So Worried about Being Judged

There’s something raw about blogging and social media.  These technological advances make it possible for us to connect our private thoughts to a unbound forum, and it can make one feel vulnerable.  I know I feel vulnerable when I share my thoughts, and I’m always relieved and flattered when people find them acceptable and consensus-building takes place.

Yet, why do I care if others find my thoughts acceptable?  Why is acceptance the standard by which I judge myself?  Shouldn’t I be confident in my own beliefs, attitudes, and values, enough so that if I share them and somebody disagrees (or worse, disapproves) that it won’t crush me, cause guilt, or put me on the defensive?

And yet, that is how I respond (privately) over and over again, to the act of releasing my thoughts into cyberspace.

Photo from Wikimedia Commons by Joe DeShon

Photo from Wikimedia Commons by Joe DeShon

I keep telling myself that it’s okay for me to have a voice.  My thoughts are just as valid as anybody else’s, and they are mine, so of course they belong on MY blog and on MY social media pages.  Yet, I worry about offending others.  Is it okay for me to give voice to issues that might offend others?  Is it okay for me to speak my truths even when I know that they will clash with what others in my circles may find acceptable?

This is an issue of dignity, one that we don’t generally subscribe to in the United States.  I heard a discussion of it on NPR several months ago with regard to free speech.  We Americans value free speech above most other things.  But some other countries, while valuing free speech, have another expectation of not violating another person’s dignity.  This means that when we speak, we should also think about how it will affect others.  This I do, to a fault.  It is nearly driving me crazy.  And it causes me to hold myself to what I perceive to be others’ standards, rather than my own standards of truth in thought.  It is a conundrum for sure.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot because I have put some ideas here on my blog and on my Facebook page that are controversial in my culture.  But even more, I’ve thought about this because I have offended more people than I can count on one hand in the last several months.  I, of course, did not have that intent, but it still happened.  Am I responsible?  Do I need to temper my ideas and thoughts to avoid ruffling feathers?  I hinted toward this issue when I posted about Adrienne Rich’s Of Woman Born (1975), which I felt needed a warning.  I also posted this preamble on my Facebook page, and several of my friends had great advice.

My friend Josh (who has a memoir coming out in May!) said “Emily, there is zero reason to worry about what offends someone else. Let them fuss and ignore them.”

I feel I need to interject here and say more about Josh’s book, called The World’s Strongest Librarian: A Memoir of Tourette’s, Faith, Strength, and the Power of Family (2013).  Although I haven’t read it YET, I recommend it.  Josh has Tourette’s Syndrome, is over six feet tall, and loves to read and do strength training.  Almost a decade ago, he and I would talk books, swap writing, and workshop our drafts with each other.  He’s an amazing writer and I will be featuring a review of his book as soon as I read it.  You can visit his blog if you’d like to know more about this remarkable person: World’s Strongest Librarian.

Okay, back to my worries about offending people.

Sylvia said, “He who takes offense when none is intended is a fool; he who takes offense when offense is intended is a bigger fool.”

Heather said, “No matter how well intentioned, you will usually offend someone. Stick to your guns. It’s a great example to your girls.”

Amy said, “Awesome post. And you should never worry about offending others for owning your truth. We have much more potential to inspire when we speak our truth than we have to offend those who choose to be offended.”

Martha said, “offend away! i love reading your perspective. (for the record, you have never offended me, only inspired.)”

I have pretty great, smart, balanced friends, right?

Their ideas are true and nice and wonderful, BUT . . . How do I get rid of the feeling that I’m still somehow responsible?  Why is it that when we get offended, we do all we can to make the offender feel as if they are responsible, even when the truth is, that we can choose how we respond?  Maybe that’s my answer.  Whether I am on the offended or the offensive side, I guess I can choose how I respond.

Does that response include silencing or censuring my thoughts?

How do all of you deal with the vulnerability that comes with posting your thoughts in a public forum?

(Am I too sensitive for blogging?!?) Don’t answer that!