Subtitles Are Nonsense

Maybe your title is great—but your subtitle needs a revision.

Posted Nov 05, 2019

My second book's subtitle was a real conundrum.

We had the title zipped up. It was perfect. The publisher and I went back and forth over several months with regard to a handful of words that was the subtitle. Total pain. We just couldn't quite get it right.

Then, in the 11th hour, the long-perfected subtitle that we had (finally) agreed upon? Well, it was changed once again.

That doesn't seem like a big deal, right? Of course not. But during that process, I realized that I was walking around my life with a "perfect" title—but the subtitles I was using? Those were big-time forms of nonsense. 

Here's what I mean.

My life title was: Meredith Atwood, wife, mom, former lawyer, writer, and IRONMAN triathlete.

My life subtitle was: A woman who will never be able to lose weight, be fit, get her money straight, or have true happiness.

Mark Wilson Images, used with permission
Source: Mark Wilson Images, used with permission

What? Exactly. That seems like total crazy-talk, doesn’t it? Perhaps, but it was the thing running through my head. And not just every once in a while, either—all the time.

I talked to a few friends about this idea of an outwardly-perfect "title"—the label that we are giving the world about ourselves—followed up by the terrible-not-so-good subtitle. Did they have this issue too?

Turns out, the subtitle concept is a thing. Many of us are doing this very exercise. We project a great title to the world, but then mutter awful things under our breath (the subtitle).

This is indeed a concept that many of us are carrying around. Sometimes this shows up in the form of “I have a great life, but…” What comes after the “but” is the big kicker.

Subtitles might be showing up as nicknames or names that we have been given or have allowed to continue. Those names we are given and called as a kid? Sometimes they impact us for life, and the “subtitle” is precisely where they take up residence. Nicknames and subtitles impact our worth, our confidence, our actions, our perception of who we are, and how we define ourselves and our lives. 

What subtitles are you applying to your life? What names do you call yourself under your breath? Which negative words have you been called during your life and subsequently adopted as part of your life’s subtitle?

You may not even hear the words. So, in that case, the first step might be to listen to what you say—yes, in your head. You have to hear the voice and listen to the subtitles that you are saying before you have a choice about what to do about them. Many times, the subtitles are so entrenched in our thoughts we don’t even recognize them as destructive patterns that play out in bigger ways. We must interrupt the negative patterns of self-talk; we must choose better subtitles. 

We all have a vision of what the best version of ourselves looks and feels like. Perhaps we have given up on this idea because it feels too hard or too distant.

But if we all stop and listen to our inner voice for a moment, we can feel this desire, this truth about ourselves and what we want, come alive. When we replace the not-so-great subtitle with something towards that goal, then we just might feel things start to change.

Titles and subtitles are both a little nonsense in the end. But if you must have either, let’s work on choosing ones that work in our favor.

Meredith Atwood
(A Fabulous Author, Fun Speaker, The First Ever Doctor of Nonsense, and Savvy Subtitle Guru)