It usually begins with others’ judgments of you. Who you are, what you write, what you do. Then there are those moments of judgment – “Why do you laugh so much? It’s like you are trying to attract attention.” or “Why do you waste your evenings writing when you could be spending time with your mother? It’s not like you are published or anything.”
Judgment, when it comes from a trusted source, begins a chain reaction like no other. There’ the initial surprise: What! Really, do you mean that!? Followed by outright denial: No, I don’t do that. I don’t waste my time. And then anger: How dare she think of me like that? How dare she judge me? That leads to hurt: Does she not understand me? Is she right? Am I a horrible person who hides behind my writing? The most important effect of others’ judgment of you is how you start to see yourself. How it shapes your view of yourself. You begin to wonder who you really are and whether you’ve been deluding yourself all this time. Maybe you aren’t cut out to be a writer. Maybe the evenings you sit in front of your laptop are just an excuse to escape from the world and your real responsibilities.
But then you remember that you love those hours where it’s just you and your characters. That you’ve grown so much as a writer these past few years. That once you finish a couple more drafts you’ll be ready to query your polished manuscript.
Self-judgment is that hill we’ve got to climb over before we can accept someone else’s judgment. Judgment of who we are. What we write. What we wrote a few years ago. What we’ve not yet written. And this acceptance can take various forms. Acceptance can mean that we agree that we aren’t cut out to be writers. We accept we love to read but haven’t become better at our craft. That it will remain a hobby. Or acceptance can mean that we speak out that we’re not hiding behind our writing. That our friend was simply wrong. That writing is vital to who we are. It makes us who we are. Our acceptance can help us deal with the judgment and move on. It can help us heal the dents to our self-esteem; move beyond self-judgment and continue to write, work on our craft and strive to become who we want to be.
When I remember (and nine out of ten times I don’t) I tell myself that judgment is an opinion. One person’s opinion. It can bring you down or you can use it propel yourself forward on that journey to become a better you and a better writer.