Everyone I’ve ever worked with has asked some version of this question: Will people judge me when I write my book? They’re worried about being criticized for their ideas, their message, or the way they present themself. They worry what their colleagues will say, or the experts in their industry, or their mom. Will people think they’re ridiculous? Will folks wonder at their audacity?
The question comes in various disguises. They say,
“I’m not expert enough to write a book about this.” (Translation: People will think I’m not qualified to talk about this.)
“I just learned a bunch of things from other people.” (Translation: They will accuse me of just rehashing old ideas.)
“I think I need to sound more professional when I write.” (Translation: If I write as I talk, people will think I’m dumb.)
And these are just a few of the ways fear of judgment shows up when you decide to write your book. It’s harsh. It will derail all your efforts if you don’t deal with it. And it is totally normal. Everyone faces it in some form.
I feel it too
This week the fear of being judged came barreling into my world in another format. It wasn’t publishing a book that tripped me up. It was photos.
A friend and colleague of mine—who is also a brilliant photographer—had offered me a mini-photo shoot so I could finally get some professional headshots taken. You may have noticed there are very few photos of me on this site. That’s because I don’t have any decent shots of me. Selfies in which I’m juggling my phone in one hand and a gin and tonic in the other just don't scream professional. So I jumped on the offer.
The friend is Katie Wood of Crowheart Creative. She’s a marketing coach and brand strategist who helps folks clarify their vision, voice, and visuals to launch and grow their business with simplicity and authenticity—and she’s really good at it.
We did the shoot while at a business retreat in Oregon earlier this month. It all went down as planned. I was super awkward (as I guess all non-models are), but Katie kept the session fun, light, and easy.
And with lightning speed, she delivered me a whack-load of professional, ready-to-use photos I could post on my website, share on social media, and send to my mom.
Mom was delighted.
The photos were fantastic—an ultra-impressive feat given my awkwardness. But now I had no excuses not to share them, except for the crippling fear of judgment.
What would people think?
When I clicked the link in the email from Katie, photos flooded my downloads folder and mental gunk spewed into my brain.
Would people laugh at my pretending to be a “proper” business person?
Would they wonder who the hell I thought I was, posing and getting professional photos done, like some kind of big shot?
Would they snigger at how I used to be so slim, but not anymore?
I showed the photos to my husband, James, and one of my besties, Annie, while we drank (you guessed it) gin and tonics. That was it. A few friends also had photo sessions with Katie that week, and they were now busy blasting the interweb with glamorous headshots.
But I didn’t post mine.
I kept quiet.
I didn’t want people to criticize me.
And I need to make an important distinction here. I knew the photos themselves were fantastic. I’ve been shot my many wedding photographers (always the bridesmaid, only once the bride) and this was hands-down the best I’ve ever looked.
So I wasn't concerned people would think they were lousy headshots. They were great. I was afraid of being judged for having the audacity to put myself out there.
What a dumb-dumb
As my friend Annie would say, I was being a dumb-dumb. I did eventually buck-up and share the photos on Facebook, and I got a personal record number of likes and encouraging comments.
Were some people secretly gossiping about all the baby weight I haven’t lost, even though my baby is two now? Maybe. Does it matter? No.
For one thing, if people were criticizing me, they weren’t doing it to my face(book). I’ll never know. And for another, the positive and excited comments were so overwhelming that it was enough to eclipse anything else.
Putting yourself out there is scary
If you’re scared to put yourself out there with your book, I get it. The fear of being judged is intense. And I can’t guarantee you’ll have an overwhelmingly positive response. People could criticize you. That might happen.
Or it might not.
If it does, you may never hear it. Or maybe you will. I can’t say.
But I can tell you, from personal experience, that it feels really good to put yourself out there and have people excited to see you.
Who am I doing it for?
No one desperately needs a photo of me. Except my mom.
But there are people out there who desperately want to get their book written, yet they feel stuck. They know they have something worth saying but, if left to their own devices, they’ll never get it down on paper and into the world.
Those folks need to know that people like me, and services like mine, exist in this world. They need to know that they don’t have to do it alone. If they want it, there is help available.
When I have good photos on my site and social media, I increase my visibility. Then, those people have a better chance of finding me in this big ol’ world we call the internet.
I like getting compliments on my photos. But I bucked-up and shared them because I want to be found. I want people to hear my message that you don’t have to struggle alone when trying to write your book.
What about you?
If you have a book in mind, I bet you know the kind of person who would benefit from seeing you and hearing your message. They will be so excited when you put your book out there.
They are waiting for you.
They are ready to encourage and praise you and thank their golden stars that you were brave enough to overcome the fear of judgment and say the important things on your mind.
It’s normal to feel the fear of judgment. But be brave. Put yourself out there anyway. Some people might judge, but the people who need to hear your message will be so grateful. And that will feel amazing.
I suppose it would make me a tease to rabbit on about these photos and never show them to you! So here I am, getting over my mental gunk and sharing these photos with you.
Again, the biggest thanks to Katie Wood at Crowheart Creative. You rock. Thank you for helping me get over my fear of judgment and put myself out there like the pro business person I am.