Here is an old joke: A French man, an American, and a Finn are looking at an elephant. The French man is thinking: “I wonder what is ze best way to cook ze elephant?” The American is thinking: “I wonder how much I could get for those tusks?” The Finn is thinking: “I wonder what that elephant is thinking about me?”
I am the Finn in that joke, or at least I could be. I concentrate way too much on what others think about me. This habit has a crippling effect on one’s feelings of self-worth and the ability to have fulfilling relationships. It is often correlated with the so-called analysis paralysis, which prevents one from reaching one’s goals since all of one’s energy is spent on working out all the possible things that could happen if one in fact did do something.
“There is only one way to avoid criticism: do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.” ― Aristotle
This was the maxim I have followed for most of my life. I didn’t do it on purpose, I only did it because I couldn’t see another way, and I was scared to try. But I’ve worked at it, and I’m starting to come round the bend. Writing this blog has helped me a great deal with this.
I’ve noticed that the more I’ve blogged, the less I care. I knew this would happen when I started blogging. I knew that there was no way I could embarrass myself worse on the blog than I could in my head. Sorry, folks, I’m just really good at disaster scenarios.
Sometimes I think about something I’ve published and wonder if I shouldn’t have. But these days, I truly don’t care all that much. One of the reasons is the fact that my readership isn’t exactly vast, and the majority are people I’ve never met, nor am likely to meet. But as I go along, I notice that it’s not just that. I’ve even given out the address of my blog to some people I actually know. IRL! When I started that would have felt awful. Now I’m like: “So what. Let them think what they like. At the worst they’re going to know me a little better, and if they think my blog sucks, they’re free to make a better one themselves. This one’s mine, faults and all.”
The following things have helped me in this process. All of them are things I’ve known before I’ve started blogging, but somehow the act of blogging has helped me to not just know them in theory, but actually feel them.
Writing honestly and about things I truly believe and am interested in. When you do that, what’s the worst that could happen? You might find that someone in your life doesn’t accept you for who you really are (too bad if that’s your boss). If that happens, finding out is probably best for both parties. It’s been a long and hard path for me to take, but I’m finally learning that the only kind of relationship that is worth keeping is an honest relationship where you can be your true self. No pretending, no wanna-bedom. Relationships where you can laugh when you feel like laughing, and cry when you feel like crying.
Realizing that few people have time to care for whatever I do. I’ve known this in the past, but seeing it in action is a lot better than theoretical knowledge. People have other objectives in life besides reading my blog, most of them infinitely more important for them. If I do something embarrassing, most people will forget about it pretty quickly, especially if I can move on myself.
Most people are actually really nice, especially if you are nice to them. Most people want you to succeed. Most people are more critical towards themselves than towards others. And if someone has a problem with what you’re writing, refer to point one. The world is always going to be full of people who don’t share your outlook on life. Those people are not going to be the ones you want reading your blog anyway, especially if they don’t come at it with an open mind.
No matter how weird, how out-there, how unusual you are, there are going to be some people in this world who share and can relate to your quirks, at least to some extent. The wonderful thing about the Worldwide Web is that you can now find and talk to those people, even if they live in Mesopotamia or the Fiji islands. And they might be online looking for someone just like you! So there’s no reason to feel weird and unloved, there’s love and acceptance somewhere out there for everyone. Just keep searching for your tribe. Don’t give up and curl into a ball in a corner where no one can see you. Life is too short for that and those lovely people somewhere out there are going to miss out on knowing you.
Marilyn Monroe had to struggle with these issues too. Here’s what she had to say about it:
“When it comes down to it, I let them think what they want. If they care enough to bother with what I do, then I’m already better than them.” ― Marilyn Monroe