Criticism. I think it holds so many of us back from bringing 100% of ourselves to our work and the things we create. Whether due to the opinions of others that have been shared both to our face and behind our back, or just the fear of the possibility of being criticised, it's something I've battled with over and over again these past few years.
I recently watched this 99U talk with Brené Brown on Why Your Critics Aren't The Ones Who Count and it completely changed my perspective on criticism and deciding which opinions matter to me and my work. In her talk she shares a quote by Theodore Roosevelt that changed her life, and it hit such a nerve with me and I haven't been able to forget it ever since.
The Man in the Arena
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
The fear of criticism can consume us if we let it. The critical feedback from others can hold us back from daring greatly and taking risks with our work, and Brené's wise words opened me up to a new approach to deciding which opinions and criticisms matter to me along the way. If you're struggling with this too, today I'm sharing three questions I ask myself when deciding whether or not I want to make space in my head, my life, and my work for an opinion or critic, and ultimately how I continue to create without the fear of criticism holding me back.
Are your values aligned? When deciding which opinions and criticism we allow to affect us and our work, one of the most important things is to explore whether or not the values behind that opinion is aligned with the values behind our work. Everything that exists will connect and polarise at exactly the same time, and there's no point in hiding from this. But if there's an opinion or critical voice playing over and over in your head and making you question your decisions and your work, ask yourself - are our values aligned? Does an opinion coming from their value base matter to me and my work? Are they who I'm trying to connect with? Or are they naturally wired to be polarised by my work anyway?
Are they in the arena with you? When you take a risk, try something new, and stand out on a ledge by leaping into the unknown, you open yourself up to criticism and judgement. This is why so many of us continue to stay small and under the radar, as taking that big leap and embracing the possibility of failure as a worthwhile risk means that we're making ourselves vulnerable to critics and judgemental opinions. It's so easy to give those words of criticism so much power over you. Of course, criticism at its core is a useful and important part of life. Constructive feedback allows us to change, grow, and develop and I think it's something none of us should run away from. But criticism from a place of judgement and negativity is something we do have a choice over whether to allow into our process or not.
For a long time, I held all criticism in the same esteem. I struggled to decipher which opinions and judgements really mattered to me, and I spent so much time creating with those words of judgement alongside me that I struggled to really make some positive steps forward without being consumed by fear. But now I ask myself, are they in the arena with me? Are they showing up, putting themselves out there, and creating from a place of courage? Or are they standing on the outside, looking in, and criticising on the notion that they themselves could do this better?
What kind of place are they sharing from? Criticism and judgement is unavoidable, though we do have a choice over how and if we let it affect us and our work. When criticism comes your way, figuring out what kind of place it's being shared from can really help you to decipher what to do with it. Is it shared from a place of knowledge? Is the critic informed of all the facts and truths? Or is it shared from a place of misinformation? Criticism has to be valid for you to even considering giving it the time of the day, so if it's rooted in untruths you have to just brush it aside and move past it. Understanding the motive behind opinions and criticism not only helps us to decide whether it matters to us or not, but also come to terms with it as well.
Something I'm so passionate about is creating in the face of judgement, criticism, and nay-sayers. If we allow criticism, whether founded in truth or not, to hold us back from taking creative risks, challenging ourselves and our work, and showing up and being seen, we'll never truly create anything. Embracing the criticism that can help us to learn and grow, and moving past the judgement that intends to just hurt and attack is how I chose to create. If you're in the arena, rising every time you fall, I'm here with you and rooting for you every step of the way.
Do you struggle with the fear of criticism and judgement? How do you overcome it?
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