The Seeds of Fear and Self Doubt – The Fear of Criticism

The_ScreamIn our writing lives we are often held back by fear and self-doubt, which at times can be crippling and won’t let us move forward. If we can learn to take a step back and look at those fears objectively, we can start to overcome them.

This series of articles is a self-discovery journey for me, which I am passing on to you, with the hope that it will help all of us. What I will tell you, I have learned from my teacher, who has kindly allowed me to share his wisdom.

Fear can be boiled down into these categories:

  • Fear of Criticism
  • Fear of Failure/rejection
  • Fear of the unknown
  • Comparing yourself to others.

Linking all of these fears together is the fear of potential harm. It’s only natural for us to avoid harm at all costs, but sometimes that threat is enough to hold us back, it makes us procrastinate, and we can’t move forward in achieving our goals.

Writing is scary work. We are trying to achieve something and to better ourselves, it’s a long journey full of trials and tribulations we have to overcome. Success seems like a fleeting dream – like going to the moon.

The Fear of Criticism

Every writer can expect criticism on some level in their career. This fear is particularly prominent, especially for writers new to the business. Our stories are like our babies; we nurture them, watch them grow and flourish, then watch as they fly the nest into the world of publication. We want them to succeed. They are subject to scrutiny, strangers who will reject them, and possibly give us bad reviews. We need people to like our work in order to sell it. We rely on the public’s approval.

“What if they don’t like my book?”

Letting other people read our work is frightening. It’s unlikely to cause us any real harm. But, because we often link our self-worth to our work, when we receive negative criticism, it’s hard not to take personally. It makes us feel like failures. Just because a few people didn’t like that one story, does not mean we are failures. Ever.

The fear of that criticism may hold us back from letting anybody at all read our work. It might hold us back from submitting to agents, or from self-publishing.

As writers, we need criticism to improve. We need other people to critique our work with objectivity. It’s best to find people with your interests in mind, people who want to help you, not people who are mean and negative. It’s important not to take criticism personally. Your work is not you. You can only improve on what you do.

Try tackling these simple steps to access the fear that is holding you back:

  • Ask what you’re afraid of and why.
  • Think of the most likely outcome of that fear.
  • It probably won’t be as bad as you were thinking!

If you’re still worried, if there’s a genuine risk, then what actions can you take to alleviate the risk?

I hope you enjoyed this article, thanks for reading!

~*~

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To be published – more articles in this series:

6 thoughts on “The Seeds of Fear and Self Doubt – The Fear of Criticism

  • May 15, 2013 at 7:39 pm
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    Great post, thanks Ruth. I’ve certainly felt my fair share of fear and self doubt, especially in relation to my writing. It’s a major reason behind my slow output!

    Reply
    • May 15, 2013 at 7:44 pm
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      It’s really hard to overcome, hopefully this series of articles will help people start to overcome their fears 🙂 Thanks for commenting!

      Reply
  • May 20, 2013 at 10:33 am
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    Feeling the fear right now so this is a great post, it actually helps knowing that a lot of writers feel self-doubt, we just have to remember we love to write and keep going!

    Reply

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