Why judgement feeds stagnation: A lesson from youth

Recently, I was thinking about the evolution of style, and everyday effort related tasks. Whether it be skincare, makeup, or even fitness.

I thought about my middle-aged self and my fearless?, stylistically speaking misguided bravery to wear literally bright blue eyeshadow. And sometimes bright pink.

And I”m not talking about how Maddie rocked makeup in Euphoria.  


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I’m talking about, poorly applied, super bright, super heavy eyeshadow from the drugstore.

Kids have a naive ability to embrace new things, without fear of judgment.  Give a child a new dress, and she will twirl in front of a mirror, embracing and soaking in every last beautiful part of how she looks in that dress.

And I thought about why, now that I actually KNOW how to apply eyeshadow properly, why rocking such a bold hue fearlessly causes me anxiety? Now, that’s not to say I wouldn’t do it, or haven’t rocked pop colors. I do, but it’s taken me a bit of time to comfortably embrace it.

And it occurred to me that it isn’t the knowledge of HOW to do something that enables us the confidence to embrace it.  In fact, the knowledge to do something, further nails home the idea that previously we were, in fact, doing it wrong.  And that causes us to be embarrassed and insecure.

Thinking about how many years I wore eyeshadow in a messy, absurd way makes my heart twinge. Not because my young self wasn’t enjoying herself. But, because my current self “knows” better. It’s an interesting evolution, and partly what I think contributes to our need to seek perfection.

We are so deathly afraid or anxious about not being perfect, that we end up not doing something because we are worried about what others may think.

Progress is better than perfection.  An adage we have all been bombarded with, especially recently.  Social media has taken such a front and center stand in our lives, and comparison and knowledge are so prevalent and available that it makes taking “risks” all the more daunting.

If you don’t believe me just compare your adolescence to the current generation’s teens.  Their makeup is better, their outfits are better, their technology is better.  There are adolescent YouTubers who could school me on makeup.

So why has this available information and knowledge not made us happier people?

Well, with the gaining of these skills, comes the realization that we weren’t perfect before, and that can inevitably lead to thinking we are not even perfect now… And then, well, why even try?!

The problem is that if you don’t try, you never grow out of the awkward stages, into the knowledge phase.

It’s not so much as comparison is the problem, but in actuality it is judgment. 

If we compared ourselves to our idols, or someone much further along in their journey than ourselves, we could rationally understand that they are an inspiration, not a threat. But, when we are hit with someone online or in our environment that we think will judge us or criticize us for our missteps or lack of current skill, we shy away from doing it.

For instance, telling people you make your money through a blog or website gets an initial skeptical reaction.  They give you a puppy dog look, that says “aww, isn’t that cute”. And that is usually followed up by “so how you REALLY make your money?”.  Not only do they dismiss the education, and multiple skills it takes but they can’t quite comprehend that that is your job.

Worse than that, when you can back up your job with impressive financial figures, all of a sudden their tune changes and they want to know EVERYTHING.  So, how did you do it? How long did it take?

The person making tons of money with their blog, versus the person who is hustling and scraping by, have similar knowledge and goals- they are just at different junction points.

But, for social validation, making money and being successful in that conventional sense is what will make you an “impressive” person. Versus a dreamer, or someone who has their head up in the clouds.

Social validation or judgment is what so often keeps us from pursuing what we want to do or how we want to look.

Insecurity in our own journey, that has been drastically manipulated by societal pressure to be better and further in life, has stopped so many people from pursuing what they want and even more so, has put up roadblocks for people who are committed.

It is one of the hardest things to accept.  That knowledge and/or skill is not the thing keeping you from being successful. In fact, knowledge and skill is merely an end result of hard work.  So theoretically, putting in the time should equal “success”.

But- it doesn’t… Because we do not measure ourselves with a grading system.  We are not in school anymore where studying the facts and knowing our math makes us get an A in life.

That is a hard pill to swallow. 

But, it also means that your skill, your knowledge is not the thing holding you back. It’s the fear of being judged.

Why don’t you wear a crop top out in public? Because you don’t think you look good in it, because you’re worried someone will judge you for wearing it.  Yet, Lizzo wears a crop top and we all think she’s boss. 

Why don’t you pursue that dream job of yours? Because you’re worried people will think you’re crazy and that you’re stupid for giving up stability for a pipe dream. Yet, we respect entrepreneurs who make it (there’s a whole show dedicated to it, uhh, shark tank).

This is certainly not an overnight mindset switch.  But thinking about the evolution from my unknowingly done up middle schooler, to a person who attends beauty conferences… I have to wonder if I wasn’t afraid of judgment how much farther I would be in life.

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