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. 

 


Comments

Lisa
03/30/2016 11:45am

Great article! Some of the hardest lessons as women to learn..is how we talk to ourselves! How are u talking to yourself?
Hmmm? When I asked myself that question one day...I began to sob uncontrollably.
It made me "think". I wld never talk to another human..h3ck..not even an animal that way.
The only one that can change me is ...ME..the only one that can make me happy..is ME!! so..how does talking to myself in that manner do any good??
It's a hard thing to change. So funny this article/blog came up. I visited with a girlfriend about this for a better part of an hour about this exact subject.
I will definately tag her...and let's keep this convo going!!

Reply
Jennifer Archibald
03/30/2016 1:15pm

Lisa,

Your absolutely right the only thing that can change you is you and the only thing that can make you happy is you! I seem to have to keep reminding myself that.

I would love to get a group of us in this area together every week to work with the horses and talk about issues like this! Sometimes it feels very isolating out here in our neck of the woods! Do you think there would be any interest?

Reply
08/01/2016 10:57am

I agree! Sometimes it is hard to keep up with our ideal self because we often think that we lack something because someone said something about us. It takes courage to do what you love even if others are criticizing us. I know that it's hard to accept a criticism but when we're faced in that kind of situation, should keep our head up and think that you and them are different and each has their own standards. We should live by what we believe and live the life we want to live.

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03/30/2016 12:03pm

Wonderful essay. Great blog title.
#7 on that list might be: "Apologize when it's appropriate and let it go."
Yesterday I was backing my car out of a space at the ranch and almost bumped into a horse and rider. (They had been walking away from me, then for some reason stopped right behind me--or the horse balked.)
She walked on a few paces, turned around, and stared at me dumbfounded and hateful. My defensive, reactionary thought as I drove away was, "Learn to ride, lady." How awful! Of all the wonderful things that happened yesterday, that woman's hurtful, hateful look was what I carried into the night and, obviously, to now, the next day. If I'd only rolled down the window and said, "Sorry, I didn't see you there," I could have saved myself and her a lot of negativity. (And here's a lesson: the horse had totally let it go, if he ever reacted in the first place!)

Reply
Jennifer Archibald
03/30/2016 1:19pm

Hello Beverley!

Wonderful point! Why do you think it is sometimes so hard to let go? We tend to act more like cows sometimes and have to ruminate over the negative, whereas the horses always just go back to grazing.

By the way, I love your work and your book! It means the world to me to have you comment on my post!

Thank you,
Jennifer

Reply
03/30/2016 2:28pm

Yes, "Back to Grazing"---a beautiful card from Kim McElroy and Linda Kohanov's Way of the Horse book and divination card deck. I use it in my handouts.

Thanks for you kind words. Wish I lived in your neck of the woods for your get-togethers. We are anything but isolated here in Silicon Valley, life in the fast line with driverless Google cars. Thank goodness for ranch and horses.

Dixie Crowe
03/30/2016 10:50pm

As an art major many years ago, we all really worked on the art of constructive criticism during our critique sessions. Trying to find areas in other's artwork that could be improved, not tearing down, not just positive fluff, but also not setting rules or laying down laws to control or tame someone else's expression. It takes a lot of trust, like-mindedness, respect, give and take, and it had to be learned. I didn't realize how rare that combination was in the rest of the world until later. In the rest of the world criticism is about tearing someone down, trying to make them fit some expectation or value set, projecting doubt and fear, and telling them they're wrong. So I can see why they have the label of haters. But I think that is learned, too. I think it's hard to live fully free of caring about other's opinions, but maybe that is learned, too because I'm getting better at it the older I get.

Reply
Jennifer Archibald
04/01/2016 1:37pm

Great insight! Thank you so much for sharing! Why do you think constructive criticism isn't taught in other fields or even to us in grade school?

Reply
02/07/2017 3:37am

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02/13/2017 10:35am

I believed there is two types of criticism; an open rebuke and the unhealthy one. An open rebuke is way where you are being corrected and criticize from a certain scenario and the purpose is to not repeat the same mistake and be a better version of yourself. On the other hand, the unhealthy criticism is that they judge you and degrade your being based on their own set of standards and principles.

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