Updated: Mar 11
I think everyone feels that way from time to time. Regardless of profession, walk of life, age. Life is full of ups and downs, and I’m writing this article about the downs. Let’s normalise that life isn't always like the ending to an inspirational movie, and think of ways to handle those low moments.
I’ll go first with sharing time. What does it look like for me to feel insignificant? Well, I wake up in the morning with no new book sales (this month), five rejection emails, an unhappy bank account, a novelette with an evasive ending—and it’s only Monday 7AM, and even though I'm exhausted I've got to get to my real job (you know, the day job, the one that pays the bills).
I lie in bed taking stock of life. The imposter syndrome sets in hard, along with the fear that attacks every now and then: maybe I’m just a loser with access to a laptop and wifi.
The amount I get out of writing isn’t always equal to the amount of effort I put in. And, when all is said and done, when I feel insignificant . . . I just feel tired. Exhausted. Like all my passion, creativity, and money has been sucked into a black hole—and, if I give any more, than I'll get sucked in too.
And yet, I need to get on with it. This is life. These are feelings that come with events every writer experiences.
So I developed some coping mechanisms. A five point strategy if you will on how to handle feelings of insignificance. I’ll keep them general so anyone can use them, writer or not. After all, I don’t think writers have a patent on wishing to be farther along, on being tired, or worrying about the future.
How do you deal when you feel insignificant?
Here are five ideas:
ONE: TAKE STOCK OF HOW FAR YOU’VE COME, AND RELIVE THAT THANKFULNESS
Progress is still progress, no matter how small it is. On my journey as a writer, there were a bunch of little milestones. Finishing my first novel. Going to my first open mic. Producing my first show. Having a play produced by someone else. Getting paid for work. Publishing books.
I remember how delighted, how amazed, how THANKFUL I was after these things. Things that were steps.
Then, when I’m in a funk . . . they just don’t seem as special. I want to go farther. The point I made it to is no longer the point I want to be at.
So when I’m feeling insignificant, I take a step back, and take stock of those milestones that had meant so much. I remember that feeling. I put it in perspective.
I remember that wanting to be farther doesn’t negate how far you've come.
TWO: THINK ABOUT WHAT TO DO NEXT
If you’re feeling insignificant, sometimes a plan of action is what you need.
Insignificance pops in when you’ve been stagnant for long enough you have time to reflect. Time to, maybe, think that . . . what you’re doing might not be working? That you need another tactic. That you need to reassess your work, your style, your methods.
Turn negative feelings into action.
Staying in motion and making a plan to get to that further point might be just the thing to come out of an insignificance rut.
But, yenno, don't make any rash decisions. Sitting with a pen and paper to write something out is usually enough to help.
THREE: TALK TO OTHERS IN YOUR FIELD
Family and friends are an amazing group of people to turn to for support. You should definitely turn to them as well if you're in an insignificance slump.
But it’s not the same as talking with someone who’s in your field of work. Unconditional love is amazing, but having someone say, “I understand what you’re going through because I experience the same thing” is comforting. It validates your experience, your feelings, and makes you feel less guilty about negative feelings.
People might not have the solutions or the answers you need. But knowing you’re not alone is what might make feelings of insignificance bearable. After all, if you can find a group of people who feel insignificant in the same way, then you feel insignificant together.
That community will make you slightly less insignificant. If nothing else, less alone and isolated.
FOUR: BE PATIENT AND KEEP GOING
So my ebooks aren’t flying off the electronic shelves. You know what I can do? Write another ebook. And then another. And then another.
Instead of focusing on things outside of your control, focus on things within your control. For example, I can’t make people buy my work, read it, change their minds, anything. But, I can decide to make more work and to continue working hard.
So if there’s no payoff, just add a yet to the end. And then, keep going. I mean, what else are you going to do? Give up?
FIVE: HAVE A HOME DAY
Feelings aren’t like light switches where you can just turn them on and off. The above ideas are tips for when you’re ready to take steps. But sometimes . . . you just need to stay in bed. Pout. Have some ice cream. Relax. Listen to emotional music. Sometimes, you can't just CHOOSE to feel better.
Feelings like this happen periodically (if they persist, then that’s a problem). I can’t name the number of people I’ve talked to who have had these feelings. And there’s nothing wrong with feeling sad. Nothing wrong with being disappointed. Nothing wrong with wondering if all the effort is for nothing.
It’s normal. Give yourself permission to feel that way. Then, when you feel better, you can get back on the horse and keep going.
But sometimes the best way to handle feelings of insignificance is just to allow yourself some time to feel them, however unpleasant they might be.
So, those are my tips! Have anything to add? Write them down in the comments below.
NOTE: the above are tips for normal lows of life. Do you have bouts of feeling "insignificant" that last for two or more weeks? Or, where the bouts feel like the absolute end of the world rather than a case of the blues? If any of the above is true, it might be a form of depression. For mental health resources and information, check out the World Health Organisation website.