Good morning starshines! 🙂
Today’s post is the product of an ongoing discussion that Yeow An and I have been having for the past 6 months on the topic of “How to deal with Judge-y people”. And today, I believe we’d found some working solutions to the uncomfortable problem of being judged by others, when we are just innocently doing our own things. Therefore, I’m going to write down what we have discussed so that YOU can benefit from our discussion too.
This is a post which exposes vulnerabilities, as I will be talking about how to be un-judged, or two possible ways to cope with judgmental people. Let me explain:
Whenever you try to pursue The Dream, there is bound to be self doubt. These self-doubts can be classified into two categories: (A) What you doubt of your abilities, and (B) what you think others might say of you, in the event that you really went ahead and took the plunge.
Let’s assume for instance, that you are a really pretty girl who is thinking about whether you should really go for a modelling career. A possible set of self-doubt imposed by yourself might look like this:
- “Can I really do it? My posing skills suck.”
- “Can I really be an influencer? There is an acne blemish on my face.”
- “Can I really appear on magazines? I don’t know any publishers.”
In addition, a set of possible self-doubt imposed by society might look like this:
- “Who does she think she is? The prettiest girl in the room? How conceited!”
- “Huh, does she really think she has the looks? I think I’m prettier and even then I don’t even dare to call myself a model.”
- “LOL what a joke! Does she really think she has what it takes? HA!!”
Also, sometimes these dissenters might really go ahead to articulate these judge-y thoughts and hurt the feelings of the dream-chaser. In particular, I love this comic, haha:
So, in order to be accepted into this generally judge-y environment, the dream-chaser exercises caution and decides not to pursue her dream after all. Easy way out.
Indeed, whenever you choose to pursue a dream, or simply make efforts to be the best version of yourself, it is inevitable that you would be facing these sort of self-doubts, or worse–imagined self-doubts imposed by society. Clearly, the former set of self-doubts is more manageable than the latter, because while the former is based on what you know and can therefore be controlled, the latter is based on what you imagine (which also means that there is no end to it) and cannot be controlled.
It’s so painful to be judged, just because a certain group of people in society wants to keep up with appearances. As one example to this point, you can simply consider how certain controversial blog posts end up viral:
- In Singapore, any online writing which passionately scolds the incumbent government would end up viral. The logic behind this is simply because Singaporeans want to keep up the international appearance that we are a perfect nation. There is a real fear on the ground based on the perception that we might lose inward foreign direct investment if too many domestic problems are shown to the world.
- Does this happen in Finland? Yes! Any post which threatens the national perception of Finland-as-a-perfect-utopia would end up viral, and you would get a vocal and worked-up minority (foreigners included) who would call you names. However, the motivation behind this seems to be to preserve a sort of national image, not uncommon for a young nation.
- Does this apply to most human relationships? Yes! Whenever you listen to a person closely, you’d realise a certain set of appearances they want to keep up with. For the longest time I’d wondered why Finns feel embarrassed when they fall from their bike–because I personally won’t. So in this bike-falling case, the appearance that a Finn wants to maintain is that he is always careful, focused on biking and not easily distracted. This image is broken when he falls, and this is why he judges himself, and imagines society to judge him.
Overall, my point is that whenever there exists an image that a group of people wants to upkeep, or see as an integral part in their identities, there would be judgement by this group of people. Of course this is perfectly fine–judgement is the mechanism and fuel by which this high-level/standard of image can be kept. National identity and self-image are afterall constructs.
Therefore, I’m inclined to argue that the main problem with this judge-y environment is when it restricts your personal growth. So, Yeow An and I have come up with two solutions to be un-judged.
- Solution #1: Ignore.
Yes, you heard us right. A great method to deal with the fear of being judged is simply to ignore this fear, or to ignore the actual judgements.
The next question is then: How do you ignore such a pressing, real fear impose both by yourself and the society? The answer is to look within and decide + insist on a clear vision for yourself. That is to be very clear about the following two points:
- Is what I am doing now consistent with what I want to do with my life?
- Am I in a system which encourages what I want to do with my life?
The first point on looking within is important because no matter what you want to do in life, it is a must to look within to find a direction. This is precisely how you can live life on your terms–no matter how safe or risk-averse a path society charts for you, only you know what makes you happy and satisfied. This is why I have dancer and soccer playing friends who so boldly chose the path less taken, in spite of the set of other talents they have, or things that they can do well in. They are the best testimony that happiness is a choice, and usually a bold one.
The second point is on systems–that is, systems create the environment a person is situated in. For example, if you are constantly in a meritocratic, fast-paced system like Singapore, where there is a strong tendency to judge achievements by quantitative measures, then perhaps this system and environment is not the best place to do arts in. This is simply because arts is largely about celebrating the richness and diversity of the human experience, not KPIs and $$$$.
On the other hand, if you are a driven, ambitious, KPI-focused businessman, then Finland might not the best environment for you to stay in, because there is BOTH a fear of success and failure, where the economic system does not encourage business people to keep most of their wealth, due to a high tax rate.
Now, we should never under-estimate the power of systems, because no matter how strong you are, you cannot defy society. Everyone wants to be accepted, loved, and embraced for who they are, which may or may not include who they want to be. If a system were to create a generation/generations of people who hold a set of values that are fundamentally incompatible with your personal set of values, dreams and ambitions, it is inevitable that self-doubt will creep in. And as a young person pursuing a dream, why would you want to be hindered by self-doubts imposed by society, in addition to your personal self-doubts?
Therefore, to pursue The Dream, it might also be wise to either temporarily or permanently leave your environment. Because you will want a system which is compatible with your values/ideals so that you have time to build up your own actual capabilities.
However, if leaving is not an option, then being aware of the system (and not the people) is useful, so that you can self-talk yourself out of the opposing expectations imposed by society. This however, is extremely tiring, so I’d just suggest leaving for a while towards a more encouraging environment, if you can. 🙂
- Solution #2: Learn to articulate reality and point out that it is the judge-y people who are living an appearance.
Let me give an example: The Music Industry.
Whenever a young person decides to venture into the music industry, there would be a case where they just equate the Music Industry as 100% Music. This is the same as the Fashion Industry, most young designers might just equate Fashion as 100% material. This is what is known as “domain knowledge”.
Now domain knowledge might well be overrated in the real world, because anything related to industry has to do with business models. That is, you can sell mediocre clothes, but if you have a strong distribution system, your fashion business might still be really successful, even though fellow fashion designers think your designs are “shit”. It’s the same thing for the music industry–just observe the industry around you: Is it true that the best artistes are the best singers?
No, it’s not true! We cannot afford to confuse business model knowledge with domain knowledge. This was taught by Raymond in his Chinese philosophy and business class I attended too.
So you see, which individual gets to pursue his or her life on successful terms? It’s the individual with a sense of “industry”, because even though the individual started with “shit” creations, the business slowly and surely grows due to her knowledge of business models. Eventually, she can afford to use the profits she derive to make even better creations. Whereas the judge-y designer who refuses to put herself on the line will just have her creation in the storeroom.
It’s as simple as that–if you refuse to play the game, no matter how smart or awesome you really are or think yourself to be, your influence is zero, or close to zero. Of course there is nothing wrong with having zero influence and constantly being in your comfort zone– If that is what you want of life, then great!
I personally see that as a waste of talent, though.
So the solution to tell yourself that you are on the right path is simply to know that you deserve the success, because the industry is all about business knowledge, and not just domain knowledge.
Listen: I’m really saying that YOU deserve the success, and YOU deserve the pursuit of it, because “it” does not just involve ONE absolute benchmark.
So when someone starts to judge your pursuit of the dream, this is the way you articulate it. Tell the that they are incredibly mistaken about the industry.
For example, let’s say a fellow singer A judges you for being “shameless”–
“OMG!!! How can she even appear on stage when she can’t even hit the higher notes?”
You can basically use this script on Singer A–
“That’s not the point of the music industry–it over-simplistic on your part to assume that it is 100% singing techniques. To me, this stage is 40% singing techniques, 30% good looks, 30% stage presence/resonance. I’m not the best with my singing techniques right now, but I do well on the 30% good looks and 30% stage presence/resonance. This is why I dare to put myself on the line and be vulnerable, and with the new exposure I get, I will then have the network to improve on my singing techniques. I hope you do the same too, because I see your potential.”
THIS is one of the methods that we can use to fight or change judge-y environments.
Again, I mean it all depends on whether you really want to “fight”–I still think it’s easier and more efficient to leave an environment rather than to change it. I guess the main practical purpose of this post is simply to articulate exactly how you can keep on sanity and still pursue your dreams, when leaving the environment is not a choice.