One of the biggest obstacles to me starting this site was fear of judgment. Even now, I feel a pressure to deliver.

I never felt that I was the best writer. A lot of my word choices are questionable. I tend to over-embellish and use fancy-ass words. And now that everything’s public? Oh man.

I find myself editing and re-editing words. I’m scared I’ll say something too harshly, or that I’ll offend someone. I enjoy splashing a few swears for effect. But even in a past article about pigeons, I blunted the language. “Crap” was supposed to be “Shit”. I “crapped” on my own work before I even tested it.

This entire writing process is a new thing for me. This lifestyle of unstable income is a new thing for me. And I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t somewhat terrified at what my future holds. I’m already feeling the temptation to back down and hedge my bets with an actual business. 1

At the same time, that’s the fun part of me writing this blog. I am shy and underspoken by nature. And I think a lot of people — especially creatives and client-facing consultants — can understand the fear of putting out work in front of someone.

But if you can’t, then just imagine public speaking. Or public anything involving a stage, bright lights, and a crowd of onlookers. And then imagine saying all the wrong things. Yes, in your daydream, you did call President Obama unironically stupid in front of a Democratic convention.

Whenever you put any work out there, we will fear criticism. We will fear that it will be judged harshly, or that people won’t like it, or that it wasn’t good enough.

Our Job Vs. The Critics’ Job

We are our own worst critics, and we could tear ourselves apart if we really wanted to. But that’s not helpful for us.

In reality, to criticize our own work is not our job. Our job is to ship ideas because it’s what we need to see in the world. It’s because we saw something missing, or we felt something missing, and we decided that it had to exist.

Because it may help someone, anyone, figure things out.

It is NOT our job to judge their piece for others. It is only our job to put it out there.

So quit the self-deprecating humor at release.

Don’t shyly mention the coffee stain at the bottom of the painting and stammer at how imperfect it is.

Don’t complain about how you had a deadline to deliver, so this isn’t the best work you could put out.

Don’t stammer about how the lighting is bright and your forehead is a little damp on stage.

If we were always afraid of someone disliking it, nothing would ever get made.

The Regrets of the Dying

There are 5 top regrets that those on their deathbeds have.

  1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
  2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
  3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
  4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
  5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

Of the five, have you noticed a trend?

Three involve having more fun and joy in life (numbers 2, 4, and 5). The other two (numbers 1 and 3)? They’re about authenticity to self.

The most common regrets that a patient had was not having the courage to live a life true to themselves. They lived, instead, by the life expected of them. 2

This comes from people with nothing else to lose. Who have time to think about the experiences they missed out of in life. And number 1 was not following through.

The pain of unfulfilled regret is terrifying, much worse than even the sharpest criticism. No one sits on their deathbed going, “Damn, I wish I didn’t release my magnum opus.”

I understand that fear of releasing your work to the public. I recognize the confused look in people’s faces when you tell them that, yes, you gave up a developer’s salary to write about happiness.

And it’s against my every natural fiber. I was the shy kid in school. I was the one who watched TV shows and actually did homework on time. My mom scolded me for using a calculator, so I erased my entire homework and did it over without one. Yeah, I was that kid. I was the one who felt more comfortable talking to strangers online than face-to-face with friends.

Even I managed to put up these posts. Even I have become resilient to criticism. I know you can manage it, too.

A Life Lived Authentically

Your role in doing things for yourself is not to worry about how it’ll be perceived.

It isn’t your job to judge your own work. it’s your job to do your best (or damn close to it), and release it to the world. There’s inevitably going to be some haters. But the haters are nothing in comparison to the ultimate regret of not fulfilling your potential.

To live fulfilled is to do things that matter to you. You only get one life. Don’t spend it regretting your authenticity.

 

Footnotes

  1. See how I said that? An “actual” business, like writing can’t be a business in itself. And just in case you’re doubting if it can, refer to all novelists, New York Times bestsellers, and even Amazon independent publishers. It’s not a lucrative or stable path for most, but it is pregnant with possibility.
  2. From The Huffington Post
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