am irritated by sexual innuendos everywhere we turn, especially from the men who supposedly love us, as well as the use of disgusting words and phrases to describe our body parts.  It irritates me that men feel they are entitled to sex with their wives simply because there is a ring on the finger.  I’m disgusting by men who think ‘No’ means “Yes’.

I can say I grew up with these unrealistic expectations to be classy during the day but become a slut in bed.  All, save for but one man in my life, treated me like I should be a sex slave to them.  Shut up and put out.

This same message is coming across loud and clear in the advertising directed at our teen girls.  Padded bras for 7-year olds?  Yes, they’re out there.  3-year olds wearing makeup for pageants?  High heel shoes for babies?  What in the hell are we teaching our young girls?  Be innocent, demure and sexual and thin as a toothpick.  If you’re not these things, you’re disgusting and fat and no guy will ever like you.

What a horrible, horrible message to send to our young female youth.

I implore you to watch the entire series below and then make your own mind to help our young women empower themselves not with sexuality, but with self-esteem.

Please note, the use of the following media is protected under the Fair Use Clause of the US Copyright Act of 1976 which allows for rebroadcast of copyrighted materials for the purpose of commentary, criticism and education.

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Oggy Doggie Wednesday


My son asked me the other day, “Who are you?”  I’d just done something rather insane and idiotic so the question wasn’t meant to be philosophical, but it got me thinking.  Who am I, really?  Deep down.  What makes me tick?  So, like any writer would do, I got out a piece of paper and I wrote down the things that make me, well, me.  The first five ‘things’ that spewed forth were:

  • Mom
  • Writer
  • Animal lover
  • Nut case
  • Sentimental fool (hey, I cry over Mary Poppins and Edward Scissorhands)

That got me thinking:  if I wrote these things down in this order, is this the value I place them in my life?  Are these the primary building blocks that define me as a person?  What about being a wife?  That was like #12 on the list.  It didn’t even make the top 10.  What does that say about me?   Am I condemned to Hell because my faith didn’t top #1? What about ‘being employed’?  Am I bringing about bad financial juju because I’m content with working from home as a writer, even though I haven’t seen one cent from anything I’ve written?

Or am I over thinking?  Is the placement irrelevant so long as the ‘defining things’ made the list? Or, wait.  Here’s another question.  Do I see myself as others see me?  Would my list match my friend’s or family’s list? Better yet?  What difference does it make?  Am I defined by their list or mine?  Both?

Oh  my gosh, finding out who I am is like trying to map out a character in one of my novels…except worse.  Geez, I mean, I can create them, mold them, make them be however I want them.  I can’t do that with…

Wait.  Hold the phone. Shut the front door.  I just had a revelation.  I’m a writer.  Of course I can create me, mold me, make me however I want.  What a doofus I am.  It’s called free will, Jenny Minny.  And why do I care how I appear on anyone else’s list?  I’m not in charge of their opinions of me.  That would involve gathering an army of minions.  I don’t have the energy for that.  All that matters is my own list.  And here’s something else I learned.  It doesn’t matter where any of the ‘things’ fall on my list, because they all make me who I am, and you know what that is?  Special.  And if you disagree with me, I’ll turn you into a character in my book.  Let’s see how you like those apples.

What about you?  Do you let others define you or do you define yourself?  Do you have an army of minions I can borrow?

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Moving on – into the land of queries and synopses


Yesterday I exposed my heart and spoke about my personal bout with low self esteem, and how it can beat a person up no matter how much the person tries to stay positive.  I had so many responses, by e-mail and on my blog, and it warmed my heart to know I’d touched so many people.  Some of you opened up about your own moments of low self-esteem, others tossed out some great advice, but what struck me the most was the love and the compassion that came pouring out of every one who responded.  It hit me last night how truly blessed I am.  My words were read by 136 people yesterday.  That’s a lot for me.  Over half of those 136 responded.  My e-mail had 21 more messages this morning, thanking me for opening up my heart and letting the world see ‘me’.  I even picked up a few new followers who said they would have never heard about me if it hadn’t been for this post.  I guess whoever said ‘write what you know’ knew something about this writing business.

Today I awoke with a whole new outlook.  I’m wrapping up my short story and starting on the dreaded synopsis and query for it.  I’d rather give birth to a fourteen pound baby, but it is something I have to do.   I have 9 paperback books in front of me, all flipped to the back cover.  I’m taking notes on the blurbs, trying to decipher the code that makes the hooks work.  There is a rhythm that I found in each one, a cadence, that reads like a finely choreographed waltz of words.  It is an art, a whole different style of writing.

It’s marketing.  It’s selling the story.  It’s

writing at its best.  No pressure there, right?

I found Charlotte Dillon’s site an amazing source of information on writing queries and synopses, as well as Rachelle Gardner’s.  I’m sure I will be referring to them a lot today and tomorrow as I wrap this piece up.

Are you good at writing synopses and queries?  What’s your secret?

Struggling with self-esteem


Last night I sat on the edge of my bed and broke down in tears.  Up until then I’d been surfing the web, reading the blogs I follow, commenting where I felt I had something to say and applauding them for winning yet another blog award or getting their 1000 follower on Twitter or getting an agent or publisher for their novels.  Truly wonderful and fantastic achievements and I’m so very happy to be a part of it, knowing my writing buddies are moving forward and seeing the fruits of their labors.

So why should this make me cry?

While I was honestly thrilled for them, I was also saddened because it wasn’t me.  Oh, I know this confession sounds horrible and incredibly selfish, but it’s not.  It just hurts somehow, deep in the core of my being.  I’m not sure where it comes from.  Maybe it was because I was told all my life I’m not good enough at anything I did. I was actually told as a child that I had no personality, no one liked talking to me, no guy would ever want me, and the worst – I was completely unlovable, so much so even my own parents didn’t want me and gave me away.  That one hurt.  It still hurts, forty years later.  Even my own kids have told me at one time or another I’ve failed them as a mom.  Don’t tell me words don’t hurt.  They not only hurt, but the cuts they leave behind remain forever.

Over the course of my life, I’ve allowed others to instill their beliefs about me into me, and I believed them.  After all, if so many people said the same thing, then obviously they saw something I didn’t.  Sadly, it’s followed me into my adulthood and it’s a struggle every day to try to find ways to believe in myself, to believe I’m good at what I do.  When I see my fellow bloggers get another award or achieve some fantastic success, I’m not jealous; it’s just a knife in the chest that reiterates to me I’m not as good as them at something I love to do.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’m very happy for them and I don’t want something because I didn’t deserve it or because someone feels sorry for me.  I want to get rewarded for hard work and perseverance.  Their success, though, and my lack of it reinforces  the negative thoughts:  ‘you have no personality’ and ‘no one wants to talk to you.’  I am so much more a champion for others to succeed than I am for myself because it’s been beat into me that I will never succeed at anything.  And yet, I keep holding on to that dream of being a great author someday.  That someone, somewhere, will pick up my novel and love it so much that they read it over and over and over again until the binding falls apart, the pages are worn…even dog-eared.  Somewhere in time, my novel(s) will be well loved.

So why do I let others’ success draw me down?  I think it’s because their success seems to come natural for them.  They just open their mouths and people listen and click ‘follow’.  I’ve never had that.  Never.  I don’t even know how to obtain that.  I’m the person who takes 2 steps forward and gets pushed 20 steps back and it’s a constant struggle to push ahead.   Yet, I keep trying.

Why do I care about whether I get a blog award or if people follow my blog?  All of us want to feel loved, needed and special.  For someone like me who feels completely and utterly alone in a room full of people, I have to fall back on my passions, my dreams, to keep me focused.  When I don’t get recognized or passed over for my hard work, I begin to doubt myself, again.  I hear those negative words, ‘you’re not good enough, even at the thing you love doing…writing.  I guess I need the ‘atta boys’.  I need people to say “I appreciate you.”  It’s sad.

So, if no one cares about what I say or what I think, then why write this blog?

I write it because I know I am not the only one out here in the blogosphere who suffers from low self-esteem, and if I talk about it and others read it, then maybe they won’t feel so alone.  Maybe I can impart some wisdom, and if I can help one person with this blog, I’ll have achieved a lot.

This morning when I got up, I shot over an e-mail to a friend, expressing my sadness and my doubts as to why I continue this blog or even write.  I then went for a walk to clear my head, gather my wits and give myself my everyday pep talk.  What do I say to myself?

  1. I tell myself I am a great writer.  Others just don’t know it yet because I have nothing yet to show them. But I will.  It’s coming, and it will be fantastic. (I have to tell myself this several times during the day so I don’t give up).
  2. I set new goals.  I get a clear picture in my mind of where I want to be 2 weeks from now, a month from now.  It helps to stay focused.
  3. I decide how I will celebrate meeting my goals.  It could be a movie, a new dress, maybe even chocolate.  Recognizing the achievement of my goals boosts my confidence.
  4. I try to learn from my mistakes and not look at them as colossal failures.  Very difficult for someone who’s been told ever since childhood they’re a failure (“Jen, that A- on your exam should have been an A+.  Why did you mess up?  Why didn’t you study?”)
  5. I will continue listening to others’ opinions, but I must hold true to who I am.  I will not let others take any more of my heart, my spirit or my soul just to make themselves look bigger and better.  There are those who want to see me succeed as much as I want to see them succeed.  Surround myself with these people.
  6. I will give more of my time and encouragement to others.  I already do this, but I must do more because it lends to gaining positive feedback and respect from others, all essential when building a better self-esteem.
  7. Stop comparing myself to others.  I’m me.  And I have a lot to offer.
  8. And last but not least…never, never, never give up on my dreams.  They are all that I have to keep me moving forward.  If I lose my dreams, I lose me.  I don’t want to lose me.

And…now that I’ve managed to make everyone depressed, I will start my corned beef and cabbage and dive back into my short story (which has a rapidly approaching deadline), and my novel, which will get a publishing contract this year, come hell or high water.

What about any of you?  Do you have self-esteem issues?  Do you find you have to give yourself pep talks every day?  I would love to hear about your personal triumphs.  Please share.

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Is Your Self-Esteem Beating You Up?


How many times have you looked at the project you are working on and said, “What the heck am I doing?  This is a load of crap!  No one is going to want to read this!  My writing sucks!” 

At least once or twice, right?  But yet you keep writing.  Why?  Why all this self-doubt?

I think it is all because we begin to compare ourselves to whatever is out there and selling well and think, “My story isn’t anywhere near as good as [insert best-selling author’s name].”  Excuse me.  Hello, but when did we get in a competition with best-selling authors who, up until their first book became a best-seller, was in the exact same spot as you?  Remember, they all had to start somewhere.  They weren’t born best-selling authors.  This kind of thinking is toxic.  Toxic to you and your writing.

So how do you overcome this thinking?  I think we need to understand the difference between talent and skill.   

Deep down inside all of us writers, we all believe we are or have the potential to be really incredible authors.  Otherwise, why would we write or seek agents or publishers if we thought we were bad?  And why would a bad critique send us scrambling for a box of chocolates and/or a tub of ice cream and days of depression if we didn’t believe we had what it takes to be a published author?  Are we confusing talent and skill?

The way I see it, talent is something we’re born with.  It’s the drive that makes us write (even if we think we suck).  The talent is that voice or the characters or the plot that speaks to us in the middle of the night – the very ones that make us get up and write them down before we forget.  Talent is what makes us put aside one manuscript and begin another.  Talent is being a slave to the written word.  If writing is your passion, if it drives you every day of your life, then you have talent for writing. 

But just because you have talent, do you automatically have the skills to write?  Um, no, but here’s the beauty of it:  you can learn skill.  See, writing is no different than any other art form.  To perfect it and become the best at whatever it is you have talent for, you have to practice for hours, days, weeks, years, to perfect your craft, your talent.  How do you go about doing this?  Well, if you’re a writer, you write.  You write a lot and you read.  Read, read, read.  Anything and everything.  You study how your favorite authors put together words to make them come alive for you.  You find out what it is that makes you hunger for their next story and then see how you can incorporate those same things into your own writing.  If you find you have to force yourself to read and write, that you lack drive and motivation, then maybe writing isn’t your talent.  However, if reading and writing infiltrate every second of your day, if it is your passion then you have talent.  Now you just need to perfect the skills to be the best, and heaven knows there are plenty of books out there to give you advice on how to be the best writer ever.  You can also obtain skills through school, writing classes, blog sites, crit groups and writers’ groups.  All of these tools will help to develop your natural talent and turn it into something for the world to see.  Will the journey be easy?  No.  Will there be blocks in the road and pain along the way?  You can bet on it, but as with anything worthwhile, the climb to the top, the dings and scrapes you’ll get on the way, will be worth it in the end.

So, the next time you come across a part of your book you don’t like and you begin to question yourself as a writer, stop and ask yourself, are you questioning your talent or skill?  Odds are it’s your skill and that can be fixed.  And always remember, not everyone is going to like what you write.  That doesn’t mean you don’t have talent or you’re a bad writer.  It just means you’re not going to please everyone, so don’t try.  Difference of opinion is a beautiful thing. 

So, now you know you have talent, stop beating yourself up and write.  The world is waiting for the next great author. Why shouldn’t it be you?