On curating your self-talk

The other day Jack and I were driving across LA and listening to Atmosphere. The song Guns and Cigarettes came on. There’s this part of the song that goes:

I wanna bigger than Jesus and bigger than wrestling
Bigger than the Beatles and bigger than breast implants
I’m gonna be the biggest thing to hit these little kids
Bigger than guns, bigger than cigarettes

“It’s funny,” said Jack. “This song came out when they were just starting out, and they ARE huge now.”

It’s true. Atmosphere came out with “Guns and Cigarettes” in 2001, just three years into making music under that name, and they ARE huge now. It occurred to me that I could learn something from the blatant bravado of rappers. Being an artist, and especially a female artist, I’ve often felt like confidence is taboo. If someone compliments my work, I say thank you, but I don’t toot my own horn too much. Why is that?

Of course I have that demon voice most of us have - the one that tells me my ideas are worthless and I’m a fake who’ll never create anything good again. But I also have another voice that chimes in. A voice that tells me I love my work. And that I’m good at it. Really good at it!

I don’t think I celebrate that voice enough. I don’t think I give it air, for fear of being seen as boastful and arrogant. So to fight my way through that fear, I wrote it out in big letters and colored them in. It felt good.

I want to tell myself I’m great more often. I want to encourage others to do it, too. A bit of modesty is okay. It would be hard to relate to anyone without acknowledging our humanity and vulnerability. But enough false modesty. I’m good at my job. I’m a competent artist and I know it. I think I should be able to say so.

Do you ever keep positive self-talk to yourself? What would you love to write in big letters, proudly?


I can’t love this post more.

When I’m feeling less than awesome, this is my go-to.


Thank you @hallie.bateman for bringing this up. It’s something that I think everyone wrestles with to some degree - we don’t want to come off as egotistical or self-centered – but I think there’s an added layer of “don’t self-promote” specific to women (and in some degree to all artists) because of cultural conditioning.

I remember reading in a few articles about a study a while back looking at what people talk about in group conversations when they meet for the first time. There’s a natural tendency toward self-deprecation that crops up in all-female groups. If you’ve just heard a half dozen other people introduce themselves with witty self-deprecation about their struggles, then it’s natural to follow with something about “just” being a writer with nothing published yet — and it would feel out of place to announce that you just got a nice book deal.

In all-male social circles the convention was reversed - instead of self-deprecation, introductory conversations revolved around subtle “one-upmanship” of sharing achievements and status.

Outside of the male-female social norms, I think there’s also a social convention where it’s encouraged and normal to share conventional work-related success. People are expected and celebrated when they get tenure or receive a promotion or move up the corporate ladder. But we don’t have anything as clear-cut built around art, and the idea of the starving artist is so familiar I think there’s a subtle pressure on all artists that our journey should look like that. There’s this subconscious cultural expectation that the story we should be telling is one of self-doubt and financial insecurity.

Personally, I do notice that I tend to keep positive self-talk to myself - and I love the reminder this conversation gives me to celebrate the voice that says “You got this.”


@thelatestkate! I saw one of your paper cartoons on a chair at PatreCon and picked it up. The person sitting next to me said they wondered if the flier was there to reserve a chair, and I was like, “Oh no, these are here as gems for people to discover and I just got one. It’s mine.” Was hoping to run into you at the event but I never did. Anyway, thank you! Love my “You handle today” paper. It’s pasted into my notebook. :slight_smile:


@hallie.bateman I needed this! Love the post and the resulting thread. I have been working hard lately to stop apologizing for wanting to do and wanting people to see/hear/experience my work. This is a great reminder to be bold and strong in my work and let myself love what I do openly!


Ah, thank you so much! I’m glad you enjoyed it. :heart:

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This reminds me of Octavia E. Butler’s positive self-talk note:

I struggle with positive self-talk, I have been paying a lot of attention into avoiding negative self-talk, but it’s harder for me to specifically emphasize the positives. scratches head

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