We gently censor ourselves all the time. We look for social cues to guide our thinking, actions, and words.
This obviously serves a function, helping us to muddle along together. And in most situations, we probably don’t think about this stuff. It just kind of happens.
We clumsily and imperfectly bring who we are into the common arena. And work out how to make space for us to get along.
But sometimes self-censoring happens when we fear the consequences (imagined or real) of truly being ourselves. We hide the parts that don’t feel acceptable or safe to let out.
Are We Shrinking or Expanding?
I recently shared my plan to refresh the Gentle Rebel Podcast from the inside out.
After 364 episodes and more than 10 years of recording, I’m going to re-organise and declutter the archives. I talked in the last episode about how and why I want to do this over the next two years.
I love reflecting on challenging questions. So when my friend, Helena asked about my plans it was an opportunity for me to better articulate and understand my vision. It helped me get clear on what has (and has NOT) influenced the decision.
I’m slightly wary about new listeners stumbling on old episodes. I have changed my mind on certain things over the years. And I’ve grown in the way I would approach particular ideas.
Search engines can bring people to my website through old posts. This is great but what they find is not necessarily reflective of where I am now. And like most people, I don’t like to be judged for that kind of stuff.
But my desire to clean up the archive is not rooted in that fear. I don’t want to censor my past.
After all, the past is an integral part of the story of who we are becoming.
Fear and Self Censorship
Helena shared a Twitter conversation with me. She was speaking with someone about deleting old work. The 2000 tweets on their account were what remained after their diligent approach to “risk management”. Which had seen the removal of 48,000 tweets over the years.
To lower the chances of “a cancel event” from happening.
They had deleted 96% of their tweets because they were afraid of what may happen if they left them there.
When I read that I understood that my own decision was based on eliminating clutter, not risk.
Because the thing is, when you eliminate risk you eliminate creativity, meaning, and value.
Risk Managing Our True Selves (and others) Out of Existence
This kind of self-censorship represents something we might experience in life. Hiding our unique bits. Our desires and our doubts. Our playfulness and our imagination. The “stupid questions” we are burning to ask, and the leftfield observations we have of the world around us.
Things that other people might not understand. Things for which we might get ridiculed and even rejected. But things that matter to us. Things that make us who we are and pave the way for who we are becoming.
When risk management underpins how we show up in the world, we don’t just end up censoring and compressing ourselves into small boxes. We end up becoming resentful and judgemental of anyone who doesn’t do the same. Thus creating the conditions for and building arenas for those every day “cancel events” (ridicule and rejection) to take place.
Risk is an intrinsic part of showing up in the world. It’s absolutely a part of social and creative connection. If we go through our lives eliminating all the things that leave us open to rejection, we are left with only 4% of ourselves.
Furthermore, the 4% we’re ok to leave out there, probably has no impact because it makes us indistinguishable from anyone else. It’s 4% of safe blandness.
I can see now that my project is not about eliminating risk. In fact, it’s about saying yes to the risk because the risk is worth it. And trust that even though I do and will get things wrong at times, I will take responsibility for whatever I put on the table.
Over to You
So do you ever find yourself risk-managing parts of your life out of existence? What are you afraid might happen if you don’t censor yourself? I’d love to hear from you on this. You can leave a response in the comments below.