That moment when you beam with pride and cry tears of joy…

That’s what happened last week when my niece, Juliana Parker, a budding singer/songwriter, took the stage to open for Livingston Taylor—her mentor and former professor at Berklee College of Music.

There are many, many talented people out there, and we have seen hundreds (maybe thousands?) on stage and on our TVs while watching American Idol, America’s Got Talent and YouTube. But this is my family’s young rising star, and as Livingston described her, “…I’ve critiqued 10,000 performances, and Juliana did a couple of things that were so good…the quality of the melodies, the lyrics were great, and she’s also, her rhythm, her time is exceptional, and at the end of the performance, she’d play and she’d be still, and let you digest what had happened. It was just awesome.”

Will Juliana succeed in achieving her dreams? Only time will tell. I certainly hope so. No matter what happens, I am totally awed by the risks she is taking while going for them. And for artists like her, the process is all the more personal and the individual all the more vulnerable because they are exposing their deepest self to public judgment. There’s likely not a single successful performer who hasn’t fallen victim to the cruel judgement of the masses at some point in their careers.

Sadly, we are fast becoming a culture entirely defined by judgment. We all know about the social pressures young people place on themselves to live the perfect Insta-life. Truthfully, it’s not just young people. A Facebook friend posted something today about the pressure she felt to make her house look like something out of the Pottery Barn catalog complete with holiday hand towels, pillows and dishes. She is 60 years old and still worrying about making her house perfect for the holidays in case someone who might stop by won’t deem it Hallmark-movie–worthy.

Now here’s a question—with all of the worrying about “what will they say,” does anyone ever really stop to think about who “they” are? Do we really care about what the invisible masses say? And if your friends have a critical opinion of the hand towels at your Christmas party, well, is it about you or about them? Not to mention the question of whether that person is someone you really want to have as a friend.

I would theorize that the increase in judgement as a cultural hobby is a parallel trend with the increase in those who are not proud of their own actions and accomplishments. It’s far easier to criticize others than to look in the mirror and be honest about your own inaction. Those who can do…those who can’t, criticize.

The “inter-web” was all a-chatter this week about the Peloton commercial that chronicles a wife’s journey with the new Peloton bicycle that she received as a holiday gift from her husband. The twitter-verse was up in arms at the insult of a husband giving his wife an exercise bicycle for a gift, implying that her apprehension at its use was about his judgment of…or her insecurity about…her body. Seriously? Approximately 25% of adults enjoy physical fitness just like this fit woman suggests. It’s not an insult to give a woman who enjoys cooking a new Instant Pot…or a painter some new brushes. So why is it a problem if someone who enjoys fitness receives a piece of equipment?

In my view, those who are unhappy in their own lives are seeking company with their criticisms about the ad. The woman is fit…and she likes to stay fit. Her husband got her an amazingly generous gift so she could add to her repertoire of fitness activities. The first day of use with a new piece of fitness equipment can be intimidating—but that doesn’t mean she’s fearful of her husband nor feels fat-shamed. Yet thousands of people who apparently have plenty of time on their hands to complain thought it appropriate to declare the commercial fat-shaming and sexist. Seriously? Perhaps by criticizing the ad they are secretly rationalizing their own excuses for not living a healthier life?

Meanwhile, no one took issue—and in fact they celebrated—when Ryan Reynolds hired the same actress for a commercial that showed her drowning her sorrows and toasting to new beginnings while chugging a full glass filled with his Aviation Gin. No one seemed upset that her self-destructive behavior sends viewers the message that the solution to a bad day is to have a nice big, martini. No…let’s celebrate self-destructive, self-indulgent behavior that keeps her unproductive and unhealthy. It will make the rest of the couch-sitting complainers feel Iike less of a failure.

Sadly, this is becoming the norm. Celebrate failure. Attack excellence.

Shall we look at the growing demonization of success and the class warfare being promulgated by the media? Accusers assume that 1% of our society who are successful didn’t work hard for their money, and they didn’t make sacrifices to grow whatever business it is that sourced the money. Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs—while they each set out to build new businesses, they did not necessarily set out to become bazillionaires. Their successes transformed our lives. And yet, because of their success— or at least in part because of their success— they are demonized…and the thousands and thousands of jobs provided by their companies—and the families who are supported as a result—go unacknowledged. Instead, you can turn on the television and listen to the attacks on all those wealthy people who are not said to be doing their fair share.

We need to remind ourselves of the basic tenets upon which our country was built—freedom of speech and freedom to achieve. But there is another tenet as well—respect for the rights of others to do the same…to speak and act and create and build. Every self-righteous barb attacks this type of entrepreneurialism and expression. If people are fearful that they will be maligned and boycotted for pursuing their dreams within their legal and social rights, we are no longer living in a free country

To those who are doing the attacking…try spending time and effort creating instead. Put yourself on the line and become the visionary and provider rather than complaining about life’s unfairness and holding tight to your reasons for not being able to achieve what others do, be it at work or home…with your family or for your own health and well-being.

And to my amazing niece, stay true to yourself, Julie. You are sparkling and delightful and brilliant in your language. You are putting yourself out there bravely to share the deep way you see the world and the delicious way you describe it. Your songs speak truth of what you see in humanity, and your message is pure goodness and right. Sadly, there will be those who prefer to critique rather than celebrate and respect…let alone put themselves out on the line to inspire. I think the duet of “Never Never Land”from the musical Peter Pan that you and Liv sang at the end is the perfect inspiration.

Follow your dreams. Stay strong and brave in your quest. Good conquers over evil. And you are beyond good.