How I Handle Criticism
Recently, I received an email from a reader who has a deep desire to play big in her life and career. There’s only one problem, she’s terrified of the type of criticism she might receive if she really puts herself out there. “Kris, how do you navigate the good, bad and ugly?”
What a fantastic question!
First and foremost, I’ve cultivated a sacred relationship with myself. I literally have my own back, and I’m an excellent (self) bodyguard. I also believe in myself and … drum roll please … I like me. Sure, meanies can still sting me a bit, but I can’t be torn down easily.
Good reviews, bad reviews, why hold onto either? If you believe you’re the next Jesus, then you’d better believe you’re the devil too. That’s the roller coaster ride you buy a ticket for when you choose to get caught up in others’ opinions of you. As long as what you’re putting out in the world resonates with you, feels good in your soul’s tummy, and helps folks, that’s all the validation you need.
Here’s another test: Would you be proud of what you’re doing ten years from now? Twenty years, etc? If so, charge on! Over the Crazy Sexy years, I’ve experienced a bloody wrestling match with criticism. I’m not going to lie, every once in awhile I wish my life were simpler and more private. But then I realize that I signed up for more this time around. And more is stunning and complicated. Not everyone is open to my wellness philosophy, irreverent sass, my desire to be a smart businesswoman and my willingness to stand up for animals, people and the planet.
So how can we learn to separate constructive criticism from useless, finger-wagging whining? On top of that, how do we build a tougher shell to fight against bullies? It’s simple: 99 percent of the time, the stabbing comment is not about you. It’s about them. The haters will hate because they are hurt and sad and mad. Your shine freaks the holy-hell fuck out of them. Capiche? In these situations, the quicker you shake it off and march forward, the better. Send compassion, love and forgiveness to the person attacking you. Yuck!? Yeah, I know that can be a hard pill to swallow. But boy does it reframe the situation fast. Maybe they’re having a bad day or haven’t quite learned to master the fine art of communication. Whatever the case: Never let their issues bring you down.
If you can be honest with yourself, it’s pretty easy to see what information is beneficial and what needs to be tossed. Can’t see things clearly? Ask a trusted friend or colleague. Here’s another way to look at harsh commentary: When you start to get a reaction from the outside world, you know that you’re pushing boundaries and challenging yourself (and others) to grow. So, rock on pioneer!
More safe ways to deal with criticism:
1. Consider the source. Is the commenter a friend or foe? Are they speaking from a place of security and openness or anger and negativity? Even if you don’t know the person, you can usually tell a lot about them from their tone. Often, destructive, snarky criticism is a projection of the insecurity and unresolved issues of the giver. These comments can be the most biting, but also the most unfounded and telling. When you march to your own beat, you’re going to piss people off because it makes them feel uneasy about their place in the world. Thought-provokers are prime targets for being misquoted and manipulated, and you can’t control that – trust me!
Take a breath and objectively examine the source before crawling into a hole of self-loathing. Plus, that person is already occupying the hole. Do you really want to hang with them?
2. Practice non-attachment. Whether the response is good or bad, you will benefit from creating distance between yourself and your work. These remarks don’t define you as a person. And remember what I said a hot second ago. You can’t control how folks perceive you. If you really want to dampen your spark, go ahead and try. Seriously, it’s not possible, so just keep your side of the street clean and let go. For example, health is a hot-button issue for a whole lotta folks. To keep moving ahead, I have to remind myself that I am not merely the product of my work. I am not an inspirational patient. I am not a trailblazer. I am not a glass of green juice. I am not defined by how the world perceives my work. I am Kris. No more, no less. Sure I have goals. But my work and my life are very different – even though my life is deeply embedded in my work. Make sense? If I allowed myself to be defined by these things, I would’ve stopped years ago.
And remember this: Just because someone says something about you, it doesn’t mean it’s true. Is one weak voice going to silence you? No way!
3. Pull out the gems. Once in a while, you’ll receive a big honking piece of fabulous feedback. This type of critique is one of the greatest gifts a person can give you. Cherish these nuggets even if they’re difficult to digest. Constructive criticism may make you feel a little uncomfortable, but it shouldn’t hurt your feelings or cut you down. Instead, it can teach you how to better serve and build your business.
A special note about the Internet: Remember that the Internet gives everyone a voice. That’s what’s so great about it. But it also makes your computer screen an emotional landmine. People who are in pain have a really easy time venting from a laptop, especially if they never have to meet you in person or be held accountable. Journalists too. No matter how lovely they may seem, they often have their own agendas that do not include your best interest. If you find yourself at a place in your career where you are being interviewed, check out the writer. Does he or she have a respectful, clean tone? How intelligent is the person? Are their values aligned with yours? If not, you can say … no. Opportunities will come and go, you’ll always have them. I promise.
Bottom line: Don’t let the fear of criticism hold you back. Use the good stuff as rocket fuel, the thoughtful advice to hone your message, and throw the junk in the trash where it belongs.
Photo credit: TeX HeX
Peace & encouragement,