What Others Think

A brief moment of co-operation

A brief moment of co-operation

My whole life seems to be ruled by what other people think of me. Apparently that’s a personality trait of Highly Sensitive People, a category I discovered through one of my blog followers from Setting the World to Rights. I took this online test and, unsurprisingly, scored very highly. At least it’s nice to know there are others who are so sensitive to noise etc and it’s not just me being difficult or highly strung.

This week has been all about other people’s opinions. First I got a one-star rating on Baby Blues & Wedding Shoes – but with no review to tell me why. I don’t mind one-star reviews – in fact I expect them, because most of the time I don’t rate myself as a writer – but I worry what people think and I want to know what they hated.

The same is true of my next two novels. Class Act is with an editor but only one other person has read it and I’m really worried the story is weak and is going to get terrible reviews. Unfortunately I can’t find anyone else to read it and give me an honest opinion, so I’ll have to wait for the public to tell me (assuming they do! Reviews are hard to get: I’ve had 4,000 downloads of Baby Blues & Wedding Shoes on Amazon and still only have 8 reviews.)

My poorly knight

My poorly knight

The children’s book I’m in the process of writing is even worse, because it’s aimed at a target market I have no personal experience of. I love reading MG fiction myself, but I’m not 7-12 and when I was I was reading either Mills & Boon and Sweet Valley High or Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. I have no idea if the language is pitched right or if the story is authentic and entertaining to that age group. And I really need to know: I need external validation to make up for a lack of self confidence.

Parenting is the same. Yesterday I kept both children home from nursery/school. The youngest had a sky-high temperature and couldn’t go to nursery. The eldest complained of also feeling poorly. She only had a slightly raised temperature and on a normal day I would have taken her to school. But we were all feeling rough and I didn’t want to do the school run with poorly kids. I also foolishly thought if they were both home I might be able to rest as they would entertain each other.

But I did feel bad, so I wrote something on Facebook about having slightly-poorly children home and how they seemed to be instantly better once I’d called them in sick. Some friends came back and said ‘relax, enjoy the day with them’ (!!) while others said, ‘I send my slightly-poorly children to school’. In both instances I felt awful because a) I wasn’t enjoying having them home and would have preferred to be by myself, writing and b) I was a soft mama for not sending them both in to school (like I normally would!). By trying to get a second opinion all I got was a feeling that I was doing it all wrong.

Not so poorly girl

Not so poorly girl

As it turns out we’ve all learnt something: my daughter has learnt not to say she feels poorly just because she wants to stay home from school: a poorly premenstrual mummy and cranky ill brother don’t make good company; and I’ve learned that having two ill kids at home is different to having two happy, healthy children. Because even though they were well enough to play, they bickered and fought and cried and whimpered and had tantrums ALL DAY. Poor hubby walked into a maelstrom when he got in from work. I’ve got just one home today and he’s happily watching TV while I work. Much better.

I know I’m in good company, both with other parents and other writers. We all care and so we worry about getting it right. These posts on parenting – Mother’s Guilt and None of Us are Perfect – could have been written by me on a different day (and you can see I wrote an essay in the comments on both). And I know most writers struggle to appreciate their own writing. In fact, as I’ve been working on my children’s book I’ve been reciting to myself, “Just keep writing – Every first draft is sh!t,” over and over and over. But of course, I still need a second opinion!

13 thoughts on “What Others Think

  1. First off, before I forget, I want to say that I personally think that you were in the right to keep both kids home. There are always exceptions, of course (kids who are CONSTANTLY complaining about not feeling well), but it’s my personal opinion that those parents who send their kids to school even when they’re feeling sick are irresponsible. That’s how every other kid in town gets sick as well. Believe me, I’ve wanted to throttle a couple of the parents at my daughter’s playgroup because their kid will be oozing fluids from every orifice and hacking their lungs up and yet they see no problem in taking the kid into an enclosed space with two dozen other kids and just letting the germs cover everyone and everything. I’m not a germaphobe, but that’s just disgusting and rude, in my opinion.

    Secondly, I understand the whole “highly sensitive” thing very well. I was a very highly sensitive kid and teenager. On the outside adults often saw confidence and a lack of concern for the thoughts of others, but inside I was always roiling. I went through all of junior high and a chunk of high school truly believing that I was fat (I weighed, like, 105 lbs at 16 years old), and believed that all boys hated me because I was a nerd (later found out about several guys who had major crushes on me). And writing? Well that’s just a given. Never feel alone there, because I don’t know if there’s a writer alive who truly loves their work and thinks highly of him/herself. 🙂

  2. I would have kept my kids at home and it would have been hell, and I’d probably have regretted it, but I would never fault that decision (I’ve kept my daughter home from nursery before because I was feeling rough and couldn’t face the drop-off and pick-up!) And I totally understand the writing situation too. I am doing the final final final rewrite of my first novel, family and friends are reluctant to read it and am rapidly oscillating between thinking, ‘yeah, this isn’t that bad,’ and ‘what am I thinking, what a waste of time, I should scrap it all and start again.’ Plus, both my kids are permanently at home at the moment and I have a constant guilt if I spend any time at the computer, but all I want to do is finish the thing 😉

    There will always be people who disagree with any decision you make. There are loads of people out there, and quite frankly, some of them have unnecessarily strong views about how other people should live. You’re clearly doing great and although it’s hard, who cares what anybody else thinks? I used to be really sensitive but my kids constantly screaming in public has forced it out of me, lol. 🙂

  3. Thank you for the mention of my post! Not that I’m glad exactly that someone else should suffer excruciating mummy’s guilt, but it’s really nice to know I’m not alone!! Sometimes it helps to remind myself: I did the best I could with what I knew and the circumstances I was dealing with at the time. Mostly I just wallow in the guilt, though!
    For the record, I think you’re a great writer (I always enjoy the honesty of your blog) and I know you must be a great mum (because you take the time to think about how you parent). 🙂

  4. Criticism is crushing for a HSP, yet we crave validation, and proof that we are doing things right. Your description of seeking reassurance from your friends on FB, but feeling ten times worse, is something I have done many times. We are VERY similar, and you are right, it is good to know that I am not alone! 🙂

  5. Amanda, thank you for liking my post the other day. It did not go unnoticed. I also must be an HSP! I am the same as you in so many ways. Needing validation, getting hurt easily. I used to be more neurotic. I don’t think you are. I think you are very brave. Two kids, a house, a husband and a career that is so cut-throat. I always wonder how these professions which demand us to be sensitive enough to do well at them, contain the most competition and consequently the most rudeness and jealousy!

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