A part of me doesn’t want to write this blog and feels nervous to share. As a relative said to me, if you come out and speak your mind about such personal things as religion and spirituality, it will inevitably draw criticism as well as praise.
I knew that when I started. I chose to share, so I have to bear that feeling of feeling a bit exposed, maybe even judged. But writing this (heck, not just writing, but trying to follow my heart in the first place) has been like a kind of training, where I am becoming aware of how distracting it can be to worry too much about what others think of you. It can basically dilute your uniqueness. What a waste, when it is your uniqueness that is the reason you walk the earth!
It is rare that a human being can speak eloquently for all, and it’s pointless to try. These people exist, and they are quite often artists and creative minds who, out of fearlessness about who they are and what their subconscious holds, manage to stay very close to their creative core, and so keep the story simple and coherent enough to resonate widely. Their intention is not to speak for all, but simply to speak for themselves. In so doing, their truth remains potent. (To me, this poet seems to be one of the living examples of this rare quality).
Most of us, including me, struggle to be completely free when we write. We are bound by external authorities — accepted opinions, norms, fashions. To some extent this can be a good thing, so you don’t lose people or shock them to the point that they tune out. It also means you are engaging in community.
But the principal still stands that those artists who feel free, are most able to free others in what they write.
For the rest of us, still hesitating to reveal ourselves fully, we can together, gradually create resonance, if we are honest, not affected, and don’t suppress the stories that must be told. Many bloggers are doing this and it is creating a real sense of community in the online space.
Even if telling your story includes occasionally blurting out a criticism or harsh statement, that’s okay, as long as the intention is to be true to yourself. I have learned this from people who never meant to be harsh but whose words I felt stung by for some reason (probably because I warped them, misread the tone, due to my own defensiveness, which is essentially self-dislike, harshness, criticism). Forgiving yourself for not being perfect is so freeing because even if people criticise, you still feel secure in who you are.
Regarding speaking your mind to others, perhaps its a balance — biting one’s tongue is sometimes necessary. But biting it all the time creates a suppressed feeling.
I used to tend to avoid conflict and disagreement, primarily because I desperately wanted people to like me — or moreover I hated the feeling of not being liked, of having someone feel averse towards me. It sounds pathetic, but it’s that simple.
As my older brother said to me in the car once when I was a teenager crying over someone who was “being mean to me”, it’s a fact of life, that not everyone is going to love you. The sooner you accept that, the easier things are. I actually think a bit of temporary dislike can be very natural, and it is no reflection on the inherent worth of either person.
I have learned not to be afraid of other people’s strong opinions or views, and simply to accept what they are saying and see what I can learn from it.
Sometimes their reaction is simply a test, and just makes you feel more sure of yourself. Other times, it’s a reminder to come back to the middle. Or it is not about you at all, and is simply a vivid display of another person’s experience, full of truth and sometimes pain.
The worst thing is when people treat your views as an aberration, a mutation in the natural progression of things.
My approach is not to think of other people’s views as an aberration. They don’t come out of a vacuum, and they have something to offer, to inform.
Even the extreme Japanese nationalists I spoke to the other day for my video project — if I ignore where they are coming from, how can I expect to connect and convey where I am coming from? I admit, I didn’t find the conversation pleasant. But pleasant conversation can feel too easy, serving only to maintain a feeling of inertia. Also, talking to the ‘other side’ reveals where there might be some misinformation, lack of information, or misunderstanding about something.
Sometimes losing an argument is better than fighting if it brings peace. It feels good, to surrender to the principle of fairness, which ensures that everyone gets their turn of offering something truthful, and likewise everyone is susceptible to spreading half-truth, and reinforcing myths, and misinformation.
The simple fact is, I know that people who disagree with me, or feel suspicious towards my view, are not an aberration. I know that their life, and their story/view is no accident — so I have to listen to them.
However, I have experienced and witnessed other people’s tendency to dismiss another fellow human beings’ experience or judge their character over it. So this shakes my confidence in sharing at times.
Also, my hard-wired habit of hearing criticism in my head, of cringing at thought of not being liked, sometimes holds me back.
Every time I post something, though I try to hold on to my intention of sharing an honest story, that persistent preoccupation with wanting others’ approval or agreement always rears up. And then I try to squash it back down, reminding myself that if what I share here is not interesting, relevant, useful to people, they don’t have to read it. If it irks or confuses people in some way, they are free to choose to read something else.
I have been nervous that people will quietly read it, form their impressions of it, of me, and then never fess up to having read it. I say this because I really thought very few people were reading it, then had friends randomly mention they had been reading it.
I was glad, but felt a little strange. I suppose, as a blogger, I feel obliged to let other bloggers know if I have thoroughly read their stuff and if it affected me in some way, to give them a short line of feedback. Perhaps this is a dialogue that only fellow bloggers sign up to.
For those not blogging, I understand it would not seem necessary to notify someone that you read or were affected by a post, particularly as bloggers are voluntarily sharing their material, so they shouldn’t be surprised if people are freely reading it. If readers are not so into sharing this sort of thing publicly, then fair enough that they also don’t want to share their feedback. This is the nature of things like Facebook and blogging. You volunteer to have people witness you in your digital form.
While I don’t think this digital self-packaging is ideal, I think it is a sometimes necessary and potentially very positive part of the modern digital age.
I am quite self-critical at times, so this blog post could actually be directed at me. I apologise if it sounds overly defensive, when actually most readers are not being judgemental at all.
I admit I got a random message from someone not happy with one of my posts. That may have triggered all this.
Sorry. I will keep trying to get better at not worrying what others think. At the same time, I’ll try to avoid the defensiveness and potential cockiness of those who, out of tiredness of hearing or worrying about external criticism, stop listening to others.
Gee it’s a tricky balance!
(On the topic of accepting yourself and others, and accepting that fame and disrepute are temporary states, so there is no point worrying too much about them, I highly recommend Sharon Salzberg’s Loving-Kindness book. Amazing.)