We all want to be liked by others, or perhaps more accurately we’d all like some kind of validation from other people. Whether or not you care much for other people, it’s almost an inherent desire that we want to be noticed. Yet, contradictory to that notion for many is that some are afraid of being noticed, nine times out of ten because there is a fear of being judged or ridiculed by other voices. As a person, let alone an artist, this is a dangerous barrier to not only personal growth, but to expressing yourself freely. And it’s my belief that as an artist you absolutely cannot stand to be afraid of judgment or let the feelings and whims of others dictate your desire to express your art.
Years ago I too was afraid to let others read my work, and kept it safely stored away on my computer only for my eyes to see. While I still don’t give my work out to people aside from my significant other, I have self-published a first book and have posted teasers for my next book up on this blog, so my fear of judgment or ridicule has been eliminated. That’s not to say you should develop an arrogance towards the opinions and critiques of others and consider yourself above it. That’s just as foolish. Rather, this is concerning your freedom to actually express your art to begin with, which is something I find very, very difficult to oppose. But forget art for a moment, as people can be so afraid of judgment or being noticed that they even conceal their preferences and likes, which I consider an absurdity.
On the internet more so in real life there is a tendency for people to jump down your throat and abuse you because being a keyboard warrior who doesn’t have to account for your actions is a fairly easy and liberating experience. Often you’ll find people who hide their opinions, preferences and ideas as a result, which is a crying shame. Even off the internet, people are seemingly judgmental by nature, and we fall victim to “societal norms” as a result. Here’s a basic example. A guy who likes Taylor Swift or One Direction (like me, right here!) will be afraid to say they do, for fear of being called “gay” or “feminine” or any other such weak insults. We often accept that those are “girly”, like the colour pink, and our masculinity is threatened if guys like them. Somehow. Because reasons. Because judgment of others matters.
A therapist on a psychology blog asks people who fear judgment to consider some very important questions concerning themselves, and these are:
- What are you anxious might actually happen if you thrive or succeed or shine?
- What do you worry could be said or done?
- Which parts of you do you fear might be ‘cut down to size’? (in other words how do you imagine yourself to be ridiculed?)
- And who do you imagine might be doing the cutting?
These are some great questions to ask yourself when you’re doing a bit of soul searching and self reflection, especially because the true, honest answers may either surprise you or make you realise there’s probably nothing to worry about to begin with.
However the above preference dilemma with Taylor Swift and One Direction was a tame example. This fear of judgment can extend to the way we think, the way we limit the expression of our opinions and furthermore to the content we actually include in our art. We don’t want to “go there” or break societal norms because we want to be accepted, liked and validated. We don’t want to be judged by our peers, friends, family and the greater audience. So we make safe decisions (which I regrettably did myself in my inexperience with my first book), include less controversial content and don’t delve deeply into what we really want to. This should not happen.
As an example I know that I may get judged for the content of my second book, The Black Glass Killer, especially if any member of my family reads it. And I haven’t even got to my horror book yet! The Black Glass Killer delves deeply into the mind of a sadist and psychopath, and the content is not really family-friendly as a result. Children die, the elderly and innocent are violently abused, erotic and God-complex themes are attached to murder and torture scenes are graphically depicted. It’s straight up a book about a villain. Yet my goal was to uncomfortably place myself in the mind of a psychopath, and write a book without heroes, only monsters who prey on the weak. The point is if I let that fear of judgment grab me at the throat, most of these deeply real and scary themes, which are reminiscent of actual famous killers, would not be explored and I wouldn’t achieve my artistic vision.
If you need a confidence boost, you should check out the worst movies, games and pieces of art ever created and see how those artists clearly weren’t afraid to put their work out, despite how obviously bad it is from a quality standard. If they can let their work out there, without apparent fear of judgment or ridicule, why can’t you? They shouldn’t be judged personally for it, because there’s an admirable quality to publicly exposing your art, and by extension yourself. The trick is to decide on whether you love your art or not. If you love doing it and expressing it, no one should be able to take that away from you. It’s an injustice to yourself, and to your art.
Over the years I’ve had to develop a selective apathy towards people, because I learned a few lessons in very harsh ways. One such lesson I learned in my earlier years was that no matter how hard you try, or what you do, people will stand by and judge you anyway. As a result I’ve learned to focus on what I am able to control, and develop a selective apathy towards what I cannot. You cannot control the extent to which people will judge and ridicule you, but you can learn to control the degree to which you care and to which you open yourself up to it. For many it’s easier said than done, but self-confidence and self-control go long ways in freeing you up to express what you really feel and want to say in your art.