Everyone will judge you (but no one cares)

“No one is really judging you; they’re too busy wondering if you’re judging them.”

I was very easily embarrassed as a child, so this is the kind of thing my mother used to say often. When she talked to strangers, I pretended I didn’t know her, and she’d remind me again not to be so self-conscious. As I got older, I realized she was right.

Teenagers are rebellious, but it’s pretty interesting to note that they’re rebellious only in certain pre-accepted ways. Most of the time, they don’t want to stand out in a different way, because it’s too much of a risk. Only the edge is acceptable, not what is too far out.

What happens when you step out of accepted boundaries? There are usually only a few responses, and you will fit into a few of them.


My girlfriend and I had a few drinks with an eccentric guy last week, who would just say wild stuff to make us laugh, but was otherwise pretty conventional. Eccentric is the easiest category to be in, and in some ways everyone fits into it, just a little, by having some interest that diverges from the norm. It’s fashionable to be geeky so in a way, eccentric is part of the edge, not the chasm.


Another one but a bit further out than eccentric, the iconoclast is different in many small ways that are obvious. He is edgy in multiple different directions, enough that someone thinks they are on the bleeding edge of things or have a keen eye and care enough to follow that eye. You can become an iconoclast doing things your way (instead of just talking, which probably makes you eccentric).


This is a good one. Most people eventually get lazy or just become fine with where they are. Being more ambitious than that puts you on the edge, too, and you can get there just by trying harder than anyone, having grander plans than seem reasonable, or having an unusual career choice (or none).


If you are ambitious, see something happening ahead of time and act on it, you may become a visionary if what you did becomes a big deal. Even if you’re ambitious and a failure multiple times, that’s ok as long as one of your things becomes successful– you then become a visionary.


Ok, so you should now be noticing that many of these ways of being different are actually good, and that most are just ways of being labelled instead of being true measures of your identity. But there are bad ones too– here are a few of them.


Social convention is strongly tied to acceptable ways of speaking or behaving that follow the common good and that don’t create too many ripples and allow or smooth interactions… and this is truer in English-speaking culture than many others, btw. Anyway the asshole doesn’t care what people think of what he says and he is often willing to say things other people are thinking, but would never say in polite company.


If you don’t go out, are always seen out by yourself, or reject offers to do things too often, you become a loner, or maybe just a loser (if you do nothing else). Loners don’t choose their label but they do prefer their company to that of others.


Finally, the reject. The more valuable it is to be on the inside of the circle, the more stringent the social requirements are for membership and the easier it is to be ejected. The more of the circle you spend your time is, the more horrible this is. In high school I was probably really close to this, and I hated it until I realized there was a big world outside of my school. Then, I didn’t give a damn, and now, I get congratulations from these same people for having co-written a bestselling book. Hmmmmm…

I forget why I started mentioning these, but I realize now that I could make a chart out of them if I wanted. That might be useful.

Anyway, all of these are labels that are attached to you if you behave differently. Do you recognize yourself if any of them? If not, you should be worried, because you are probably boring as hell.

What happens when someone judges you is based on how many of the positive traits you have as well as the negative. Asshole +funny or + ambitious might be acceptable, but asshole by itself is not. Visionary +loner works too. Interesting right?

In social environments where you’ll never see people again, none of this matters. When you do see them again, you just need to replace what you’ve done with something acceptable for a while. This doesn’t work as well if you’re an asshole from the start, but this means that everything is basically changeable.

What is the logical conclusion to this? Do whatever you want, no one cares if you change unless it hurts them, and most of the time, they won’t even remember. Become who you want to be– most of the labels for being out there are good, not bad. If you get a bad one, just remember to add something edgy into it, and you’re back into good territory.

In other words, chill the fuck out.



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13 responses to “Everyone will judge you (but no one cares)”

  1. Lori Avatar


  2. Joe Sorge Avatar

    Great post!
    I love the idea of the combined categories for extra boundary limit testing.
    I have a feeling that I’ll be considering this one all day.

  3. John McLachlan Avatar

    Hell ya. Too many people are too afraid to put themselves out as anything special EVEN WHEN THEY ARE SPECIAL. What a crime.

    The best takeaway from this post is “Do whatever you want, no one cares if you change unless it hurts them, and most of the time, they won’t even remember.”

  4. redrose321 Avatar

    Im an asshole :0?. Hell, the world would be a pretty dry place if it weren’t for the above mentioned types of people.

  5. Rick Calvert Avatar

    Are you on Drugs?

    Sorry every time I see you or read something you have written your line from SOBCon just pops into my head Julien.

    Now after reading this post, I will also think of you with a line I once read from guitarist extraordinaire Steve Vai “If you want to be a great guitar player, then be that”. He explained his point by saying if you have a goal for example being a great guitar player, then do the things that great guitar players do, practice 12 hours a day, spend every moment learning more, emulating others you admire, improving your sound, technique and style. In the end you will become that which you aspire to be.

    What made me thing of that? I have no idea. Maybe im on drugs =p.

    Enjoyed the post though.

  6. Rick Avatar

    Ditto what John posted, and I’ll add that I might not be able to pinpoint myself in the pos’s or neg’s above (or I can and I’m not telling), but at least I’m not here: “Anyway, all of these are labels that are attached to you if you behave differently. Do you recognize yourself if any of them? If not, you should be worried, because you are probably boring as hell.”

  7. Jackie Dela Pole Avatar
    Jackie Dela Pole

    Lovely post.

    Just curious as to the language reference – and social conventions. You stated that in English we are less willing to be disruptive in language. I am not a linguist but have the perception that we are more likely to be disruptive as compared to other cultures -Arabic speaking or Japanese speaking for example.

    It seems that language in and of itself is limiting in that language requires an agreement – shared experience or construct – but I have the perception that for English speakers – especially youth who have grown up in the anything goes era of online chat/myspace/facebook – disrupting the acceptable pattern of communication is actually quite acceptable.

  8. Colleen Clifford Avatar

    Your mom was a smart woman. Everyone’s too busy worrying about their own public image to give ours more than a fleeting thought. It’s the “crazy” people who stand out in the crowd — and everyone secretly wishes they were brave enough to join them. 🙂

  9. Jeff Maystruck Avatar

    Great break down of how we all feel in social situations. I do need to watch my asshole tendency’s, but I like pairing it with humor. Saying what other people are thinking can be hilarious as long as you’re not hurting feelings (unless that’s what you were going for).
    Still my fav line in the post is the very last line. HA! Julien, you make me laugh.


  10. Ruthann Swain Avatar
    Ruthann Swain

    Somehow I got involved in a group of people where being different was not OK…took me two years, but finally realized they made me miserable, and i went back to being true to myself. These writings are great to remind us every once in a while that we are good people, and when we get stuck in a rut, we need to get out for our own happiness. Thanks again Julien!

  11. industrialmom Avatar

    Julien, I always read your posts on my iPhone, and it is somewhat like having this little conversation with you. Your posts are always very personal, and push toward introspect.

    The difficulty I find, is that if you fall into the ‘visionary’ category, you are good. People respect you because you have risen above and beyond those people’s own expectations, so they are ok with your success. But if you fall into the ‘ambitious’ category, sometimes its hard to keep swatting off the naysayers and people who just want to keep you down at their level. I push myself pretty hard, because, well, I got older and smarter and when I was younger I didn’t get all that, so I’m making up for lost time. It’s the people that are unhappy with their own lack of fulfillment that have to say something negative to align themselves with your ambitions. Those are the people that get me down; their comments always make it back to you, somehow, through someone, who just felt like you needed to know. On the good days, it’s fine and I can just blow by these people, but on the not-so-good days, they really get in my head, and I hold up, so that I’m not too far ahead making others look bad. You know?

    Anyway, thanks for making me feel like someone out there gets what’s going on in my head.

  12. nick Avatar

    I always wonder, who’s really got their shit together in this crazy ass world. And the thing is, you can really totally feel it when someone’s telling the truth and not doing something stupid, trying to con you, or fool you. Glad I stumbled onto this blog, yeah yeah,

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