The “This Japanese Life” episode update

Last Friday at the BlogNation Japan shindig, I recorded some interviews with a few of the attendees. As I held the microphone in front of them and listened through my headphones, I kept thinking, “Wow, how am I ever going to be able to chop this up and rearrange it into a coherent story?” But the truth is, every time I start a new project, the same kind of fear and doubt run through my mind. It’s called “anxiety.” I feel it almost all the time, unless I’m doing something that I have 100% confidence in. (Those things include teaching, training, and troubleshooting PCs.)

The way I’m learning to come to terms with anxiety is to ask myself, “Well, if it all goes to hell, what’s the absolute worst thing that can happen, and how will I deal with it?”

If my attempt at creating a professional-sounding audio program to the best of my ability ends up sounding like a junior high school social studies project, I won’t lose any money, friends, or respect from others. I won’t fall over dead of humiliation. The time I spend on it won’t be wasted, because I’ll learn from it. And I’ll do it again on another topic; I’ll keep at it until I improve.

I realize I’m expecting myself to hit it out of the ballpark my first time at bat. I have a life-long tendency to expect too much out of myself, and it prevents me from starting or finishing challenges unless I force myself, kicking and screaming all the way. That’s the main reason why I’m here, blogging, podcasting and videoblogging. Because it scares the bejesus out of me if I let it.

I admire people (like my boss) who can jump into something new without any experience or a detailed plan and risk failure, so all this online stuff is my attempt at becoming more like them. It has never been easy, even after two years of constant practice. Core beliefs don’t change easily, even if on an intellectual level you know they’re false.

Right after I write a post, create a video or release a podcast, that voice tells me, “You’re not good enough.” But lately, something different is happening. I’ve been sampling bits of my old blog posts and podcasts that I have no recollection of creating and they seem like they’re from someone else. And you know what? They’re interesting, and often funny. When enough time passes that I can separate the critical, perfectionist “me” from the creative me, I can actually enjoy my own work. Maybe if I keep reading and listening to my past, I’ll finally catch up to the present and finally be at peace with myself.

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Rich Pav

Richard has been living in Japan since 1990 with his wife and two teenage sons, Tony and Andy.

6 thoughts to “The “This Japanese Life” episode update”

  1. Reading this made me think of half-baked armchair psychologist advice (and, no, I’m nowhere near any awamori, although I am working my way through a case made up of two bottles of every beer brewed by the Kiuchi Brewery, makers of Hitachino Nest, based out in Ibaraki.)

    I’d say take your time, allow your impulses to tweak an rework “This Japanese Life” to run wild. Let yourself be a perfectionist with this, and only this. Get it to a point where you’re happy with it, then put it out there in a big way. Send it to the Third Coast Festival, send it to PRX and PRI, promote it.

    Then let it go. You’ll be able to see that you really can do it, you might even reap some rewards in the form of broader recognition, and you’ll deal with criticism. One the whole, though, I’m inclined to think it’ll be a confidence boost.

  2. dear rich pav,
    i’m not sure if I’ve left feedback before but i have certainly been a quiet fan of your postings right from the beginning.
    although it’s very unlike me, i’ve been compelled to break the silence with this post for it has, as have many others, been quite useful at helping me deal with my own, quite similar anxieties.
    i can’t quite put a finger on it, but, quite inexplicably, your posts do provide again and again tangible testament of how much we can learn (about you and ourselves) from just being exposed to the lives of ordinary, unpretentious and beautiful real human beings like you -trying to sell us nothing.
    we, you and i, suffer from the same disease, but unlike you, i haven’t overcome mine, yet. i mean, at least you’re putting it out there. i haven’t even start it yet, but posts like this one do certainly make me want to.
    so, thank you for your help and kudos on your progress.

    eDwin

  3. Edwin: I think people like you and I like to think of it as a disease, but maybe it’s really a love affair with laziness. Whether you avoid doing something because you simply don’t feel like it or because you lack the self-confidence or want to avoid the perceived pain of criticism or failure, the result is the same–what needs to get doesn’t get done. It’s certainly a tough habit to break.

    I’m glad you decided to reply. I was hoping what I wrote would help someone.

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