You know what feels fantastic? Compliments from complete strangers about something you have produced.
In related news, I've been writing fiction. I found a website to post the stuff I've written (oh HELL no I'm not linking it, my brain is filthy and twisted) and every day there is a new email listing all of the comments I've received (all positive) as well as kudos (these are 'likes' for when people don't want to actually comment) for work. Every day. Every. Single. Day. Someone different surfs the site and reads my stuff and likes it every day. Different people too :)
This anonymous collection of compliments has boosted my self esteem in a way that nothing else ever could have done. Nothing. People who know me and love me will tell me that my work is good, or even great, but it's just not the same. Why? Well, I'll tell you.
I was raised in an environment where everything good was tinged with something bad. If I was told I was pretty it was followed by 'with that makeup' or 'with your hair that length'. This would be the case with literally every compliment in my developing life. I think it was my mom's way of showing her jealousy for my sisters and I - if she insulted us then we would never be more than she could have been, or something like that.
The result of that was if someone liked what I wrote I would hear 'except for this part' or 'for that genre' even if it was never said out loud. I just learned that compliments were accompanied by hurt*.
I have always wanted to be an author. I want total strangers to really love my stuff...and pay for it so that I can earn money to write another book. Writing stuff for free and posting it has helped develop my writing style in a way I hadn't expected. I started it originally to get a scene out of my head, to see if I could write it coherently and in a way people would want to read more. And they did. So I wrote more. And got more good feedback. So I've been writing more and more and even started paying attention to how I'm writing. I'm surprised that when the scene is angry there are shorter sentences, when the scene is loving there are longer, more fluid sentences. I have learned how to leave a clue that will be wrapped up by the end. I have learned how to cause the reader pain, joy, sadness, and warm fluffies.
At some point I will write a book that I will not post for free. I will shamelessly link that ;)
Overall I think I finally get the concept of surrounding yourself with people who are supportive and positive. Family can definitely be that, so can friends, but so can anonymous random people on the Internet.
*An exception to this was when I got the job at the bakery. Nobody knew anything about me so they had to learn based on what I showed them. And their compliments about my job performance were genuine (to me) as there was no hurt with them. In that I envy my sisters for moving away from home when they did, they learned this much earlier than I did I think.