Two Perspectives-The Fear of Criticism
Two Perspectives on the fear of criticism
‘Two perspectives’ is a new monthly column with two different perspectives from two different continents and cultures on the same topic viz.
from Janet Smith Warfield (based in Florida, USA) and
Dr Amit Nagpal (based in New Delhi, India).
When I am afraid of criticism, who is the critic: the person out there or the person in here?
When I was fifteen, I overheard a classmate call me “queer.” It felt like a knife through my heart.
I could only think that there must be something dreadfully wrong with me. I was different. Boys rarely asked me out. I wasn’t part of the clique. I liked school and wanted to learn. I got good grades. My parents adored me and my teachers praised me as one of their better students.
Many of my classmates had abusive parents, hated school, hated homework, cracked jokes, gossiped, clowned, dated, and got drunk. Yes, maybe I was queer.
Unconsciously, I absorbed that “queer” label with all its pain and negative connotations. For years, the belief crippled me. My hands shook. I had knots in my stomach. I hid my talents and abilities for fear of offending others. I was afraid to reach out and build friendships. I thought of committing suicide.
I had allowed one foolish little word, spoken by another without thought or conscious intention, to destroy my spirit. I was terrified to be who I was because others might be not like me.
I wanted to please others, but I soon noticed that not all people were pleased by the same things. I had a small group of friends who loved to learn. We were the minority, both envied and despised by our classmates. Who was I supposed to please: My friends? Other students? My parents? My teachers? Who was right? Who was wrong? I lived in a hell of confusion, chaos and conflicting doctrines.
Many years later, I began focusing on my own personal growth and what I wanted to do with my life. I attended a workshop where one of the exercises was breaking a board with my hand. The purpose was not an idle exercise in physical strength. The purpose was to overcome fear.
On the near side of the board, we wrote what we were afraid of. On the far side of the board, we wrote what we would have or be if we overcame our fear. On the near side I wrote, “Fear of losing my relationship with my sons if I pursue my vision and purpose.” On the far side, I wrote, “I am going to pursue my vision and purpose and I’m bringing my sons with me into full human potential.”
As I took my stance to break the board, the instructors told us to focus on the far side of the board: what we would have or be if we overcame our fear. My long years of listening to my teachers stood me in good stead. I focused on pursuing my vision and purpose and bringing my sons with me into full human potential. The board snapped. Students who focused on their fears didn’t break the board.
I have been criticized and verbally abused many times. I know now that critical, verbally abusive, judgmental, angry words say nothing about me. They say volumes about the speaker. His energy is blocked. She is powerless and ineffective. How can I feel anything but compassion and forgiveness? That does not mean I must remain in this destructive energy.
I still have moments of fear and contraction when I hear someone’s angry, judgmental words. Now, however, I know how to release the fear so I can function again. All it takes is a simple shift in focus from an outside authority to my own inner authority. For me, that inner authority must be aligned with a Higher Power I have chosen to believe in. My mind can neither understand nor explain it. My experience tells me the belief makes a difference in what I can accomplish.
Is it selfish, arrogant, narcissistic, insane to trust my own inner authority? There go those critical words again, spinning around in my brain.
No! I choose to believe that relying on that inner authority is as sane as any of us is ever going to get. I intend to keep breaking the board of my self-imposed limitations and focusing on the vision beyond.
When I notice an energetic shift in my body into fear and contraction, I simply detach from the speaker’s words, whether that speaker is me or someone else. Then I notice where my mind is. (This is sometimes called the Witness.) I can promise you my mind is either in the future or on what someone else may think, say or do. When I notice where my mind is, I make a conscious choice to bring it back to the present moment. Perhaps I’m in my own living room, my office, or my car. I’m safe there. It’s only my mind that is off on sabbatical, terrorizing me with its fantasies of future catastrophes.
Once I consciously bring my mind back to the present moment, I simply ask, “What is your next step? What can you do right here, right now, to move your vision forward?” Then I do it!
Janet Smith Warfield works with wisdom-seekers who want understanding and clarity so they can live peaceful, powerful, prosperous lives. Through her unique combination of holistic, creative, right-brain transformational experiences and 22 years of rigorous, left-brain law practice, she has learned how to sculpt words in atypical ways to shift her listeners into experiences beyond words, transforming turmoil into inner peace. For more information about Janet, go to
Copyright © 2011 - Janet Smith Warfield. All rights reserved.
Life offers us two choices viz. to be secure, anonymous and uncriticized or to take chance at innovation and uniqueness and risk criticism.
There is a famous saying, “I don’t know the road to success but I know the road to failure-trying to please everybody.” Do you like to avoid criticism and try to please everybody? One thing is guaranteed then that you are going to remain the Average Joe or you will belong to the trio of Tom, Dick and Harry, for all great ideas have been initially ridiculed, slowly accepted and finally appreciated as being obvious.
Man is a social animal of course and wants the acceptance of friends, relatives and society. But at what cost do we get the acceptance, is an important question, if it comes by killing our very soul, I am doubtful, if it is worth it.
The society tends to criticize anyone who chooses an unusual path and refuses to follow the herd mentality. Sometimes there are genuine reasons and fears behind social criticism for e.g. a person leaving a secure job and starting his/her own business. If you have a family to support, the social criticism in some ways is justified as the entire family may have to suffer your decisions. But what if you don’t start the business, kill your soul and become a frustrated person, slowly killing yourself and family members with your negativity?
In management theory, we have something called contingency approach which basically says that every situation is unique and there are no standard answers to problems. The same is true for life, there are no standard solutions. The inner voice generally gives us the best answers (and aided by meditation, it can give us the most wise answers) and we must listen to it. In Hindi there is a saying, “Suno sabki, karo apni” which means we must listen to everyone’s advice but take our own decisions. We know our situation the best, don’t we? Of course the family members’ concerns need to be kept into account, while making the critical choices in life.
Due to our fear of criticism, we tend to hide to avoid it and thus guarantee failure in our life. We tend to forget that the criticism is of the ideas/ventures and not us. So why care too much? All the greatest people in the world have had their share of flops but they persisted and did not get bowed down by criticism. Edison went to the extent of saying that he did not fail; he only discovered 1000 things which did not work. That’s the spirit of great people, that’s what distinguishes the average from the remarkable.
Seth Godin says, “Nobody says ‘Yeah, I would like to set myself up for some serious criticism.’ And yet the only way to be remarkable is to do just that.” So do you still fear criticism? No problem, just mentally prepare yourself to live an average life. Don’t mind my blunt approach as the writing on the wall says “Brutally Honest, Ruthlessly Frank”
“When you are the first person, whose beliefs are different from what everyone else believes, you are basically saying, “I am right and everyone else is wrong.” That’s a very unpleasant position to be in. It’s at once exhilarating and at the same time an invitation to be attacked.
Larry Ellison, CEO, Oracle Corporation
To know more about Dr Amit Nagpal go tohttp://www.dramitnagpal.co.in/p/about-us.html
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