Fear of Criticism is a guest post by Clare, founder of MoneyEnergy, a personal finance and investment blog focused on creating cash flow and life leverage. MoneyEnergy also features a regular series of interviews with other financial bloggers, authors and anyone else who has a great story to share about how they maximized their own “life leverage.” You can connect with MoneyEnergy on Twitter @MoneyEnergy.
“The stronger your voice, the stronger both your support and your opposition will be.”
These are wise words spoken by Jonathan Fields (author of Career Renegade: How to Make a Great Living Doing What You Love.
We’re all afraid of many things: afraid of failure, afraid of success. Afraid of change, and afraid of things never improving. Afraid of being in business for yourself and afraid of staying stuck in a dead end job. But if we want to get ahead in our lives, we need to reach past our comfort zones. The comfort zone is not really a soothing place of equilibrium. It’s more like the initial state of entropy which takes over if we do nothing to fight against it. To get ahead in your own life, you must push yourself to your own edge of chaos – the state in which you will do your most creative, productive work. This is so no matter what your goal. It can help you move ahead in your career or improve your credit score to buy a house. You have to push yourself if you want to expand.
One of our greatest fears is the fear of criticism: what will others think of me if I do/say X? What will they say about me if I finally decide to do X, or try to do it and fail/succeed? Part of this fear is a fear of rejection in some form or other. Another part of it is the fear of feeling humiliated or embarrassed once you do or make something that becomes public. Neal’s note– one of my greatest fears is dental work. I went to the dentist recently and it’s still there!
Are you afraid of what “they” will think?
Sooner or later, if you’re going to have any kind of large impact on others – from saving a life to saving the world – your work will probably need to expand its reach and touch on a wider circle of people, whether this is in the form of more sales, executing some entrepreneurial ideas, more speaking engagements, or more visitors to your website. The wider this circle, the more it opens your work to criticism, especially in third and fourth degrees of removal from you and your inner circle. These people will know “of” you, but they can’t say they know you personally. You will become an “object” of discussion to them, and that’s where the word-of-mouth buzz starts to set in. By its very nature, word-of-mouth carries both the good and the bad.
Realize that the only genuine (i.e. constructive) criticism is directed at your work – not you.
People who don’t know you don’t know you. Don’t let yourself fall victim to any ad hominem attacks from anyone, especially if you’re not even on a first-name basis or have never had more than a 140-word conversation with them.
Also realize why the only critic who matters is you: because only you can judge yourself by the standards you set up for yourself. Only you know what Plan B was. Only you have the full record of all your previous successes and failures. This is why we often hear that “you are your own worst critic.”
Criticism happens as a matter of course – plan for it, but move beyond it.
Fields reminds us that “the same technology that can be used to build your reputation can also be used by others to refute or even ruin it.”
What this points to — beyond the obvious fact of the ease of posting defamatory and negative comments online and in social media — is the age-old adage about treating others with respect both “on your/their way up” and “on your/their way down.” Ultimately we are all equals, and you never know who it is who will be there to help you when you most need it.
But in addition to this is the fact that those who stick out from the crowd will always attract hecklers and critics. If you’re better than average at anything at all, and you take your ability/skill/talent/product public, you will attract all the naysayers because you will be an easy target to find and these people need to tear others down since they’re not improving themselves. This isn’t to say that all negative criticisms are invalid, of course. But you should expect to hear them, learn to separate out the genuine criticisms from the aimless naysayers and plan to intelligently move forward.
If you let the fear of criticism keep you from developing your passion and living from a place of inspired action, you will continue living within your comfort zone, never having been tested.
Knowing that criticisms just happen as a matter of course – to anyone in any kind of spotlight – helps deal with it. It’s not really about you as a person. Many criticisms just reveal the limitations of the thought of those who air them. Make a list of all the great comments and recommendations you get instead, and keep these in a prominent place. Over time you will even find that some of your initial detractors become receptive to your thoughts/plan/project anyway. So focus on moving forward!