“Too many people know about my writing so now I can’t write anymore!!” I texted him.
I was sitting at a café staring at the ominous blank page, racking my brain for absolutely anything to fill up the white space. The barista placed my latte next to me and promptly left my side. He’d learned the hard way never to talk to me when I was hunched over my laptop with my hands in my hair and a manic look on my face. Every time I tried typing, I would cringe at the idea of certain people reading and immediately delete all my words.
“Brahhh stop.” was my friend’s eloquent reply. I could feel the eyeroll he was giving me from halfway around the world. “You gotta stop caring.”
As much as I hated to admit it, he- and the five other people- I’d texted in a blind panic- were right. We have to stop worrying about what people think.
When the seed to start writing and use my words as a vessel for the broken-hearted was first planted, I was adamant to see it through. But as the seed burst open and my platform started growing, so did fear. Fear was this weed that kept wrapping itself around my dreams and desires to slowly choke the life out of them. One scrawny plant after another cropped up in multiple ways intending to stunt my growth. I was too scared to pitch publications. I was afraid of letting people know I wanted to write. I feared not being an original or not having a voice. I struggled hard with letting the public read my words.
Left unchecked, fear- like weeds — will steal all the energy you could be using to grow your vision and leave you depleted. When you could be out there spreading your message, you instead stay stuck in one spot consumed with lie after lie. When I could have been boldly declaring my mission and pushing forward, I remained fixated on other people’s opinions and only limited my corner of the internet to my closest friends.
But then doors started opening. Companies asked to hear my stories and write for them. My words were chosen to launch the new season of a newsletter that landed in the inbox of 500 women worldwide. More and more emails were flying into my inbox asking to publish my articles. I knew sooner or later the world was going to know I was claiming the title ‘Writer.’
I’m guilty of killing off secret dreams because of one negative remark. I’ve spent hours texting friends, asking them to over-analyse every backhand comment that’s been sent my way. I’ve wasted legitimate amounts of time fretting over whether or not to promote my work or start a website or be honest about depression and all his friends, because I’ve been worried about the things people may say or think.
But as Girlboss Rachel Hollis says: “It’s none of your business what other people think about you.”
We’re taught from young to always seek out guidance and an objective opinion. We schedule coffee dates with mentors, counsellors and working professionals, to ask their advice on our growth and what our next steps should be. I was once hellbent on packing up my life and moving to Budapest to be a party host. Many people had to gently advise me that that wasn’t the best career option for me.
But there’s a vast difference between seeking wise counsel and letting just any random person speak into your life. There’s a difference between asking for genuine feedback and letting someone’s snarky comments change your trajectory.
Someone will always have something to say about what you’re doing- and they’re absolutely allowed to have their opinions. But that doesn’t mean you have to know what it is. You don’t have to poke and pry or ask your friends to be your spy network to find out exactly what it is people are saying about you. Whatever their opinion is, you most certainly don’t have to let it influence your life.
You could lie in bed for hours consumed with thoughts over the people who will scoff at your mission or the friends who used to show up for you but fell off the grid at the first sign of your success. You could keep fixating on who isn’t there anymore and what they might be saying. You could be so focused on the gaps in the bleachers that you completely miss out on the fact you have die-hard fans waving celebratory banners in the front row.
“I’ve been thinking about you lately,” my friend turned to me as I nestled in the seat next to her. “I’ve been thinking about what you told me the other night. About how you’d been too scared to post this and publish that. It saddens me, Ash.”
“You have your own unique way of speaking, of writing and the way you tell stories. And you shouldn’t hide any of that because you’re scared of what other people will think. So long as you have good intentions, that’s all that matters. If other people have a problem with you, that’s their problem.”
There are jokes, stories and ideas only you can come up with. No one can captivate a room or hold someone’s attention the way you do. Someone somewhere is hoping you’ll show up tonight . People need you to bring the ideas buzzing around your head to life. The stories you’re keeping close to your chest because it’s too shameful or embarrassing, could be someone else’s lifeline. What you think are all the crazy messy parts of you, somebody else finds endearing.
The you that you are now is someone’s first choice.
We shouldn’t be chopping off parts of ourselves or changing our dreams based off other people’s expectations. People walk in and out of our lives all the time. At the end of the day you’re the one who will have to sit with the person you’ve become. I pray that person will be the one that stays true to your uninhibited self.
It would be a great disservice to the world and to the God who created you if you hid parts of yourself away because you were scared of what people think.
Don’t speculate over what people may or may not be thinking about you or your craft. Don’t ask for the ‘reviews.’ Don’t worry about what they’ll write or say about you. Unless they’re good and wise counsel, just take whatever ‘advice’ they try to give you with a smile, a thank you and a wave goodbye.
Mind your business.