I’ve been criticised for most of my life. Mostly, these centre around being ‘too quiet,’ ‘boring,’ ‘serious,’ ‘morose,’’sleepy,’’like I’ve just woken up,’and ‘angry.’
I’m pretty introverted, have slitty eyes, and it can look like I’m sleepy and grumpy a lot of the time.
Of course, being criticised doesn’t make me unique or a special case. Nor does it mean that this reflects who I really am, or how I feel, or that I haven’t had people praise me for my confidence too.
But I cling to the comments that have bothered me the most. And these are the ones that have turned into a complex for me like a gnarly toad stuck on my back.
The complex can be self-fulfilling. If I’m worried about how ‘boring’ others think I am, then I tighten up, act defensively, and hey presto — I’m no fun to be around.
An ideal world for me would be one in which everyone continually said how awesome, cool and fun I am while avoiding any and all forms of negative judgement.
I’m guessing it’s the same for you, right?
Not going to happen.
Now, with this, I have a choice — we have a choice.
We can live life safely, avoid any chance of criticism from others, and hide away in dark solitude. Opportunities for self-expansion and personal and professional success are profoundly limited here.
Alternatively, If I’m to experience a life of depth, and opportunity — to traverse bravely along the spectrum of full personal potential, I can take a breath, wince briefly in the face of uncertainty, step up, suck in the shit of fear and have the courage to be disliked, judged, rejected, and even laughed at publicly.
That’s the choice we all have. We all have insecurities. We all have wounds and weak spots. Things we cannot bear to reveal and be ‘found out’ for.
But if we want to experience a life — not only of tremendous growth, friendships and wealth — but one free of regret, we need to do what all the greats have done: to step into the void.
At some point or another, anyone who went further than the world expected them to (i.e. average Joe), made the decision -whether consciously or not — to bring on the abuse.
‘Screw it,’ they said. ‘It’s time. I’m done with mediocre. Bring on the abuse.’
They accepted the fact that to stretch themselves and be known for their skills, ideas and talents, they would have to face the possibility of criticism in some form.
Can you think of an instance when you didn’t want to do something that scared you, but you did it anyway, and came away with a tremendous benefit, even if the ‘only’ advantage was a boost in self-confidence?
I’m sure you have.
By taking risks, particularly social risks, no matter if you’re an ‘extrovert’, an ‘introvert,’ a ‘creative’ or a ‘salesman,’ you will open yourself up to two guarantees:
- The potential to be rejected.
- The potential to make big wins.
You cannot have the second without the first.
Many of us, like I have, will choose to reduce our exposure to potential rejection as much as we can.
We will stay at home and choose the easier route. We will keep quiet in the lift. We will not raise our hand when our heart is beating hard against our chest.
Most of our fears will not materialise anyway. It’s comical how rarely they do.
“I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.”
― Mark Twain
But you need to be willing to get out there, and be disliked in exchange for ‘exposure.’
And I mean actually looking stupid, over facing the potential [italic] to look stupid. You need to be ok with both.
Exposure creates opportunity and will bring tangible results faster. Exposure builds confidence. Exposure and vulnerability will, possibly ironically, attract many people to you too.
Share your art. Walk up to new people. Ask for help. Publish that blog post. Sell your services at high prices. Get on a stage.
Lean into exposure, and do it as much as you can.
Exposure is risk. But no one lived a rich life who didn’t take risks.
You must. Like I must. Because to deny it is to deny the evolution of your best self.
And, it’s not about trying to be liked. It’s about sharing your truth and your value, feeling the rush of doing that in front of other people — and being accepting of the tendency for a small group who will always dislike the things you do (100% guaranteed, mostly because they are rejecting themselves).
Think for a moment about what kind of a person you could be.
Who is the best version of yourself? Where can they go?
Do you think, somewhere inside you, is someone capable of inspiring people deeply?
I think there is. That person is there, and they just need to be guided, nourished, and nurtured.
What kind of exposure does your best self need?
Where does your best self need to go to to be the best they can be?
To reach your fullest potential, do you think you need to endure some flat out ‘nos’?
How about personal, even harsh criticism?
What experiences does a stronger, more resilient version of you need to go through to get to that level of strength?
Is it at home, or on the battlefield?
“A ship in harbour is safe — but that is not what ships are built for.”
— John A. Shedd.
What does your full potential require of you today?
You probably know what this is. And you’re probably resisting the shit out of it. Like most people.
Finding out what those risky, scary things are for you, and doing them, is something you will never feel ready for. You will never be perfect at it. But you can make it easier. You can start small.
So take the step.
You can drastically minimise the fear of criticism and rejection by adopting and honing this philosophy:
Don’t take anything personally.
Other people will judge you until the end of time. What they do and say is always an opinion. No one knows who you are nor what you are capable of.
“Nothing other people do is because of you. It is because of themselves. All people live in their own dream, in their own mind; they are in a completely different world from the one we live in.”
— Don Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements
View criticism with curiosity, rather than reacting to it.
Do not fall for the attractive lure of believing the opinions others have of you. When you can genuinely internalise this, you are immune from the most common fear.
You can ask for what you want. And if they laugh at you, that’s on them. They didn’t take the risk. You did.
You took a chance to become a stronger person. That is a person the world needs.
You can give talks and be ok with ugly reviews.
You can ask for the high fee and be told to fuck off.
You can meet your mentor even if your knees are shaking.
You can go to that networking event when every cell in your body is screaming NO.
By committing to the void, and handling the potential to be rejected, an amazing thing happens:
You can begin to predict your success.
Put in the numbers, build resilience, and the world is yours.
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