On Judgement and Stiffling Dreams

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.

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19 thoughts on “On Judgement and Stiffling Dreams

  1. Celine, go ahead and get that personalized stationary now. My father-in-law made me some on his antique printing press just for fun. It feels nice to write please-excuse-my-kid-from-school notes on deckle edged note cards with my name on the front.

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    • That does sound pretty cool 🙂 Especially the fact that you got yours made on an antique press too!! That’s pretty special!

      The idea of personalised stationary feels quite decadent doesn’t it – I do think I’ll save it as a reward maybe for when I get to a certain point in the book or something. But you’re right I won’t quite wait until the Successful Writer part, because that could take a while 😉

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  2. I agree with Elizabeth, get the stationary now. Also, if no one buys your book, that doesn’t mean you failed. It means that no one knows your book is out there. That’s all.

    I’ve had very few sales for my first YA. It’s a tough age bracket to sell to online. I know my book is awesome. I just haven’t found the people who are willing to take a chance and buy it. I’ll keep “searching”, and since ebooks stay on the shelves forever, it can be found at any point in time.

    And since publishing a book is a dream, that that very much equals success. Unless the only measure of your success is monetary or sales numbers. I doubt that. 🙂 Believe in yourself! It’s hard at first, but it means everything.

    I grew up believing I couldn’t be an author. I’m so glad I proved myself wrong. 🙂

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    • Thank you so much for you comment Jennifer and for the encouragement, it means a lot 🙂

      And also thanks for your perspective on all this. That’s actually a really good point – if no one buys the book it’s because the right people haven’t found it yet. That’s actually made me feel a lot better so thanks!! 🙂

      I really hope you find the right people for your YA book. As you say, it will just be a matter of time, and that’s great that you’re still so positive and proactive about it. I just went to have a look at your Amazon page to check out your book by the way – holy moly you have some books with awesome reviews on there! Congrats, that’s amazing! And if you can do with the adult books, I’m sure you can do with the YA too.

      Oh and yes just publishing a book is a dream, and if even one person that isn’t related to me or shackled to me by matrimony buys it – then that’ll be epic success 🙂

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  3. I hear you! I’ve had to battle the judgmental attitudes of others ever since I began writing. But I’m glad you keep going. It’s not easy though. Sometimes people have the notion that unless you’re J. K. Rowling or some other internationally famous author you aren’t a success.

    But sometimes that judgmental attitude is actually my own. About my rough draft, I tell myself, “This is terrible” instead of, “this can be improved.” I’m working on that.

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    • In my case the judgemental almost always comes from me. Which is much harder to ignore I find. And yes with you on the rough draft, it’s what makes it so hard to write out in the first place!

      Glad to hear you’re persevering in writing even despite other people’s negative attitudes. That’s why the blogosphere is so awesome, there’s so much support out here to counteract anything out there! 🙂

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  4. I see this a lot in other writers. They believe if they’re not going to create the next big thing, they shouldn’t even bother.
    Not me. I believe that if you want to do something, then just do it. Try to be the best you can be and see what happens. There’s a reader for everyone, we just have to find them. Follow your dreams! 🙂

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  5. I have also decided to go the self pub route. During the 2012 A to Z challenge, I wrote 26 musically-inspired pieces that are now with a creative editor. I’m HOPING to release this collection sometime at the end of the year.
    Note – I used the word hoping (the word simply reflects my fear, it’s a way of not having to reveal a set date… not yet anyway… I DO have a date in mind… LOL)
    What scares me the most is the fact that this is a flash fiction collection. I’m not sure about the popularity of flash fiction. I’ve heard that readers prefer novellas that form part of a series. And I’ve noticed that lots of authors have been writing books that belong to a series. *shrugs*
    But it’s a constantly changing industry anyway. What’s in fashion today, may be out tomorrow. Who knows?

    And YES to that personalized stationery… sounds like a LOVELY IDEA. (Now I want to investigate the costs involved… all the commenters have said, get it now!)
    Writer In Transit

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    • Oh fantastic, good luck Michelle!! Make sure you come by and tell me when it’s available so I can check it out! 🙂

      To be honest, I think there’s very little point in writing something just because it’s currently in fashion. As you say the industry is shifting like quicksand, so you can never predict what will come next. If you enjoy yourself writing it, then that’s what matters – but also it will come through in your writing. It could also be a nice way for people to sample your writing.

      Yeah, the personalised stationary is pretty awesome, I just don’t feel I quite deserve it yet. If you get some you MUST tell me and show me photos. That will probably tip me over the edge and send me running to get some printing.

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  6. Don’t let any kind of judgement cloud your vision Celine, especially don’t be hard on yourself. Funnily enough, in a discussion group (study of Jung) Monday evening judgement came up. It’s such a tricky thing … I recalled a scripture, Judge not, and be not judged.

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