The Effect of Self-censoring

“What you think about me is none of my business.” This was number ten on a list of revelations written in a blog post by a recovering alcoholic, but it leapt out at me as a truism applicable in many areas of my own life.

In the church, I think I sometimes spend too much time examining how I and my ideas are received by others, and not enough on searching out what God expects of me.

Waiting for the ‘Super Moon’ to clear the clouds. (May 5, 2012)

The writing application? It’s too easy to wonder how my words will be perceived by potential readers – agents, publishers, the buying public, my friends and relatives. When I weigh the possible reception of my writing I begin self-censoring, and some of my best work never makes it onto the page.

My photo taking abilities are modest at best, but many times it’s easier for me to take and post photographs than it is to put my writing out for public scrutiny. Maybe that’s because my writing doesn’t have the camera’s lens to act as a filter or the ‘auto’ settings to depend on. When I choose a subject, I decide to click the shutter based on my personal reaction. How the photo ends up looking will depend on many factors. I don’t worry about what someone else may think of it because it has appealed to me enough to try capturing it for myself. If I don’t like the result, I can always trash it.

If only I could write with the same attitude – for myself – and believe, “What you think about me is none of my business,” perhaps then what ends up on the page would be a more authentic reflection of the true writer within.

Do you sometimes self-censor what you say, write, read, watch, et cetera, because of what others might think of you? How does this affect your work?

~

“And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus,
giving thanks through him to God the Father.”

[Colossians 3:17 - NLT]


~  ~  ~

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9 thoughts on “The Effect of Self-censoring

  1. Fiona says:

    This was an interesting post, Carol. I wouldn’t say I self-censor, but I do edit a lot when thinking about other people’s perceptions. You’re right; there is a massive difference between writing what you want to say and writing when you’re thinking about other people’s reactions and expectations. I’m sure a lot of published authors, or soon to be published writers, would find this a problem. But maybe we do all need to believe that what others think isn’t our concern. This post reminds me of a post I did a week or two ago, where I posted a small piece from my WIP. I thought it was awful (it was first draft material), but everybody who commented seemed to love it, which was really surprising! So maybe it just goes to show that we don’t need to censor ourselves as much as we think we do.

  2. Sue Harrison says:

    Wonderful post, Carol. I agree. I often come home from church – or any gathering – and beat myself up because of something I said. I finally realized that most everyone else is doing the same thing, that unless my comment was absolutely horrible, no one is even thinking about it. SO – eyes off self and onto God!~

    LOVE the moon series!

    • Carol says:

      So true, Sue. I once read an article that said when we worry about what others are thinking of us perhaps we should stop and consider why we think we’re the subject of anyone’s scrutiny at all… that it’s often our pride working overtime.

  3. Carol, it is the thorn in every writer’s bun to worry too much about what someone else may think of what we are writing. I am lucky to have a reader who has given me enough head slaps and has been teaching me to write what I love because that is what someone else might also love. Maybe that is why you have no problem with a camera. The lens or the third eye is internal and subjective and once the shutter clicks you have frozen one moment in time. In that one moment in time you were the closest to what you love. When the click of the keys begins to feel like the click of the shutter, then you know you have frozen those moments … not for anyone else, but for yourself alone. Believe me … as some connect and love your photography, there will be those who connect and love what you write :)

  4. Shari Green says:

    I definitely self-censor — not so much in my writing any more (that’s been hard-won progress), but in life, generally. Not with my family or close friends, but with the rest of the world. I still care too much what others think of me, so I do a bit of mask-wearing and make some ought-to decisions, and I find that a bit disappointing. Maybe it’s lack of confidence, but probably it’s pride-related. You’d think I’d have grown out of that by now! ;)

  5. Currently suffering from an extreme case of self-censorship, all (good) writing stopped. I’m working thru it, writing anyway and greatly appreciate your post today:)

  6. Hi Carol,

    I don’t think I self-censor, but I do choose my words with care.

    Paul looked for areas he could use as jumping off points for conversations about the Lord. Remember when he saw a statue dedicated to the unknown god? I try to meet people where they’re at without watering down the message.

    Blessings,
    Susan

  7. Oh, this is so wise and wonderful, Carol! Thank you for sharing it. Yes, I do self-censor, way too much, and I wonder if, like you, some of my best words go un-read.

  8. I’m getting better at being real, but I’m always conscious of how real I can be without causing pain to someone else. You got some great moon shots!

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