Do you sometimes find yourself censoring your ideas and feeling unable to express yourself fully to others? Are you afraid what people around you might think if you said what was on your mind? Do you stop defending your values in the fear that you might upset friends or colleagues?
“The majority of people are ready to throw their aims and purposes overboard, and give up at the first sign of opposition or misfortune. Too many people refuse to set high goals for themselves because they fear the criticism of relatives and ‘friends’ who may say “Don’t aim so high, people will think you are crazy. The fear of criticism is at the bottom of the destruction of most ideas which never reach the planning and action stage.” Napoleon Hill – Think And Grow Rich
We are all aware of criticism, uncertainty of someone liking what we do or say. Nobody wants to be on the receiving end of direct, hurtful insults. Whether it's self-criticism or direct bullying, we know how overwhelming that can be – paralysing! But if we carry on our lives always fearful os what others might think we can never create that ‘bigger life’ we so deserve to have.
The most important aspect to overcome fear of criticism is our ability to love ourselves no matter what.
We must learn to be truthful to ourselves and to others about who we really are, what we value, what we wish to do and why we do it. If we try to fit a role or category created by someone else, we end up being criticised for not meeting the expectations as we were never doing it wholeheartedly. This can apply to marriage, work and friendships.
Criticism can make you feel less worthy, but when we start stepping outside of our comfort zone and identify who we are and what we value in life we slowly learn that we don’t need to seek approval from outside. We are worthy as we are, with our dreams and aspirations, our mistakes and our imperfections. We are all full of flaws, which makes us human and lovable.
Remember that someone’s dream is someone else’s nightmare.
The measurement of success will change depending on who’s judging. It’s important to realise that the only measure of success should be your own internal compass. Remember what you are aiming for and what kind of life you are building for yourself and others.
Many people hold themselves back for fear of criticism that is completely unfounded. We build a story in our heads what other people will say about our idea, how colleagues will react if we put ourselves forward for opportunities or how friends and family will react if we want to do or be something new.
It is possible to hold long imaginary conversations in one's head with the people around us and then conclude that it’s best to stay where we are and not make too much noise. Many women have a very strong inner critique, inner ‘controller’, that keeps checking our potential actions and keeps us ‘safe’.
But fearing criticism can be a reason we abandon our dreams, define easy goals and water down our own brilliance. It prevents us from showing up fully and keeps us living small.
“Before starting my business I thought nobody wanted to hear my story and I was scared to share my mission and the impact I wanted to make. I definitely wouldn’t have stood up to do public speaking before. Who am I to do this? Who wants to know?
I used to write stories, but I never thought I would be telling them. I never thought I could hold an audience and talk about my life. I thought nobody wants to know or they are going to judge me and that nobody is going to think good of me.
Now that I have done two public speaking gigs I’m finding that people are interested and that there is a connection. And I’m loving it!”
Don’t take criticism from people on the ‘cheap seats’.
When you ‘enter the arena’, as Brené Brown describes showing up to your own life, you will be exposed and you will become vulnerable. But make sure that you will have supportive people nearby. People who are criticising are not playing the game, they are the people in the cheap seats because they never enter the arena. It’s easy to dish out judgement, so learn to ignore people who have no right to judge.
You could call it the “power of fitting out" which takes energy. If we were to redirect that energy towards being our authentic selves, we could achieve true success and fulfilment whilst being aligned.
“When we stop caring about what other people think, we lose our capacity for connection. When we become defined by what other people think, we lose our willingness to be vulnerable. If we dismiss all the criticism, we lose out on important feedback, but if we subject ourselves to the hatefulness, our spirits get crushed.”
Brené Brown - Daring Greatly
Are you prone to emotional thinking based on impression and feeling?
This is a quick way to form an impression on little if any evidence – sometimes we are right, many times wrong. We jump to conclusions before real evidence has been presented. We can convince ourselves that criticism is what we will get before we investigate further or give others the chance to have a say.
Sometimes it's good to focus on pure facts and need for action. If your personality is fearful, always seeking for approval, avoiding criticism, you will benefit from surrounding yourself with people who are supportive of you, looking after yourself and spending time caring for yourself.
TIPS ON HOW TO COPE WITH CRITICISM
1. Listen to what a critic is saying
Do not interfere or cut in. Try to stay objective. Really listen, try to understand that point of view, don’t just nod while she formulates her retorts. Accept just criticism. Try to understand where it is coming from. Ask yourself whether there’s truth to the criticism.
2. Don’t be defensive
Welcome criticism. See the critic as the person helping you. Resist the temptation to criticize back. Avoid projecting your insecurities onto the criticism and hearing only the bad comments.
3. Don’t expose yourself to criticism from people you don’t respect
Who cares what they think! Pay a lot of attention to criticism from people you respect, but try to shield yourself from criticism from people you don’t know or don’t respect, because you may react to it, even though it may be unfounded. Try to resolve destructive criticism in constructive ways.
4. Delay your reaction
Count to ten, take a deep breath, sleep on it, wait until the next day to send that email… any kind of delay is good. A friend told me that when she’s upset about something that happened at her children’s school, she won’t let herself do anything about it for three days – and usually she decides that no action is better than action.
5. Admit your mistakes
“If you take the blame when you deserve it, you’ll get the responsibility.” Until someone in a group (or in a family) accepts blame, everyone stays very anxious and focused on fingering the person at fault. Once someone raises their hand (if appropriate), then everyone else can relax. And then everyone can all focus on what needs to be done.
6. Enjoy the fun of failure
….and show it on the outside as well….who can be critical after that! Fact is, trying new things and aiming high exposes us to criticism. Remind yourself to “Enjoy the fun of failure” to try to re-frame failure and criticism as part of the fun. Otherwise, your dread of criticism can paralyse you.
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