Sunday, November 3, 2013

The Pinocchio Complex

As a girl, I was a Tomboy. As an adult, I feel like a girl. Well, a teenager. With an awesome fashion sense. I have a job. And credit. I pay bills. (Oh, the bills I pay!) I am on the third car I have purchased myself. And it happens to be my second brand new car.

But I sometimes wonder when I'll be An Adult.
Pinocchio from Wikipedia

I often find myself wondering when I will be A Real Writer. As I sit here, typing these words, working through what it is I want to say, I feel like a kid playing pretend. (I'm going to be a writer when I grow up!)

I've written close to one hundred articles for this blog. I've written a couple of book reviews. I've written a number of short stories.

I have two degrees in writing. I have a job that requires lots of technical writing. Yet, I feel like I have yet to meet some hitherto unknown requirement that will grant me entry to The Hall of the Really Real Writers.

This is something I have come to think of as The Pinocchio Complex.

I do not have a degree in psychology, but I have read enough texts - academic, fiction, and blogs - to know that I am not alone. Heck, I chose the name based on a story about an old man who wanted to be a real father and his puppet that wanted to be a real boy: that fairly screams, "You are not alone!"

In our every day lives this sense of insecurity is more or less benign. We feel stress and anxiety and either soldier on or bow out of an activity. Sometimes it stops us from doing something we want to because we fear others reactions. This is a lie we tell ourselves: we aren't afraid of what others think, but what we think. Try as I might, I have not yet managed to listen in on others' thoughts: I cannot be shamed by that which I cannot hear.

In an apocalypse situation, insecurity and self-doubt could be life threatening. Learning how to control and defeat it now, rather than have to grapple with it during the Great Rat Uprising, is best.

Sort Yourself

Look at what your doubt centers around. Really look at it. Take a scalpel and slice it open then peer inside. You need to know what you are afraid of and whether or not it's actually valid. The only way to do this is to torture yourself a little by examining that which the Fear has Chosen.

For me, it's often my writing. I fear that I'm not a real writer. Despite those degrees. Despite this blog. Despite that conference at Yale. I have all these outside sources telling me that I am a real writer. Why don't I feel like one?

We need to put those niggling little thoughts to bed and look at our successes and failures rationally.

I read an article about this topic on that recommended keeping a gratitude art journal. I don't plan to do this, but it could be something to look into.

Walk Away

Sometimes the best way to deal with The Pinocchio Complex is to walk away from what is bothering you. I'm not advocating giving up competitive mud wrestling (well, I might be): I am suggesting literally walking away from what is the focus of your self-doubt and letting your head clear. Go for a walk or a run. Take some time to swim or bike. Immerse yourself in a complex television program or novel.

Do not sit around and veg out. Vegging out allows the mind to wander where it wants. You are walking away from The Bad Thoughts. If they see an in, they'll just follow you.

This may not work when doing furled surgery on a woman who has been crippled by The Rat Queen's minions, but, let's be honest, you probably won't be the field surgeon if you over think your sutures in an emergency situation.


Redirecting means taking all that negative energy, those dark thoughts, and funneling them into something new and interesting and positive. I like using this particular strategy to clear myself of lots of negativity.

  • Bad day at work? Kickboxing!
  • Pissed off at someone? Write a short story in which she is violently dismembered by tiny china dolls!
  • Want to beat children? Wash the dishes!
  • Feeling like a Bad Writer? Write a blog post about how to deal with self-doubt.
  • Angry at a parent or sibling? Volunteer to help kids in need.

Redirecting is the opposite of obsessing over whatever is bothering you. It means taking the energy one would use to obsess and using it to create a positive change either in the area that is troublesome or by using the energy in an unrelated area.

What ways do you combat self-doubt? How can we cure ourselves of The Pinocchio Complex? Tell us in the comments!

Follow me on Twitter: @Anypocalypse

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