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I wrote a cover letter today.

Well. That’s not entirely accurate. I wrote a bio, selling… me. Which is basically a cover letter, except without that job-carrot being dangled in front of me. And you know what? Cover letters are hard.

I mean, they were hard when I was applying for jobs last year, and they’re hard now. Even if they’re not technically cover letters. Even if they’re pitches. The process of sending a story or novel to an editor or agent, the process of writing up your bio for a panel or website that you collaborate with, it’s all that same weird place in your brain.

You’ve met this place in your own brain, right?

Look, I’m not saying there’s something broken in our socialization or the education system, but we spend the first 16 years of our contact with other people being taught to downplay our accomplishments. And then the minute we’re out of the educational system, we have to write cover letters explaining how awesome we are. It’s a pretty fundamental conflict.

So how does one do it? How do we get past that uncomfortable feeling that someone is going to come and smack our knuckles for bragging when we describe our accomplishments?

We practice.

And little by little we teach ourselves to stop apologizing for existing, stop apologizing for being good at things, for taking up space, for being better at things than other people are. We acknowledge and embrace our strengths, instead of being ashamed of them.

We learn to say “thank you” when someone compliments our work, instead of immediately pointing out the things that are actually wrong with it.

We learn to say “that makes me feel special” when someone says they love us, instead of listing the reasons we aren’t worthy of love.

We learn to hold our heads up, to walk down the street comfortable in our skins, with a right to take up space in the world.

We start like this: I am a writer. I have completed novels and short stories and they are actually quite good. I worked hard on them. I just hit 200,000 words on a novel I’m collaborating on, this week, and I think it blows away everything I’ve worked on before, completely. I look really good in this shirt. Last week I painted a sizeable mural and I’m pleased with the way it came out and I hope the client likes it as well as I do. I’m an excellent knitter and I’m excited for the holiday season when I get to do that and catch up on all the TV I’ve been missing out on this year while I wrote. I’m an accomplished human being and I’m doing ok.

And eventually, hopefully, maybe… we believe it.

 

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