There is a five-year-old named Kara in my life who makes incredibly astute observations about how the world judges people. She recently watched a G-rated reality family program on YouTube and decided to make her own version about building a Minecraft world. An entrepreneur at five, yes, she will clearly be building a tech empire in the future.
Her mother filmed Kara’s first attempt at a video posting. About halfway through filming, she looked back at the camera with a disgusted look and screamed, “DELETE!” When her mother inquired why, Kara said very matter-of-factly, “People will give that video a thumbs down, I messed up my words!”
Kara stumbled on one of the most important realizations in life, that we are afraid to be judged negatively. Everyone is afraid of this, no one is immune. There is always someone from whom we seek approval or from whom we would hate a negative review. Maybe it’s a mentor, teacher, boss, friend, relative, or spouse who we particularly want to see us in a good light, or maybe we fear judgement on a much grander scale.
In my office, I work with artists, comedians, and performers who comment about the difficult reviews they have received from critics and even fans of their work. One of them commented, “I can’t believe anyone would say something so mean! I doubt they would ever say what they wrote in their online review to my face.” She’s probably right. Being a bully on the internet is a lot easier than going up to someone after a show and tearing that person down verbally.
She further reflected, “I think about how miserable someone has to be to say such hurtful things. I imagine this sad 45-year-old guy down in his parents’ basement typing out his nasty comments while his mom brings him his afternoon snack. It’s the only way I can make it through sometimes, thinking, ‘Well, at least I’m not him. Not that miserable.’”