It doesn’t matter how you choose to live your life — whether you build a business or work in town; have children or choose not to; travel the world or live in the same town all your life — whatever you do, someone will judge you for it.  Finding a reason to project their insecurities, their negativity, and their fears onto you and your life, and everyone of us will face dealing with it.

I’ve lived in small towns most of my life and one of the things I despise about it is, that whatever drama or life altering experiences you may have, they will not only be talked about by your neighbors and people that you don't even know, but you will be the whisper on their lips for many months to come.  It seems like no matter what decision I have made in my life, certain people seem to always know the outcome long before I do and this hurts most when it comes from someone you love and thought you could trust. 
“Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt
I believe this small town mentality is due to a general malaise of boredom and monotony and generally comes from people who are scared to death of fully living their own lives.  While some of you will take offense to this, or simply dismiss my opinion; it would be a mistake to assume my opinion is the only one. Read this woman’s experience.  

It seems to me that the main reasons people criticize one another is FEAR:
  1. Fear of action and their own failure. - Insecurities speak loudly!  Which is probably the most hurtful kind of criticism. People often criticize us because they wish they could have the courage to make the decision to fully live their own lives and chastise those who are doing so.  They are afraid that they don’t have it in them to pull it off.   Dr. Brené Brown says, “If you’re not in the arena getting your butt kicked, I’m not interested in your feedback.” I’d add to that: I hope that me being in the arena getting my own butt kicked can inspire others to enter the arena, as well.
  2. Fear of the unknown and change. - People are often afraid of how our decisions and actions may change the status quo.  They like things as they are, have their own agendas, or are fearful of what will happen next.  When things are comfortable, we aren’t expected to grow or change.  Fortunately, and unfortunately, if we don’t grow and change, life circumstances will force it upon us whether we are ready or not.
“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.”  ~ Theodore Roosevelt
The Truth About Criticism
We are often our own worst critics.  Healthy self-criticism can help you learn, improve and grow.  But when we spin out in the arena of our own negativity we often hurt others by projecting it onto them.  My aunt calls this leveling, when we tear others down in order to feel better about ourselves.

Are you your own worst critic?  When it comes to goals or just life in general, do you beat yourself up for not doing a better job?  Or if you are doing something well, do you find the smallest of flaws and glaringly point them out to yourself?

When we compare ourselves to others, this often stirs up a storm of negative self-talk.  “She’s so much prettier than me….he’s a better speaker…I’ll never be able to compete with that kind of talent,” and on and on.  And when we are here we are tempted to level anything in our path.  

Every person is an individual with unique gifts, talents and circumstances, so can we honestly say there is a true comparison between you and another person?  If another person inspires us to improve our lives that’s great, but our own insecurities shout volumes when we resort to leveling others.
“If you are willing to look at another person’s behavior toward you as a reflection of the state of their relationship with themselves rather than a statement about your value as a person, then you will over a period of time cease to react at all.” ~ Yogi Bhajan
There is nothing more liberating than realizing that a haters words and actions are a greater reflection of who they are as a person than it is about you!  Which means you can follow your heart, safely ignoring them and continue to blaze new trails!

Some beliefs about ourselves may be so subtle we don’t notice them.  I recently have been working with a woman who came to work with the horses because she knew that she was holding herself back from achieving her life’s goals by not believing she could succeed.  The message she had learned as a child was that she was “dumb and screwed-up.”  When I asked if she was willing to give up those labels, she looked surprised.  “How can I give them up,” she said, “when they are true?”  She had never thought of herself in another way.

“What about making mistakes?” I asked.  “We learn from our mistakes.  Are you allowed to make mistakes like every other person?”  She replied that her mistakes, only proved that she was dumb, but that when other people made mistakes, it didn’t determine who they were as a person.

When our self image is rooted in blame, shame and guilt, we fear being exposed as flawed, insufficient, or horrible.  With this self image there is no room for positive feedback and the negative only reinforces the shaming labels we apply to ourselves.  Our belief systems are rooted in our childhoods and are self-reinforcing until we work up the courage to move past our own vulnerability and uncertainty and choose new beliefs about ourselves and our lives.  This is often one of the greatest challenges we will face in life. 

I’ve done many things in my life I’m proud of and others that I’m not so proud of, both have opened me up to criticism.  It’s never been the criticism from outsiders that has held me back but my own inner critic that said, “you can’t do this.”  “Who do you think you are?”

Many of us have lived with so much judgment of ourselves that we take these feelings for granted.  We just think that’s how we’re doomed to feel.  Until we forgive ourselves, we don’t realize how much we need to, and how amazing it feels.  Forgiving ourselves reconnects us to the best parts of ourself and life.  

With self-compassion we can forgive ourselves for what we’ve done wrong, what we’ve done badly, and what we think we could have done better.  We can transcend our judgements of ourselves.

You can either be judged by others or judge yourself because you created something or be ignored because you left your greatness inside of you.  Eventually, I’ve always decided that it was more important to contribute something to the world than it was to protect myself from criticism.

We all like to be validated, respected and appreciated, and I still get triggered when certain people in my life, those I love and respect, criticize me about something important to me.  I think it takes a lifetime and often a lot of self-reflection and self-compassion to learn to face our own darkness.  It is a process I haven’t mastered yet and am still learning. 

According to research done at Florida State University, it is natural for most people to hold onto negative criticism because we remember negative emotions much more strongly and in more vivid detail than positive emotions.  The study entitled “Bad Is Stronger Than Good,” found that it takes five positive events to make up for one negative event.

How Do We Overcome Criticism?
In my experiences, here’s what I can summarize about dealing with haters.

1 First and foremost, don’t be the hater. Don’t be the person who tears down someone else’s hard work. The world needs more people who contribute their gifts and share their work and ideas. If you’re triggered by the criticism or resort to leveling other people because of your own insecurities, that’s a clear sign it’s time to do some work on yourself.  If your first reaction is to lash back or become defensive, walk away, take some time to cool off first.

2 Remember this is often not about you.  Don’t take it as a personal attack or an insult to who you are.

3 Focus on the positive and your path ahead. Don’t allow somebody else’s negativity derail or distract you, make you feel uncomfortable or depressed.  Nobody, but you, should have that much power in your life. 

4 If you choose to respond to the haters, be the bigger person and  kill them with sincerity and kindness. Most people don’t want you to convince them they are wrong, they just want to know you care.  Thank the critic, it’s unexpected and often appreciated. 

5 One of the keys to success in anything you do in life is to turn a negative into a positive.  You can always learn something from someone else, even if that’s how not to be.  Criticism can also be an opportunity to improve yourself.  Being the bigger person is always a way to turn a negative into a positive, because it makes you feel better about yourself, you are above stooping to the haters level.  Others will admire you for being able to rise above it, remain positive and handle it well.

6 Finally, and most importantly, follow your heart, make the choices that are right for you. People will criticize you either way.  Your life is too short to worry about pleasing haters. 

 
 
 
 
Strength shows not only in the ability to persist but the the ability to begin again. Nobody likes the idea of starting over. I know I don’t. But sometimes life forces your hand calling you to reset, whether your ready or not.

If you’ve invested any time building anything - a business, a marriage, a life - you know that uneasy feeling in the pit of your stomach when you have to begin again. It’s hard.

This is why so many people stay in jobs they hate or keep going back to the same old, unhealthy addictions that leave them broken. It’s easier that way.

But there’s something beautiful about starting over, something liberating about beginning again. The best day of your life is the one in which you decide your life is your own.  No apologies or excuses.  No one to lean on, rely on, or blame.  This gift is yours - it is an amazing journey and you alone are responsible for the quality of it.  This is the day your life really begins.

Square One?
Never be afraid to start over it’s a new chance to rebuild the life you really want. There is no such thing as going back to square one.  Even if you feel like your starting over, you are trying again with more knowledge, strength and power than you had before. Your past experiences, failures, and successes have all taught you something. More than you realize. And knowing what you know now means you aren’t starting over. You’re just beginning again, building on the foundation of your life. Your journey was never over, it was just waiting for you to find it again.

Do something new, now
When was the last time you did something for the first time? Do you remember what it felt like? It was probably fun, possibly even thrilling. I bet it required some hard work, too.  Maybe it’s time to do that again. To take a risk. To break a rule. To start.

The Power of a To-Live List
A to-live list is simply a collection of wishes, dreams, and moments of joy you want to experience in your life. It’s not just a bucket list, but also a collection of things you’d love to do more often. It helps you get excited about life.

Write down the experiences you want to have, the big and the small. Write down little pieces of life that you want to create for yourself. This list doesn’t have to be complete. It’s supposed to give you an idea of the joys you could allow yourself to have and the things you believe make life worth living. 

Read your to-live list out loud.  How does it make you feel? Do you get excited? Does it make you smile and give you a warm, tingly feeling? 

Think about the goals you have been working toward.  Do they fit into the snippets of life you’ve just envisioned for yourself? If not, can you change them to fit your dreams and needs?

Take your time to plan how you can make your dreams a reality.  Some points may be easy to cross off your list. Others, like “do work I care about” might take longer to realize. Those are the dreams you want to have a plan for.

Revisit your list often, especially when you feel like you’ve lost your direction.  It will give you the focus you need to reconnect with your why and make your dreams a reality.

Maybe you’re in a season in which you feel like what you’re doing is all for nothing, that you’re doing all this work and nobody’s paying attention. But maybe that’s not the whole story.

Maybe you’re being prepared for a season that hasn’t come yet. If that’s the case, may I encourage you to do one thing?

Show up
Even when your not seeing results… show up.
Even when the critics tell you to quit… show up.
Even when you’re tired and tempted to throw in the towel… show up.

If this is a time of preparation for you, do the work. Show up. Because what you are doing is sowing — planting seeds of your future, — and though you may not reap them for some time, the work you’re doing is not pointless.

Stay the course, be brave, and your season will come.
 
 
 
 
Every time there is a major shift in our lives, and in the past couple years since I was regularly posting here on Montana Ranch Girl there have been a few, we have to take control of who we will choose to be because of the shifts.  Change means reinvention.

I think myself, as well as many of us, struggle with embracing change. And it seems like the more I resist the roller coaster of change in my life, that the more change comes my way.

Dramatic changes bring with them fear, loneliness, and anxiety. While we cope the best and the only way we know how, we often isolate ourselves, when what we really need most is to be embraced by others.
Picture
Me at chemo.
When first diagnosed with cancer, for the longest time, I refused to believe that change was in the realm of possibility. I’ve since learned that change can happen quickly and at any point, especially when it’s not convenient. Before cancer everything in my life seemed to be just about perfect and I couldn’t accept that my life soon could and would be very different.  I had to learn that acknowledging change is allowing it to happen as it unfolds instead of approaching it from a place of fight or flight, either through denial or resistance.

Like most adults I’ve reinvented myself several times before.  I’ve never been happy waiting for my future to find me.  But after cancer I had forgotten that I had to choose reinvention.

I finished chemo in January of 2014 and radiation in March and was supposed to take a pill form of chemo until September.  The pill form of chemo created other health issues, including severe blood clots and cysts.  After getting a second opinion from a dear friend of mine who happens to be an oncologist, I went against my oncologist wishes and stopped taking the drug in July.
Picture
My beloved Zoey died of cancer June 16, 2014.
My treatments put my mind in a chemical haze making it hard to write or string sentences together.  Physically depleted I could not go back to work at the ranch so I took a job in town that made me miserable.

And then I turned 40.  I didn’t take this birthday gracefully.  I was certainly not where I wanted to be in my life at this age.

I quit my job in town and went back to work at the ranch, but still had this nagging feeling that I was not reaching my full potential and physically no longer wanted to work so hard.

Another year goes by and I’m still waiting for my future to find me, lost in my own grief, loss, confusion, and sadness.  And then after a particularly stressful spring and fall here at the ranch we had a devastating hay fire.
It was literally a baptism by fire, I had my first panic attack and realized my life had to change and change now!  I realized that I was having so much trouble moving forward because I had no idea what it was that I wanted to move towards.  I was thinking about my past, but not what I wanted for my future.
“You’re never too old to set another goal or dream a new dream.” ~C. S. Lewis
I started a new business, Agri-Marketing Solutions and started working in the office at the ranch.  And what I’m really excited to announce is that I am now launching a second business Cowgirl Grit and Grace and future blog posts can be seen there.

Please bare with me, the website is not yet complete, but I promised you, my readers, that I would make this announcement this week, and it’s the last day of the week.

Reinvention is neither easy nor always smooth.  We often encounter resistance from those around us who can’t see us in new roles.  And resistance from ourselves, it’s often hard to let go of what’s familiar and comfortable, even when those things cause us pain.  We often struggle with limiting beliefs or stories about ourselves that hold us back from trying new things.

But, as John Wayne said, “courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyway.”  I hope you choose courage instead of letting your fear choose your future for you.
Picture
Mark and I were married January 15, 2015
 
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    I embrace life with passion and gratitude. I love connecting with others in meaningful ways and I share my journey with you in hopes that it will in some way inspire, encourage and as a way to grow with you!  I am truly a work in progress that has not arrived in any form of perfection and am continually learning and growing.  I hope you will share the journey with me.

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