Judgement is a terrible, crippling thing that so often prevents us from doing what we love. I think it is probably the biggest stumbling block we encounter and the worse part is that it is often imaginary: judgement that we think we might face.
As I mentioned before, writing used to be my dirty little secret. The main reason I kept it hidden was that I felt sure that people would either be disdainful of my aspirations, or give me a look that said “does the world really need another person trying to write a book?”. In short I was convinced people would judge me for my dream of being a writer.
This doesn’t just apply to writing either. Reaching for something that is further or higher than the immediately and easily obtainable is terrifying. You have expose yourself to the judgement of others when you say “this is what I want”, and then set off to get it.
There are two parts at play here. The first is owning our dreams, being able to say that yes, this is in fact what we aspire to. The second part is actively pursuing said goal.
In the first instance, we all want some reassurance that our dreams are valid, that they are worth striving for. How many people out there don’t go after what they really want because they assume that they’re being silly, or that it isn’t a valid thing to do with their lives? The valid thing in particular is powerful. Of course, some people don’t need this validation. The trail blazers, the Steve Jobs of the world. For us mere mortals however, it can hard to do without the pat on the back and the “you’re alright. Yes, it is ok for you to want this, go forth with my full support”.
The fear of not receiving that approval is potent indeed, and it makes it far easier to keep dreams to yourself than risk facing the judgement of others.
The thing is that the desire to fulfil one’s dreams is a universal one, as is finding one’s passion. People are actually incredibly receptive to those who go after their dreams, whatever they may be, because secretly everyone wants to be doing that. Don’t you admire people who chase their passions?
The terrible judgement that I feared for so many (many, many, many) years, turned out be about as real as the goblin in my room when I was little (the one that clanged on my radiator with a stick at night to scare me). Looking back, it seems a bit ludicrous that I stopped myself from doing something I really love because of what I thought people might think. I never, or not until recently anyway, did anything to try and establish the veracity of my imaginings. I imagined people would judge me, and therefore held it as true.
But once I started to admit that I *GASP* dream of being a writer, people were not only positive but they opened up about their dreams too. Everyone is the same deep down, everyone has something that they hold on to over the years, something that they hope to do when they’re older/have more money/reach whatever milestone they think they need before it is ok for them to jump in.
That’s the kicker, not only do we all have some sort of aspiration (secret or not), we also all admire those that are acting them out. So why then assume that our own ambitions might in some way not be valid or be inferior to others’?
The second part is actively pursuing that thing that we want. Which is hard to do, especially at the start.
Fear of failure is often just the fear of being judged for failing. Now again, it is fear that people might judge you. There’s no hard evidence that they would do so.
In my case this fear translates to what I’m sure you’ll agree will be a highly effective book marketing strategy: when my book is available to buy on amazon (I will be going the indie route), I plan on telling NO ONE I know in Real Life about it, because that way if it tanks, I’ll be spared the humiliation of my friends knowing I failed. I’m very aware that this is ridiculous. I am also, however, already mortified at the idea of people knowing that I wrote a book that no one is buying. It’s a self fulfilling prophecy waiting to happen, I know. Which is why I’m trying to put myself out there (have yet to even let Real Life people other than my immediate family know about the blog), to get over this.
(I’m also hoping the sheer excitement of seeing my name on a book will help. I have never gotten over my childhood fascination with seeing my name on things. When I’m a Successful Writer I plan on having personalised stationary – because PERSONALISED STATIONARY!!!!).
Again though, there is nothing concrete to tell me that people will judge me if my book fails (and maybe it won’t, maybe there will be a few readers who will buy it – why always turn to the worst case scenario?). In fact history shows that those who fail but pick themselves back up and continue, tend to be the ones we admire. I don’t know about you, but I certainly do. In fact I admire someone who has struggled, failed, and still reached her goal, more than someone who just breezed through.
So why the double standard? Why not be that person that others will admire?
Fear of Judgement stops us from starting, it stops us from trying, it stops us from going out on a limb, taking risks, putting ourselves out there and doing something different. All things that are universally admired. We fear judgement for pursuing our dreams, for trying and failing, and for doing all those things that we admire in others.
If I was one of those amazing bloggers a la Kristen Lamb, I would have a piece of advice at this point to help with this fear of judgement. Unfortunately since I’m only just figuring all this stuff out myself I am far too close to it to dish out advice. I do know this though, everyone’s dreams are valid. Whether it is to become a stand up comedian, open an online business, or be Benedict Cumberbatch’s cumberb*tch. (Don’t even try to deny it – I see the twinkle in your eye at the mention of his fart-in-a-bath name)
Oh actually I do have one piece of advice. If you don’t know for your what your dream is, ask yourself this: if you won fifty million of some currency that is not Vietnamese Dong (because that would not get you very far), after you had travelled the world, bought the obligatory mansion and nice cars, helped out family and friend etc – once the dust settled, what would you do with your time? Because that’s most likely going to be what would make you the most happy.
Me, I would write lots of books, and keep a blog on the side. I would also own a grand piano and play every day (I used to play the piano as a kid, and I loved it), and also take lots of photos. Oh and of course, since this is all a fantasy, I’d have regular dinner parties with Neil Gaiman, Ray Bradbury, Margaret Atwood, Miranda Hart, Dara O’Briain and Jennifer Saunders (Queen and Elton John would of course be providing the music).
This is much better. I went a bit intense up there – jeez! And on a Friday! Poor Friday form of me. You must be knackered from reading all that. Have a cookie. And a cup of tea.