Repeat after me: I don’t care.
“I don’t care what anyone thinks.” Sounds good, right? I know I’m not supposed to care what other people think about me, or what I’m doing or creating. I’m not in high school anymore. I’m way past that. I’ve confronted impostor syndrome and I’m working hard to avoid running my subconcious self-defeating program. I should be ok, right? Well, actually, no. I admit it: I’m a middle aged woman and being judged still worries me. Rejection gets to me. I’ve spent days repeating those three words, like a mantra, like a little kid chanting it while covering her ears to drown out the voice reminding me that I wasn’t perfect and not everyone loves me. I don’t care, I don’t care, I don’t care….lalalalalalalala.
Being judged is hard. Just the fear of judgement is scary. Even if it’s done in the nicest way or it’s nothing personal, it gets to us. It’s powerful enough to hold us back. That’s normal. It’s rooted in our primitive brain, the one running a binary system where the values are live/die. In cave man days, banishment from the tribe meant being cast out, being on your own and having to fend for yourself. It was a death sentence. Even today, in close-knit, socially isolated communities, being an outcast is a death of the perceived self. You’re stripped of your self-identity, your relationships, your social references.
Challenge the Fear
I’ve gotten better at dealing with it. You’d hope. My life is half over after all. No time to waste. Maybe that’s part of it. It’s also realizing that the fear is rooted in my own insecurity. But sometimes there’s still that little tightening in the chest area when I want to lie under my bed and eat macaroni and cheese straight out of the pot.
Writing has challenged that fear. If you want to discover your vulnerabilities, any qualms hidden in the dark recesses of your psyche, do something new or something creative. Writing has been like bathing in lemon juice at times. The most minute cut, invisible to the naked eye, will be instantly revealed with a wasp-worthy sting.
My life has been full of terrible misfortunes most of which never happened.
Confiding in a loved one…or maybe not
The closer a person is to us, the bigger the fear. Isn’t it ironic? You should expect those you care about, and who care for you, to receive you with open arms, ready to listen and understand whatever it is you’re trying to do? You should trust that they won’t reject you even if they don’t get it. But so great is the importance of staying within the tribe to survive, we’d rather share with strangers. People will give up dreams, opportunities, loves, rather than risk losing their place in their group.
When I asked my Dad a few questions for a writing contest last year, he mentioned he’d like to read the submission. He also said if I ever finished my manuscript he’d like to see that too. Did my stomach start to hurt? Hell, yes. “Well, yeah, maybe…when it’s finished.” I scrambled for an exit, putting off the request. He reads only non-fiction. And if he did read fiction, this certainly would not be it. Trust me. Never in a million years.
On the other hand, he also reminded me that my Mom helped me when I started writing, sharing her opinions and suggestions. Would I have asked her to read the first draft? Given her a copy of the final version? In a heartbeat. But my Mom read a lot and widely; we shared that and nothing would have fazed her. It was exceptional. It’s a drag she’s not here now, when I actually went and finished a whole manuscript. Did I mention writing brings revelations? Not just in the writing, per se.
That scene with me and my Dad would have been funny if it wasn’t happening to me. If it didn’t involve someone I care about. But you have to reconcile to your goal, you have to be one person, of one mind. When you set your mind on doing something, you’ll meet obstacles, opposition, judgements. We imagine most of it and exaggerate the rest. Regardless of the source, you can’t be of two minds and expect to reach your goal. For example, you can’t entertain scruples in regards to your writing and then try to write. It’s like stepping on the gas and the brake at the same time. It’s self-sabotage.
Of course, it’s not easy and takes practice. Remember you want to succeed at your endeavors. That takes time and learning. It’s ironic that most of us dream about being successful in some area of life, but worry so much about criticism we never attempt anything or quit at the first naysayer.
Carefree, not Uncaring
Maybe ‘I don’t care’ isn’t right, uncaring isn’t the way to go. Rather, practice being carefree. Stop imagining what others are going to think. It’s not real. When they do share their opinion, or a criticism, acknowledge it as what it is: one person’s point of view. Accept it with detachment. And wear a funky red straw hat if you feel like it.
Photo by Fabio Neo Amato on Unsplash