You’re going to be judged.

I was teaching a writing class. Towards the end, someone asked:

“How can I get over my fear of people judging me? I’m nervous to publish my work because I don’t want to deal with mean emails, mean blog comments, and things like that. How can I get over this?”

That… is a good question. Because judgment is everywhere, all the time.

“I love his writing.” “Her voice annoys me.” “Wow, that was completely delicious.” “Blech. Too rich for my taste.”

We judge people’s style, voices, choices, and creative work. We do this instinctively. All day, every day, we have reactions to things. We form opinions about things. We filter things into categories. “I love it.” “No thanks.” “Awesome!” “Disgusting.” It’s how human beings operate.

I’ve been writing professionally for the last 10 years. If there’s one thing I’ve learned during that timespan, it’s this:

People are going to judge my work.

They’re going to judge yours, too.

It’s unavoidable.

No matter what I say — and no matter how I say it — someone, somewhere, is going to be delighted, and someone, somewhere, is going to be upset.

It is not possible for me to create a “perfect piece of writing” that delights six billion people and upsets zero people.

There’s no getting around this fact. That’s just how writing / reading works.

This week:

— I got an email from someone who said: “I love that you include photos of yourself in your newsletter! It’s so fun to see the face behind the words.”

— I got an email from another person who said: “I don’t like that you put photos into your newsletter. It feels like vanity, and it’s diluting your message. I expected more from you. Unsubscribe me.”

Awhile back:

— I got an email from someone who said: “Thank you for being open and transparent about your political beliefs. As a Muslim woman, I feel uneasy and vulnerable right now, and I really appreciated what you said.”

— I got an email from another person who said: “I really wish you wouldn’t talk about politics. What you said about the election… I just don’t think it’s right.”

Like I said.

It’s impossible to please everybody.

What feels “inspiring” to one person might feel like “vanity” to another. What feels “comforting” to one person might feel “inappropriate” to another. And on and on and on and on it goes.

I can’t control how people react to my work. All I can do is ask myself, “What is the message I want to share in this moment?” and “How can I share that message as clearly as possible?”

That’s all I can do. That’s all anybody can do.

Yes, occasionally, people will send bizarre, outraged emails to you at 2am in the morning. People will call you names. People will misinterpret you and misquote you. People do that. If you want to be a writer, artist, or entrepreneur — if you want to create anything in a public space — then enduring judgment and criticism is part of the package deal.

But not everybody will criticize you. Some people will love you. Some people will say, “Thank you. I needed to read that today,” and “The story you just told changed my life,” and “You inspired me to keep going.”

Those are the people you’ve got to stay focused on. Plug those people into your heart. Lock them into your mind. Hold on tight. Remember those people when you’re feeling discouraged. Imagine those people encircling you with appreciation. Create for them.

“Believe in yourself. There is something inside you that is greater than any obstacle.”
–Christian D. Larson

There is something inside you that is stronger than even the harshest piece of criticism, stronger than the meanest blog comment, stronger than the hate-iest piece of hate mail. You have that strength inside of you.

You’re going to be judged, and…

You’re going to survive.