Wednesday, July 12, 2023


Everyone judges all the time. Can't avoid it.

But creative (i.e. unique) people get judged particularly wrongly, because nobody understands what they're shooting for. This is why most people maintain an easily-familiar persona. As I've noted:
There are a few dozen clone lines in any society, no more. People are types, which is adaptive behavior because it lubricates social interaction. When you meet a brassy lady with a gravelly voice and energetic good humor, you feel that you know that person. Love her or hate her, you can deal with her comfortably due to long experience with her clone line. Same for the aloofly ponderous academic. Or the BAD BOY. No one's born as these things. The personas are adopted via modeling, these days mostly via movie and TV actors. In the old days, one modeled the persona of a family member or another local "role models" (turn that phrase around in your mind for a moment!).

We really commit to the role. People never feel more expressively uniquely themselves than when they're being most flagrantly clone-ish. That's how the millions driving VW bugs or listening to "indie rock" manage to feel fiercely nonconformist. "Hey, I'm a free-thinking type! Yeah, one of those!"
But don't be eager to self-justify in the face of unfair judgement. "People don't like/respect/reward me because they don't understand me!" is something assholes say. It doesn't necessarily make you one to say it, but you do need to develop self-awareness before getting snotty about it. Can you recognize that you're non-awesome in nearly every way (ideally without getting all mopey about it)?

Also: there's useful information in other people's judgement, regardless of the aptness of their verdict. Back up a step!
When people give you bad advice, ignore the advice but pay close attention to the problem...then solve it your way.

I used to go ballistic when editors suggested thoughtless changes to my writing. It took the longest time for me to understand that I was missing a phenomenal learning experience. If I'd simply ignored the suggestions, and focused on the issues prompting those suggestions, I'd have seen all my writing problems helpfully mapped out. Instead, I spent years raging at the stupid suggestions.
If you're quite sure of yourself, despite fierce and sustained self-skepticism, then go ahead and ignore the judgment...but do recognize they're noticing SOMETHING. Some knot of confusion. A non-smoothness. Respect your tormentors by seeing as they see. Clinically inhabit their perspective. You don't need to "fix" it. And you certainly won't go far by explaining yourself and requesting a do-over. But recognition is useful. Seize the opportunity!

Finally, if you're a doddering oldster like me who's come to understand exactly why people get you wrong (discounting and forgiving their perfectly understandable observational errors, with which you sympathize), and you can concede that you've obstinately and self-indulgently chosen to dance to different drummers and avoid the usual type-casting (thus confusing one and all re: your motivations and inclinations), and you've scoured your assumptions, motives, and inclinations to be entirely sure you actually are who and what you imagine yourself to be, there are two simple precepts you must accept as gospel to have a chance to remain happy and sane. They're simple and obvious, but you must scale the Himalayas to fully internalize them:

1. Judgement is lazy.

Any adolescent is a genius at it. Tolerance is way harder, and it requires ongoing effort. So judges don't outrank you, despite the seeming power imbalance of judge-vs-judged. They're very lazy. So lazy! Judges feel superior, but they reveal - embarrassingly! - their feeble uselessness (read this and consider the close connection).

But don't judge them for it (though it's temptingly lazy to do so)! Just bear this in mind, ideally with the empathy and forgiveness they fail to extend to others.

2. You're Okay!

This is a big chunk of the PTSD move I need to periodically engage.

You deserve your portion of free sunlight and oxygen. It's okay that you're here. You may exist.

This observation will seem odd to most people. Of COURSE one deserves those things! Of course it's okay to exist!

But that reaction shows you're on the wrong side. You're the judge. You're the bully. People with a capacity for self-doubt, and who are frequently misunderstood, know that it's a towering accomplishment to decide they deserve the sunlight and oxygen, and that it's okay that they're here. To them, it seems heady.

Judges have made them feel otherwise. That's because for the few humans not lost in a narcissistic haze, judgement is clearly seen as what it is: existential. It's "No; not you!" Judgement is never selective, regardless of how judges frame their actions. Criticism can be benignly targeted, but not judgement. Judgement is like Space Invaders. It winnows the encroaching horde of faceless assholes. It's holistic cleansing, with scant regard for the babies amid the bathwater.

But no. You're okay, regardless of the judging. Not flawless or blameless, necessarily. But you're OKAY. You least as much as the lazy judges do.

If you can recognize and accept your actual inadequacies, respecting your tormentors by understanding how they frame things without turning them into assholes who deserve no sympathy (i.e. whom you, yourself, are judging)...and you also fully embrace the two precepts, you might enjoy a low-simmering peaceful life amid louts and eternal adolescents, enjoying sunlight and oxygen. It might seem meager, but Apprecianists enjoy certain rewards.

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