You will become way less concerned with what people think of you when you realise how seldom they do.
David Foster Wallace, Infinite Jest.
I wrote my first blog post two years ago, after a seven-year hiatus from writing.
It was not an intentional hiatus – it was fear-induced. I was scared of feeling. Of feeling inadequate. Feeling incompetent. Feeling like a failure. Feeling judged.
I wrote that first blog post quickly. I didn’t edit. I didn’t think. I just wrote. When the writing stopped flowing, I hit publish and posted the link to a Facebook group.
I had started.
It’s not you. It’s everyone.
The fear factor in blogging is big, and not just for newbies. Experienced bloggers still wonder how their thoughts will be received. They feel the fear, but do it anyway.
Putting your work and words into the world is terrifying. You’re vulnerable. You’re exposing your soft underbelly, flinging your arms wide and saying, ‘Here I am. Judge me.’
But what if no one is judging you?
What if that judgement, that fear, those feelings, are all in your head?
Stop reading minds.
We’re all mind readers. We’re forever in other people’s heads, planting ideas in their minds, putting words in their mouths.
‘They’re going to read this and think: ‘She doesn’t know what she’s talking about.”
‘Everyone has written on this topic before. They’ll know I don’t have any new ideas.’
‘They’ll think I’m an idiot if I write about that’
But you know what? They’re not thinking about you. They’re too busy thinking about themselves.
Psychologists call the assumption that others are critiquing us a ‘thinking error’. It’s a form of cognitive distortion. We believe we know what others are thinking based on our own fears, thoughts and ideas.
It’s not reality. It’s your belief and perception, and it’s not helping you. Spend too much time imagining what others think of you and your words and you become paralysed by your fears. You think and overthink and worry and procrastinate.
You’ll never get that blog post out there.
That’s what I learnt from my long break from writing. That my fear was perception, not reality. I was feeling inadequate and feared failure, but that was about me. It was not about anyone else and playing make believe was frustrating and limiting.
To get over it and get my writing out there I remind myself that:
- No one will die. It’s a blog post, not neurosurgery.
- There’s a lot of information on the internet and whatever I write will sink eventually. If I write and publish, my ideas might have their moment in the sun. They may help someone else. If they sink without a trace, the only thing lost is my pride.
- What if I succeed? A great blog post is a small step on the road to success. Why not start here? You have to start somewhere.
- You can’t please all the people all the time. Nine out of ten people might hate what I write. But what about the one person who reads it and says, ‘Wow, that is so helpful?’ That’s the person who needs me to write.
If you’re new to blogging and you’re hesitating, worried about what others will think do this: Write quickly, write from the heart and hit publish. Don’t read minds. No-one’s judging. I promise.
Ellen Jackson from Potential Psychology is a psychologist who does things differently. She writes about people and why we do what we do. She coaches, she teaches and she helps workplaces to solve their people problems.