I’m the type of person that will avoid conflict, confrontation, and basically, any form of criticism at all costs.
As a kid, I would write notes to my parents whenever I was asking for something. Not because they were mean people, but because they might say no and I would rather receive that information from a checked box than a verbal, “Not this time, sweetheart.”
I quit a job via letter once. After my boss received it, she called me and left a voicemail.
I was too nervous to listen to it.
So I just never did. (To this day, I have no idea what that voicemail said.)
I dreaded getting papers back in college and would leave the notes in the margins unread until the last possible minute because the very thought of reading them (and them being negative) made me sick to my stomach.
Sometimes, when I leave a social gathering, I’ll analyze the awkward moments I encountered. For example, how the goodbyes went. (I’m so bad at goodbyes.) I’ll think, “Was that hug too long? Could they tell my pits were sweating? Ugh, I shouldn’t have hugged them. We’re not even at a hugging stage yet. I wonder if they thought it was weird that we hugged. They definitely thought it was weird.” And this usually continues until I fall asleep from insanity (only to pick back up when I remember the following morning after the previous night’s dreams have worn off).
If I ever get in any type of argument with anyone, I’m always the first to say sorry. They could literally kick me in the shins while simultaneously throwing sand into my eyes and I would still say sorry because I can’t stand the tension and I would just rather it all went away.
You see, I have George Costanza Syndrome, in that I just need everyone to like me.
If I were on a reality show, I would be the person saying, “I’m actually ONLY here to make friends.”
I would rather people not even know who I am than not like me, which poses a quandary when you start posting your work online.
Because a funny thing happens when you publish something for the entire Internet community to see. Suddenly, that private conversation you were having in your head becomes public forum and now, people can say whatever they want.
As you can probably surmise, I usually avoid reading any comments that people leave on my articles out of fear that I’ll see something that will make me sad (which clearly, is not difficult).
I ventured into the comments section on only one article and only one time. There were so many nice and encouraging people who, for whatever reason, seemed to resonate with my insecure neuroses. For that brief moment, I was so proud of what I had produced.
And then someone said I was annoying and my writing was worthless and in that moment, I thought, “Man, I wish I had never written this.”
And sometimes, even before I publish an article (or rather before my editor publishes my article), I’ll think to myself, “What are these people going to think about this?” And by “these people,” I mean, all the people I want to impress and that I want to like me, which, let’s be honest, is basically everyone.
Nothing makes my hands sweat (or want to end a conversation) more than when someone says, “Hey, I read your article.” Because I just don’t want to know what’s going to come after that sentence.
At the end of the day though, I can only write what’s in my head because that’s all I got…but believe me, I want to blow every facet of every single human being’s mind…even if I am only talking about looking like I’m fifteen and crying in high-waisted, guy-hated shorts.
When I’ve mentioned this neurotic behavior to my peers (or my mom) they usually give me the deepest, most philosophical advice ever, which goes a little something like, “Just don’t care what other people think.”
(It’s like when Brink’s little sister told him to, “Skate better.”)
Oh, is that what I’m supposed to do? This whole time I thought I was supposed to constantly think about what other people were thinking until I slowly shrivel into madness…I’m glad we cleared that up.
I realize publishing work onto a larger platform is basically opening the floodgates to negative commentary and I should just come to terms with the fact that that is just how it is.
However, if I’m being honest with myself, nothing that I write is for other people.
Yes, my hope is that people will enjoy reading it, but if I were thinking of what you, as the reader, wanted to read, then I would’ve asked you.
And I didn’t.
I wrote this for me.
Right now. All of these words are about me (and for me) because they are clouding my head and like Dumbledore and his Pensieve, I just need to get them out.
It’s not bad to care what people think. It’s part of the gig. But you can’t let your self-doubt become so crippling that a single negative review amidst a thousand good ones makes you question whether or not you should continue doing something that you love.
The art of crafting any of the madness going on in your head is a beautiful thing. The act of bleeding onto the blank document you have open in Word (or whatever your medium is) is a very frightening thing, but you either get it out, or let it cloud your mind until you can’t see straight.
People may request something specific of you, especially if you do freelance work, but never forget that those are your guts spilling out onto your laptop. Take pride in what you create.
Believe in the work you produce or don’t bother sharing it at all.
Because the negative comments will come and as hard as you try, Costanza, there are going to be people that just don’t like you for one reason or another.
The second you let your crippling neuroses dictate the work you produce, it is no longer yours, but rather a slave to your self-doubt.
So stop apologizing. Stop questioning. Stop analyzing.
Instead, believe in yourself. Be supportive of yourself. (Have your own back, man.) Be open to constructive criticism and be willing to be better. Stand by what you create. Let people praise you.
No matter how silly or small it might seem, believe in what you do and believe in who you are.
“You do what you love, and fuck the rest.”