I really feel like writing, in all its forms, is a very nice way to express myself especially since I'm an introvert, but I'm afraid people would know how I think and know my thinking process and label me as being wrong.

I fear exposing something that I feel ashamed about like maybe double standards that I didn't notice I had, or a weakness in my personality that I didn't mean to show, etc. How do you get over this fear?


8 Answers 8


I have resorted more than once to citing Neil Gaiman's 2012 address Make Good Art. Let me quote from it here too:

The moment that you feel that, just possibly, you're walking down the street naked, exposing too much of your heart and your mind and what exists on the inside, showing too much of yourself. That's the moment you may be starting to get it right.

You should be exposing yourself. You should be laying yourself naked before the audience. That's when your art has truth in it, that's when it has substance. That's when it is no longer superficial.

And of course you will be judged. Unless your work is bland (in which case you will be judged for blandness), it will evoke strong emotions, and hopefully thoughts. If you make readers consider an idea, or maybe reconsider it, some will agree with you and others will disagree. If you've put emotion in your writing, people will be strongly agreeing or strongly disagreeing with you. People were passionately condemning Lord Byron, and others were defending him with equal passion. Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front was heavily criticised for what it exposed, and is admired for what it exposed. The moment you touch a truth, people will be responding to it, and you can't expect them all to respond positively.

You fear exposing aspects of yourself that you're not happy with? You're human, you're not supposed to be perfect. That's a truth. Your imperfections are a truth you can touch in your art. We all have things we're ashamed of. You shine a light into those dark corners, make us actively notice and think of them - that's a good thing.

Don't fear it - embrace it.


Writing can be a very intimate activity: no wonder you might feel a bit anxious! But remember, first and foremost, you're writing for yourself, rather than for someone else.

Chances are that writing things down is either something you enjoy doing, or something that helps put your mind at ease. In both cases, you shouldn't stop for fear of being read. Keep your writings private (in your personal computer, or in encrypted files if you don't have a computer that's yours only - heck, lock you diary in a drawer if you write on paper) and keep them so until you're ready.

Eventually you'll feel the urge to let your work be read, of course, but there is really no rush to do that. You are under no obligation of making people you don't trust read your work. Find some friends you can talk to, be them real-life or online friends, and submit your work to them at your pace. And again: not every piece is meant to be read by others. If they are too private, don't bother; it's just natural and it's nothing worth worring about.

Also, while your writing style can give glints of certain aspects of your psychology, it's nowhere a "window wide opened" into your head and certainly not enough for anyone to judge you.


This sounds like a variation of Impostor Syndrome.

A quick internet search suggests the first step is to acknowledge that you have an anxiety that is interfering with your writing. Congrats, you have just done that by asking this question.

The next step is to know that you are not alone. This is an anxiety that effects many writers.

Unfortunately, after these two steps the advice becomes a bit vague but usually culminates in "Keep writing!" which is the standard advice for all writers in all situations.

According to wikipedia (I am not a psychologist), the accepted approach is to find a group to discuss the issue with others who've had a similar experience, and practical exercises intended to demystify the anxiety by putting aspects of it into concrete form such as writing lists.

If I understand you correctly, the real anxiety is not that you are a bad person underneath, but that people will "read between the lines" and discover something you didn't intend to convey. The best way to control how your writing is perceived is to become a better writer. That takes practice, and practical experiments that are designed to explore the situations and mechanisms where this could happen.

I suggest short practical writing exercises where you can explore ideas of deliberately revealing someone's "raw truth" (it does not actually need to be your truth), and deliberately withholding a raw truth while talking around it. Also writing to explore the perception of "authenticity" and "inauthenticity" through the eyes of others. The goal here is not to turn your personal anxiety into catharsis, but to develop confidence with the tools of writing and how they are used to convey indirect subtext and inferred meanings.

In any creative communication, the reader will form opinions about the "voice" that is narrating, but there are ways to show the narrative voice is not the voice of the author, that the narrator is unreliable or wrong, or the particular POV or "issue" is being deliberately slanted to provoke the opposite feeling in the reader (Mark Twain was a master at creating "simple folk" who remain sympathetic even as the reader understands their moral follies and intellectual limits).

I believe that if an author struggles with an issue or needs to debate the right way to approach it, that decision process is already interesting enough to include within the writing somehow. It gives more dimension to insert the debate, but it does not need to be depicted as your debate or your struggle. You can show someone else's struggle and you don't need to provide their answers. Maybe by exploring these feelings you can become a better writer, allowing your personal concerns to inform your experience and style. That's probably the best any writer could hope to do.

  • 2
    Hmmmm, I don't think it's imposter syndrome that I'm dealing with here. It's the fear of being vulnerable in writing. I'm dying to express myself to the world but in the same time, I want to keep it private and don't want people to know how I really think. I'm being pulled in two opposite directions. It's crazy!
    – Yostina
    Oct 13, 2018 at 15:51
  • @Yostina, are you looking to get past it, or are you just looking to discuss your "condition"? Any advice you get here will encourage you to write. Some advice will be to tell you to "do it anyway", but I'm trying to give advice how to deal with the issue. What are you looking for?
    – wetcircuit
    Oct 13, 2018 at 22:55
  • I'm looking to get past it. I know that I have a problem of caring too much about what people think of me but I don't know how to get over this either. I tend to be influenced easily by others if they scare me and tell me that I'm wrong.
    – Yostina
    Oct 14, 2018 at 13:25
  • @Yostina That's a general issue a great many people have - especially people sensitive enough to be writers. You improve it via self development. That can take many forms including journaling and therapy. You might want to look at Nathaniel Brandon's books on Self Esteem.
    – Joe
    Oct 17, 2018 at 1:01
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    @Yostina www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-six-pillars-of-self-esteem-nathaniel-branden/ www.barnesandnoble.com/w/how-to-raise-your-self-esteem-nathaniel-branden/ -- Unrelated: You might want to try writing a piece where the characters are you and your parents (not to show to anybody). Maybe you can get deeper into why you feel the ways you do and it should be quite a bit easier to stand up to them (or any other authority figures) and tell them how you feel, what you need, and what you deserve from them on "paper" than it would be in person, but it might still be very effective.
    – Joe
    Oct 20, 2018 at 0:55

@Yostina, I truly hope you find a way to conquer your fear. I was absolutely terrified the first time I forced myself to hit the post button. I was so sure of the only two possible results. Either I was going to be told to go away and never come back or worse yet, there would not be a single response. My grammar isn't perfect and I have had a love affair with commas my entire life.

I was floored by the amount of love, support and encouragement which flooded my inbox. I wrote from the heart and my words touched people. Start slowly allowing a tiny peek inside the real you. You never know who will find your words and how deeply you may touch their lives. If your soul feels a need to write, you likely have great stories to tell. I wish you the best and I look forward to watching you grow.

  • Thanks a lot, Paininzeeback for the encouragement! :)
    – Yostina
    Nov 17, 2019 at 11:11

Writing for an audience other than yourself will always be a form of exposing oneself. As Liquid pointed out, you should write for yourself primarily, but otherwise, try to embrace the fact you're expressing yourself rather than being afraid of it. It's overwhelming at first, and I'd be lying if I said I haven't felt that way myself, but if you're truly afraid of exposing yourself, perhaps you need some time away from writing for an audience.

Maybe start slower and instead write for yourself, do the literary equivalent of writing a letter then throwing it away to hone your craft without the pressure of exposing yourself before the real thing.


Be more afraid of never expressing yourself than of exposing yourself; balance neuroticism with neuroticism.

Or, somewhat more seriously, some people cultivate a joking-serious demeanor in their writing, or otherwise make themselves a little difficult to pin down, while still making meaningful points. (Thomas Carlyle's first book, Sartor Resartus, is like that.)

In an analysis, if you cogently argue more than one side, people may have difficulty guessing what you truly think - and your writing will be richer for its multi-faceted quality.

In fiction, make one character sound reasonable, until the audience is sure that character is an mouthpiece for your opinions. Then show a different character's point of view that turns both that perspective and the whole plot on its ear. (Diana Wynne Jones is marvelous at that.)

Or just write things in private until you feel you've said something strong enough to share. And if you spend your whole life polishing your thoughts without sharing them, maybe your friends will publish your journal posthumously, and you'll be the talk of intellectual circles for years to come, like Henri Frederic Amiel was.


You can never be wrong when you write- writing is such a beautiful and personal form of expression! There's nothing weak or shameful about showing how you feel through writing- it can be therapeutic and even help you get over your fears.

To start, I'd say that the best thing to do is write a lot, even if it's just for yourself- test out what it is you feel uncomfortable about. Show your work to people you trust and ask them what they think about it. Build up that confidence- just because writing can come from a vulnerable place doesn't mean it has to be an uncomfortable experience!

Hope this helps! Keep writing!

  • Thank you. I like the idea of showing my work to people I trust first. This fear stems from being raised to think that showing feelings is embarrasing and that it's naive to have strong feelings especially when it comes to love.
    – Yostina
    Dec 7, 2018 at 16:37
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    Anytime! Showing your work to others will surely help you learn about which things you are comfortable sharing and which you are not :) Remember that showing your feelings is not embarrassing- that's why most people write in the first place! And if there's anything that should elicit strong emotions, it's love!
    – Emiloooo
    Dec 7, 2018 at 19:33

I have an imagination, I have empathy, I think I understand the motivations of others, including evil people, and people unlike me.

I am not a homosexual, but I have read and learned enough from homosexuals to understand their feelings; they are essentially a translation of my own lusts and desires.

I am not a sociopath, but I have read and learned enough to get the "rules" of sociopathy. Or passionate murder. Or thievery. Or narcissistic personality disorder.

I sincerely doubt the TV writers for criminal court and police shows have ever planned and murdered someone, or raped a child, or burned a young woman alive for practicing witchcraft, filming it on their iphone and laughing at her.Or bombed a daycare. Or for that matter ever wanted to lynch a black man.

Yet they have stellar imaginations, and can figure out the rules and emotions of these villains.

My point is, you may indeed reveal some personal truths in your writing. We all tend to do that. But they are lost in all the other things you write that are just you exercising your imagination of being other characters.

Your imagination is your shield, in this case. Just because your hero kills a villain doesn't mean you could kill anybody. Just because your hero has a sexual fantasy about her new partner doesn't mean you have those fantasies; it is a plot point to introduce conflict in your character.

I got over any fears of exposing yourself by using my imagination and intentionally writing character with beliefs and attitudes that definitely are not me.

That would be a boring story, anyway, if there is no real variation in the beliefs, attitudes, proclivities and morality of the cast.

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