A lot of our lives are spent avoiding doing the things we love because we are worrying about what other people think.
We don’t wear what we want to wear because we fear that we will be judged if our clothes are not stylish or flattering enough.
We don’t go for a run or join that gym class we’ve always fancied trying out because we worry we will be laughed at or ridiculed for being too slow, or too fat or too weak.
We don’t write that novel we’ve always fancied writing because we worry that others won’t like what we have to say, that they won’t find our story interesting, that we will be a flop or a failure.
We don’t paint that picture or try out some new creative endeavour because what if other people laugh at us, or judge us or ridicule this thing we have created?
Perhaps it is better to just stay safe and small and comfortable so we can be free from criticism?
The truth is that no matter what we do in this life, no matter what we look like, no matter our background, no matter how small and safe we make our lives we will be judged and we will be criticised.
As the burlesque performer Dita Von Teeese said,
“you can be the juiciest, ripest peach in the world and there’s still going to be someone who hates peaches.”
Of course, everyone can do with a bit of helpful feedback every now and again from the people they love and trust. That is how we improve, and grow and learn.
But there is a difference between trusted feedback and criticism. Especially the kind of criticism we get from strangers. The faceless troll on the internet, the snide smirks of the woman at the treadmill behind you at the gym these people know little about you, your circumstances or the things you are trying to achieve. This criticism is unwarranted, unhelpful and says more about the critic that the person being criticised.
“Judgement is but a mirror that reflects the insecurities of the person who’s doing the judging.”- the Minimalists
So I suggest to you that we don’t stay safe, and small and comfortable. Life is there is be lived and to live is to be judged. To be criticised. To fall, to stumble and to fail. The people in this world that never fail, have never tried.
Continue to make and create, to try new things, to do and wear and be who and what you want to be. You are going to be criticised regardless, so you might as well do it anyway.
And try, next time you go to judge or criticise another, to ask yourself “what does this need to criticise and judge say about me? What am I afraid of?” And keep your criticism to yourself.
I will leave you with this quote from Theodore Roosevelt that I first heard from Brene Brown and have subsequently heard on the Elizabeth Gilbert podcasts, and the Minimalists podcasts. This quote explains my point more eloquently than I ever could:
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.