The Author Burnout Coach
Episode 18: Stop Crowdsourcing Approval
Hey writers! Welcome to episode 18. I have a bit of a loving rant for you today…actually, it’s less of a rant and more some tough love.
Y’all, we have GOT to stop crowdsourcing for approval.
It’s disempowering and it robs us of our connection to our own authority. If you know what you want, then just fucking own that desire and go get it! You don’t need your family or your friends or random people on the internet to validate that your choice is valid and worth going after.
You know best what you want. Just own it, friends.
Ok, let me back up now that I’ve gotten that off my chest. Let’s define what I mean by crowdsourcing for approval. It can happen with both large and small decisions. Let’s say you want to quit your Day Job to write full-time. Deep down you know that’s what you want to do, but you’re afraid to just come right out and make that decision. So, you hop onto social media–or a text chain with your writer friends–and ask for advice.
Except . . . you don’t actually want advice. You think you do, but what you’re really doing is searching for validation that you’re making the right decision. You gloss over all the advice and warnings that are contrary to what you want. You pluck out just the advice that validates what you already want and use that as approval to go after your goal.
And while that might mean you still make the decision you originally wanted, you completely abdicate your authority over your life. You give the power to other people, and I want you to stop that shit. Stop telling yourself you don’t know what you want. YOU DO.
Other times, you use this approval crowdsourcing against yourself and your dreams. Maybe you deep down want to leave your Day Job, but you think it’s too scary to leave or you’re worried that everyone will think you’re irresponsible. So you put out the call again, and this time, you ignore the advice that tells you to go for it and hyper focus on all the people who warn you about how it’ll ruin your life and leave you broke and miserable.
So, now you’ve collected all this so-called proof that what you want is a bad idea and you never own the fact that YOU are choosing to believe people will think you’re irresponsible. You lose the opportunity to unpack that belief and decide on purpose whether you’re willing to build your life around trying to control people’s thoughts of you.
And no shade either way, friends. If you decide it’s more important to you to keep a Day Job because your parents think that’s more responsible and you don’t want to risk disappointing them, that’s fine! Just own that choice instead of delegating it to people on the internet or your friends or whoever you’re seeking approval from.
Which, in that example, does also include your parents, but at least you KNOW that you’re making decisions in the hopes of getting their approval. It’s a conscious choice.
This is something I actually had to go through when I decided to quit my Day Job. I caught myself wanting to check in with my friends and get their approval or sign-off before I actually sent the resignation email. But I noticed that if my friends had tried to talk me out of quitting, I would have ignored them. In that moment, I KNEW that I wanted to leave, that I had made up my mind, and I chose to trust my gut, follow through, and then tell them afterwards.
This might seem like a small distinction, but it matters, friends. So, so much.
We have been taught, especially those of us socialized as women, that authority lies outside of ourselves. We’re taught–implicitly and explicitly–that authority belongs to men, and specifically cishet able bodied white men who come from money. If we are not that, we’re taught that we should not trust our own knowing. We were socialized to believe that we don’t have authority over ourselves, our dreams, and our futures.
This shit matters.
Because this is something we were taught our entire lives, I don’t want you to feel shame about it. It’s not a personal failure. It’s something nearly ALL of us have to unlearn, and awareness is the first step. I used to do this all the time. I still catch myself wanting to give away my authority to others. It’s so normal and so pervasive, that even noticing that it’s happening is a huge step worth celebrating.
As we’re able to unwind this pattern, as we start to trust that WE KNOW BEST who we are and what we want and what will help us achieve our goals, we undermine the patriarchy. We make it harder for the patriarchy to convince us to play small.
Now, I know there are some cis men who follow this podcast–hello, friends! You’re not exempt from suffering under the patriarchy, even if it doesn’t affect you to the same degree as the rest of us. You might find yourself also crowdsourcing for approval–especially if you occupy another marginalized identity–or you might find yourself unintentionally thinking you have more authority than others.
Again, no need to feel shame about this. Just learn to recognize it and practice reminding yourself that every human has inherent authority over their life and their goals. You don’t know better than them.
Now, just because you stop crowdsourcing for approval doesn’t mean you never ask for advice or guidance. We can absolutely ask for help. You just want to be clear with yourself on when you’re looking for information versus when you’re seeking external approval because you’re unwilling to give it to yourself.
Let’s say you’re interested in independently publishing your novel rather than pursuing traditional publication.
Crowdsourcing approval might look like asking: “What’s better? Indie or trad pub?” and then mentally disputing all the people who say trad is better and believing everyone that says indie is better. All you’re doing in that case is looking for all the evidence that you’re making the right choice. You might not even ask the question - you could simply google it and dismiss any articles that shit talk indie.
Which, fair. Articles that shit talk any path of publication can be ignored. There’s no one path that’s perfect. Each has it’s pros and cons and reasons that make it good for some folks and not others.
But when you crowdsource like that, you’re denying yourself the chance to really own your desire to indie publish.
Imagine, instead, if you showed up in the world saying “I’ve decided I’d like to try indie publishing my work. I already know it means I have to X, Y, Z, and I’m willing to make that trade in order to have A, B, and C. Is there anything else I might not have considered?”
Then, when people respond, you can run their thoughts through your own internal authority. You can say to yourself: yes, I already considered that and like my decision. Or, no, I didn’t think of that yet. Let me think about it and decide if it impacts my choice.
The difference may seem subtle, but it is truly HUGE. It allows you to retain ownership of your decision making process while also staying open to alternate perspectives.
So, here’s your homework, should you choose to accept it. (And you get to decide! You’re the boss of you!)
The next time you find yourself wanting to ask for advice, check in with yourself by asking:
1 - What am I hoping people will say?
2 - What am I hoping they WON’T say?
If there are clear answers to those questions, you probably already know what you want to do. See if you’re willing to own that decision. And if you still feel like you need more information, try to frame it in a way that makes it clear (at least to yourself) that you know what you want and are just checking for any holes in your knowledge that might affect your decision.
Alright, writers. I invite you to stop crowdsourcing approval, own your decisions, and enjoy the hell out of your writing this week. Bye!