I’m going to try and keep this relatively short because we all have a weekend to get to.
The problem with doing anything at all, I mean anything, is not that you will fail or that you will get rejected. It’s not even that you are afraid. I’m not going to tell you that fear is disguised as courage or that being afraid is the first step to taking the next one.
The problem with doing anything at all is that you are always, always, always going to be criticized or judged. Or at the very least, commented upon.
So, why do anything at all? Wouldn’t it be nice to stop telling yourself that you are going to make it and be okay? Stop making art, stop writing, stop studying, stop working, stop speaking, stop everything? Because who wants to incur the wrath of the crowd? Who wants to be the one against many? Or even a few against another few? Who wants to go against the current? Who wants to put themselves out there? That isn’t our instinct or our nature. Our internal response is to put our heads down and protect our own. And no matter what the movies tell you, it’s tough to be on the outside looking in. It’s hard to be different. Truly, it’s hard to be anything at all.
Why do it, then? Why press on and on and on writing, making art, conducting experiments, teaching, studying, breathing, falling in love, running, making purchases, heading out on a Friday night, starting a family, getting into an argument, getting out of bed? Why do anything at all?
Because of the simple fact that we started with. You are always going to be judged and criticized and commented upon. This should empower you, not belittle you.
So, start there next time you are too afraid to do something, anything at all. Assume that people will talk, and people will judge, and people will comment, People are difficult that way. They want to break you down into bite size pieces. They want you to be digestible. They don’t want to see anything they don’t have the words to describe. They don’t want to see you in a new light. They want to see you in the old light, with worse lighting. It’s nothing personal.
This isn’t to say that people are necessarily bad. Quite the opposite. Most people are mostly good. However, we are all human, and we wouldn’t have survived this long if we weren’t a little afraid of what other people thought of us. Rejection of any kind once meant the inability to pass on our genes or our legacy. Keeping everyone in line and following the rules is how we all survive. Notice I said survive, and not thrive.
My message for the weekend: don’t ever think, “but what will people say?” People will talk if you are there or not. They’ve done so for thousands of years, and they aren’t going to stop. But you can start with that notion and work your way up. Ask yourself, if people are going to talk, and I can’t control what they say, what will my reaction be? To say nothing? To hope they go away? To lash out? To retort? That’s your decision. But never, ever stop yourself from doing something because someone will have something to say about it. In that vein, don’t do something simply to get a positive reaction, either. Block people out entirely. Chances are they’ve already made up their minds about what they are going to say next before you’ve even made your next move.
And when I say people, I mean it in the most abstract and concrete sense. Society, “They” are going to tell you what to do. But so are your parents, your well-intentioned best friends, your partners, your professors, your boss.
And people are going to be mean. And people are going to occasionally mean the mean things they say. And everything is going to get lost in translation over the Internet because words written on a screen have no inflection. But know this: I am screaming the next sentence at you.
Don’t. Let. A N Y O N E. Make. You. Feel. Like. You. Aren’t. Made. Of. Stardust.
Because you are. And you are made of plenty of other great stuff that makes up our cosmos and our brilliant, resilient earth.
You will be judged and criticized and commented upon. And you will be stronger and smarter and better for it.
In the end, you shouldn’t arm yourself against people. Breathe them in, but also exhale them out. You should simply let them wash over you like ocean waves. It’s up to you what stays and what is brought out with the tide.