14 July 2011

On Being Judged

Maybe it's because I'm an introvert, but I seem to be very sensitive to being judged, particularly how I'm perceived at a personal level in my words and actions. I'm not obsessed with my appearance - I try to be tidy and appropriate but I'm not a slave to make-up or clothes. My main sensitivities tend to be around small incidents that make me feel more embarrassed than I should.
For example, It started raining this morning while I was waiting to cross at a busy intersection. I took off my backpack, fumbled around until I located my umbrella under my lunchbox, and hastily opened it as cold drops soaked through my top. Then I couldn't figure out how to hold it over my head and also zip up my bag at the same time (and then put my bag back on), without bumping into those around me. Sounds simple enough but I felt incredibly uncoordinated and I was fervently hoping that no-one was paying any attention. Little things like this... or tripping up in the street... or spilling food on myself, are the little trials of public humiliation I despise.
I hate the feeling of looking like an idiot in front of other people. And I seem to screw up more when people are watching - dropping things when my boss is waiting for me, getting my words all muddled up when on the phone with work contacts, or banging into a filing cabinet on my way back to my desk. Maybe this is part of why I don't like being the centre of attention. Paradoxically, I liked being praised, but I get the same buzz whether it's public or private. So when I'm succeeding in public, it's all good, but when I fail (however insignificantly) it hurts. In the back of my mind I'm haunted by the constant question: are they judging me?
Even if no-one watches us do something stupid or fail at something, we are confronted by our own personal standards. The perfectionist within us cries out, "Why did you do that?" or "How could you do that?" The toughest judge is often ourselves.
Our lives are a series of judgements. Job interviews. Exams. First dates. Showing up to a party when you don't know anyone. We can make an impression on the page or orally as well as in person. I always have to write down and rehearse my voicemail message before recording it. The same trick is employed when having to ring someone with a confrontational message (confrontation is not my friend!). If I'm uncomfortable in any of these situations, I do my darnedest to hide it. The "fake it till you make it" technique still rings true.
Although we are sometimes forced to do things which put us under the spotlight (like speeches at school, ugh!), many times we make a conscious choice to put ourselves out there. Right now, my work is being critiqued and I'm querying agents. By putting it (and by extension, myself) out there under a microscope, I'm inviting judgement. The fact that I won't face rejection face-to-face makes it a little easier... I can lick my wounds in private and battle on. And I know that without opening myself up to critcism, I won't grow or learn... or succeed. Developing professional thick skin is a requirement.
If we want to move forward in life, we have to get used to judgement. More than that, we have to view these occasions as opportunities to progress to bigger and better things. And if we make a bad impression? Well, there's always a lesson we can learn... and people will forget your mistakes far quicker than you will. We should congratulate ourselves for trying. Having the courage to put yourself out there is more valiant than accepting second-best in your life.
The lesson for me is to just relax and give myself a break once in a while. I can't please everyone all the time, and artistic endeavours are particularly subjective. I don't know how to stop being uncoordinated in front of other people - perhaps slowing down and being more aware of my surroundings would be a good first step!
Do you struggle with being judged? How do you embrace it or overcome your insecurities?


  1. Knowing God accepts me the way that I am helps to never really care what anyone else thinks of me, thanks for sharing.

  2. I have a lot of issues rooted in my sense of worth, so yep, you can bet I struggle with being judged... I know I've definitely grown, even if I still struggle with putting myself out there.

    And Toyin, getting to that point is my goal!

  3. Nice post. When I was younger, I used to struggle when the spotlight of judgement shined in my direction. I don't feel that way anymore. I think I grew out of it as I raised a family of my own. Judgement didn't matter...love, life, family, and faith mattered more.

    Congrats on putting yourself out there! Best wishes on the querying. We always learn from this process. It's scary and exciting all at the same time. I'm getting ready to query very soon - just trying to get the query letter right.

  4. Wow!!! I feel this way all the time! This is exactly why I'm afraid to write. If you figure out a way to thicken up that epidermis, by all means, share it with me!!!

  5. Thanks everyone for your comments. After I'd posted this I was anxious about how it would be received (oh, the irony!). Being so honest about my personal foibles is a little scary. It's nice to know I'm not alone and it can be overcome!

    Bekah, I think the skin gets thicker with practise. Receiving criticism (or just form rejections) is never fun, but I like to think it gets a little easier each time. We have to keep focussed on the future and not wrap up all our future happiness in one idea.

    Loree, isn't the query a nightmare? I don't think mine will ever be 100% right but at some point you just have to put it out there.