Seriously

One of my faulty programming is that I constantly think or fear that people don't take me seriously.

I've always felt this way since I was little. I had a lot of say, and got a lot of insight from my experiences and the way I see the world, but I always felt that my parents didn't take me seriously. I could understand that when I was a little boy, but as I aged, and as I became an adult, I still felt that way. Usually, our conversation would go something like this:

"Mom, I got you a juicer."
"What for?"
"So you can make fresh vegetable juice every day. It's good for your health."
"You and your American nonsense."
"You should also exercise every day. Join a health club or something."
"It's a waste of money. We walk already."
"But not enough. You need to be more active."
"We're old. We don't have to be active."
"Also, you have all the free time now, why not go somewhere, do some traveling?"
"We're too old now. What's there to see? It's a waste of money."


Sure, they'd brush off my ideas or suggestions. And I'd feel like I'm a little boy again, not being taken seriously, even though I know I am right. The irony is that after a few years, they're now juicing every day, walking for a least an hour a day, and going to aerobic dance class four times a week. They look and feel healthier than they did 5 years ago. And now they take occasional tours.

Of course, it's all their ideas. They don't remember I suggested anything.

And I'm okay with that. I'm glad that they're active and healthy. But it still hurts when I feel like I'm not taken seriously. Combined with the feeling that "I'm always right," I have big issues.

Related to that, I always think that in order for people to be impressed with me and take me seriously, I have to accomplish something extraordinary. I can't tell you how many times when I go to a client, they'd give me the dubious look and say something like, "Did you just get out of school?" (Don't get me wrong, I like looking younger than my age, but...) I feel like I have to work EXTRA hard to earn their trust and their respect, even though I probably have more experience than they do. It's part of the reason why I'm sort of an overachiever when I'm driven, and a slacker when I'm not -- it's exhausting when you try so hard to impress.

I chalk it up to insecurity. I think. I'd like to think that I'm a very confident person. I do what I do and I'm good at what I do. I know that. At the same time, I doubt myself constantly, feeling that people are not going to take me seriously.

So...

I got a publisher in about 10 months. I consider it a pretty good track record, considering it's my first book. But the publisher is a small press. It's not Random House or HarperCollins or St. Martin's. Maybe it's just me, or maybe I'm too sensitive, but I do feel that people's initial reaction to "my book is being published" is a "Wow, congratulations. Who's your publisher?" Then when I said, "it's a small press in California called Behler," I could almost hear the thud in their brains. Then the 'Oh, well's that inevitably come out of their mouths. And the imaginary "congratulations anyway." Almost a sympathy.

I know it's silly. I've accomplished what I set out to accomplish and I should be proud of it. And big houses don't mean anything sometimes -- a lot of new writers' careers get squashed by the weight of their big publishers. I have worked for small companies and big companies, and I know their respective pros and cons. Sometimes it's actually better to start out small.

I have been around the blocks a few times, and have seen and met and worked with celebrities. I don't usually name drop, and you know why? Because I don't think it matters. It doesn't mean so-and-so is a better person than I am because he's a celebrity, or that I'm more impressive because I have worked with him. To me, they're just people (and they are) -- some of them really nice, down to earth.

But dammit, big companies do SOUND so much more impressive, don't they? And who doesn't love celebrity stories? In this world, and in this culture, brand name is king. Do you want to drive a BMW or a Toyota? Do you want to wear Prada or K-Mart? Do you want to work for IBM or some small company that no one has ever heard of? It's a state of mind.

I know all that. I'm an intelligent person. But sometimes I think my heart is dumb as a doornail.

I can't help but still feel like a little boy left in a corner and nobody notices because I'm not the cutest, smartest, most accomplished little boy at the party. It's ridiculous to feel that way, but I do. It's not just me being "oh-so-sensitive Ray," though. It's the truth. People (some people) do treat you differently based on their perception of who you are. My own observations confirm that. It's hard not to compare, when I try so hard to become "someone special." Part of me says, "Oh fuck it. Who really cares anyway, as long as I am happy." But part of me says, "Look at me! I'm here!"

It does hurt when you see how some people treat you differently. Whether it's because of your skin color or what kind of clothes you wear. But it's the real world. What hurts the most is when the people you respect or admire do the same thing. It's human nature, and it's reality, I know, and I try not to be over-sensitive about it, but the truth is, it hurts sometimes. When that person doesn't return email or phone calls or he's avoiding your request. Or that they throw someone else a big congratulatory party but ignore you. Whether it's all in my head or it's true doesn't matter. The fact is, it hurts. To feel like you're not "important enough." That people don't take you seriously because you don't have a four-book deal with Random House.

Envy is another deadly sin.

At times like this, I have to remind myself to look at the bright side, and remember all those people who are happy for me for WHO I AM, and not what I do. I'm blessed to have people like that in my life, and I am thankful. I need to try to put things in perspective. It's true that "we all build our own pedestals, step on them, and see only the higher ones." We build expectations for ourselves, then bring ourselves down when either a) we can't achieve them or b) we're not "good enough." Someone said to me once: "There will always be someone better, bigger, stronger, cuter, nicer, more successful, or whatever than you. And there will always be someone less fortunate. Be happy for who you are and what you have."

Easier said than done, right?

In a way, I kind of admire Gwyneth Paltrow. At 32, she's accomplished a lot in her career and personal life. At age 32, she's ready to retire. She said, "Everything I set out to achieve, I achieved. I'm not one of those people who keep raising the bar for themselves."

Right on.

Then again, easy for you to say, Gwyneth. You've got your Oscar.    

Comments

Sara said…
Raymond, I'm going to throw you a big party! You've done so much in your career, writing and IT. Looking in from my vantage point, you're quite the role model. Thanks for giving me inspiration!

Love you lots.

Sara
Anonymous said…
Be proud of what you've accomplished.

I wouldn't care whether my book publisher was well-known or not; to get a book published in itself is a big deal. Unlike Gwyneth, I haven't accomplished all my goals yet. Lucky her!

And as for your parents, see they really are listening. You're a good son, caring so much about their health and happiness.
Ray,
No fancy car or expensive brand name clothing can change my personality or me.
I’d rather drive my Chevy pick-up, shop at Wal-Mart, lounge in my sweat suits, and read a book by a smaller publishing house, written as well as you have written The Pacific Between.

I easily related to your words. It’s easy to fall into the “no one listens or understands me” feeling when it relates to family members. Your parents listened, they’re simply not going to let you know that you’re responsible for them doing everything you suggested. No parent wants to admit his or her child is smarter. :) They’re lucky to have you as a son. Look in the mirror…and when you do, look for that man who succeeded…not for the little boy who still thinks he hasn’t. You’re a wonderful man. Be proud of yourself for accomplishing the goals you have set for yourself. Not too many can say they’ve accomplished what you have. As long as you stay true to yourself, you will always be a success.

After reading your book, I’ll say one thing…those big houses are missing out.
andrĂ© said…
I remember hearing a story related by a sucessful buisness woman who said she didn't feel recognized for the things that she acomplished. She related her feelings to a personal mentor, and his advice to her was: "Be so busy in recognizing others, that you will no longer worry about your own recognition; and it will come in due course as well."

She took his advice, and, one year later, she said, in a speech that was recognizing her for some merits, "that my standing here before you is living proof of the truth my mentor gave me a year ago."

I think there is truth in that advice myself -- so make of it what you will.

regards,

-Andre

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