Writing 101: Eleanor Roosevelt Probably Rocked Zumba

to live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong.

If Mrs. Roosevelt is right, I am as agreeable as the day is long. I consent to feeling inferior every time I compare my pedagogy to another teacher’s; every time I compare my blog to one that’s more insightful, wittier, and more articulate; every time I compare myself to women who work full time, have kids, manage a home, AND (choose one or more of the following) do it allvolunteer at their kids’ school, participate in a book group, train for competitive sports, run a side business, decorate for every major holiday, look adorable in knit caps, keep their cars spotless, do Zumba without tripping over themselves, move objects with their minds, and breathe under water.

Some days my pathological habit of comparing myself to other people cripples me with self-doubt. My own strengths and accomplishments as an educator, writer, and functional adult are buried under the avalanche of everything “they” do that I don’t do, everything “they” know that I don’t know, and everything “they” are that I am not.

Here’s the craziest part of the story: I not only allow these assaults, I impose them on myself. My colleagues don’t stroll into my classroom and scoff, “Is that your summative assessment for this unit? Jeez. Let me tell you what REAL teaching looks like…”; other bloggers don’t leave comments on my posts like “You call your blog ‘186 Days’? I can think of 186 WAYS to write a better one!”; my friends don’t ask me, “Honestly, Elena, how is it that you needed to take a year off from work just to handle your simple life when I’m juggling 26 responsibilities like a boss?” Those are not real voices. 

The one I hear is the insidious, self-destructive, dangerous inner voice that convinces me that I suck. I just suck. 

MY HUSBAND (reading over my shoulder as I write this): “When I was doing duathlons, a common strategy was ‘Train your weakness and race your strength.’ I had great confidence in my cycling, so I focused more on improving my running. So just identify your strengths and–”

ME (in an arresting frenzy of anxiety brought on by simply writing about how much I think I suck): “But that’s the problem. Sometimes I look at everyone else and I feel like I have NO strengths! All I have are weaknesses!”

That was yesterday. Now that I’m off the ledge, I know he’s right. I need to get in the habit of subverting that dangerous inner voice consistently to create space to identify and acknowledge what I CAN do well; I have to realize that my success is about me, not about anyone else.

So who cares if another teacher uses more meaningful and relevant means to assess her students?

Not me! I can hook my ankles behind my neck and recite Macbeth’s soliloquy from Act 5 of the eponymous play!

What does it matter if WhizBangBlogger just logged her 30,000th subscriber?

It doesn’t! Because I can ride my fully-loaded cart from the front of Costco to the far end of the parking lot without hitting any cars or children!

Who gives a hoot about those women who do and have it all?

I sure don’t! Know why not? Because I can…

Give me a minute.

Hang on. I’m thinking.

Cripes. I just remembered that actually, I suck. 

But I’m seeing signs of progress. And as I continue my attempts to quash these inexplicable acts of self-flagellation and seek happiness, I remember something that another famous Roosevelt said: 




14 Comments Add yours

  1. Kiri says:

    Oh those inner voices! I’m slowly winning against mine. Wrote a bit about it here: http://retrogirlandthechemokid.com/2014/02/13/happy-valentines-day-to-me/


  2. eschilla says:

    Couldn’t agree more with the quote. I do experience the same thing now; self-doubt and inferiority. When those things strike me I couldn’t do anything to refuse or to shoo it away. I’m still wondering though whether this is an effect from quarter-life crisis or not. Anyhow, this is a very nice post that I find it related with me. Keep on blogging, Miss 🙂


    1. elenahershey says:

      “Quarter-life crisis!” This is the first I’ve heard this term, but it makes sense. I hope you power and write your way through your QLC with ease. Thanks for reading!


  3. Cathy says:

    Elena, you have such a wonderful writing style! I love your honesty and your wit. When you have those days that you question yourself, know this: you are a writer in the very best sense of the word!


    1. elenahershey says:

      Your comments light me up. Truly. Thank you!


  4. ranu802 says:

    You don’t need to compare yourself with anyone, you are doing an excellent job and I agree Comparison is the thief of joy! 🙂


    1. elenahershey says:

      Thank you. May we both thwart the Thief!


  5. artseafartsea says:

    Gotta love those Roosevelt quotes, especially Eleanor! I really like your writing style and the humor. Couldn’t stop reading.


    1. elenahershey says:

      Yes, those Roosevelts knew a thing or two about life. Thanks for reading!


      1. artseafartsea says:

        You bet!


  6. Laura says:

    I swear I just heard your voice in the room as I read this. Your thoughts on this topic are all too familiar. When the dreaded interview question of “tell us about yourself” is asked, it’s these exact insidious thoughts self-doubt that make their unwelcomed presence precisely as I begin to answer. They do so only because I allow them to. You, my friend, are a genius at reminding us of how similar we all are. Cheers to that.


  7. Laura says:

    *to, not “too”, jeez. See?


    1. elenahershey says:

      Would you believe I didn’t even notice that?? But I just changed the “too” to “to!”

      On Mon, Nov 9, 2015 at 8:41 PM, 186 Days: An Intermission wrote:



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