Can you remember the last time someone criticized you?
I betcha can!
I may even go as far as guessing that, in addition to remembering, the critique is sort of ingrained in your system in such a way where – when you think about the experience – it pushes a pin-sized sword into your side, and creates that clenchy-cringey feeling almost instantly.
Am I right?
‘Cause I can feel mine as I write!
The thing is, we humans have a tendency to remember the one negative thing over the gazillions of positives.
This tendency is SO strong that several studies have sought out understanding WHY.
In a study shared by Stanford and Florida State University, Professor Baumeister reveals those who are “more attuned to bad things would have been more likely to survive threats and, consequently, would have increased the probability of passing along their genes.” 
He states, “Survival requires urgent attention to possible bad outcomes but less urgent with regard to good ones.” 
Ahhh, so it’s a simple #SurvivalTechnique – how NEAT! 😉
While an active attunement to the negative may have served to keep our hunter and gatherer ancestors alive, I think you would agree this tendency does little more for us now than threaten our ability to thrive.
So how do we overcome this tragic tendency?
How do we continue creating confidence while constantly exposed to criticism? (Both from others and from our own heads!)
First, we cope.
COPING WITH CRITICISM
I think you will agree that criticism of ANY kind is a major confidence killer.
YUP – sometimes even the “constructive” kind.
In fact, when I first wrote this blog my biggest fear was without a doubt what other people would think, and the criticism I may have to face.
Would I be doomed and deemed a mad Millennial, or massive loser?
Would people laugh, look down upon, or devalue the things that made my heart beat just a bit harder?
Honestly, the fear was so pervasive that morning of my reveal, I felt like I was on the verge of passing out.
It was like that teeth-chattering, guts-splattering type of scary, you know?
I know what you’re thinking, because I was thinking the same thing:
But it’s just a BLOG, Kendra.
You know, some words slugged together and safely sent without a second of physical, people contact?
And yet, pushing that post button 3 months ago felt pretty dang similar to stepping on my flight to a foreign country, for a year long, contracted commitment, all alone.
(Photo taken in 2019, En route to join Worldteach in Quito, Ecuador…I’m smiling, but really I’m trying to keep from crying before I turn the corner.)
Why was I so damn scared to drop the blog?
Well because (to let you in on a not-so-secret, secret 😉 the Breakthrough Balance is really nothing more than my heart on a platter.
Which meant that any criticism I received about BB, felt like a fork sticking straight into me.
But I was at least attuned enough to know that was my fear talking, not my truth.
So, (as you know ;), I DID DA THING, and dropped the blog!!
And when I did, I received an immense amount of LOVE.
Every ounce of which I will be eternally grateful for.
But it wasn’t ALL love.
Because not everyone’s ready for a blog like BB.
Not everyone’s open, receptive or ready for a breakthrough.
And that’s okay too!
Because all I care about is YOU, and our quirky community that IS ready to.
Ready to fully embrace their infinite potential to BE more, and believe more, than mainstream society and media might influence us into believing we can.
But that doesn’t mean the judgments didn’t hurt me, or don’t still.
It doesn’t mean that when those in my close circle weren’t open and encouraging towards what I was creating it didn’t sting.
Or when I caught whiffs of critiques on my content choices it didn’t cloud my confidence.
Remember those studies I shared earlier?
We always remember the thing that we did NOT get right – even #science reveals that plight. 😉
We’ll always remember the one person that didn’t say they were proud, as is revealed by the double-decade’s worth of vulnerability studies done by researcher and author, Brené Brown.
With her Ted talk transforming her life when going viral in 2010, Brené brings a fresh perspective to light when it comes to criticism, courage and vulnerability.
Brené believes the only way to fully love our lives, selves, and avoid “the suck” (aka: suffering) is to step into shamelessly owning the story of who we are, and acting on courage regardless of how uncomfortable it feels.
Because Brené’s 20+ years of studying such topics show that vulnerability is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy and creativity.
All stuff we want, right?!
While I think you’re nodding YES with me, dealing with criticism is something all of us have to do no matter what life path we choose – courageous or not.
The good news is, what and who we surround ourselves with can help.
THE KEY IS A CIRCLE
Have you ever heard the saying, “Your success is in your circle”?
The statement stands solid when it comes to coping with, and overcoming criticism too.
You may not be able to choose your critics like you choose your close circle of friends, but you CAN choose how much you care.
Easier said than done, I know.
But Brené beats the drum to this calling in a way that counts.
Before I tell you what she says, it’s important to know that she often refers to the “arena” as an insider area people enter when they embrace vulnerability, and embody courage.
Anytime you’re allowing yourself to be true to YOU – you’re in the arena.
And when acknowledging this arena of authenticity, she says:
*PSA* It’s a long one, but (if you care to claim your courage) you’re gonna want to read every line.
“A lot of cheap seats in the arena are filled with people who never venture onto the floor. They just hurl mean-spirited criticisms and put-downs from a safe distance. The problem is, when we stop caring what people think and stop feeling hurt by cruelty, we lose our ability to connect. But when we’re defined by what people think, we lose the courage to be vulnerable. Therefore, we need to be selective about the feedback we let into our lives. For me, if you’re not in the arena also getting your ass kicked, I’m not interested in your feedback.”
In other words:
MIND THE OPINIONS THAT MATTER
Mind the minds that are making an effort to be open and honest – even when it’s intimidating.
Mind the minds that make an effort to empathize.
Mind the minds that are ultimately in arenas aligned with the one you are, as well as the values within those you wish to embrace, or invest in.
Think about it:
How many times have you allowed someone with the complete opposite values to you, make a suggestion about what you should do?
How often have you allowed someone outside of your corporate sphere to critique your career?
Or accepted your super-single BFF’s “ultimate relationship advice” as irrefutable insight?
This is what, I believe, Brené is talking about too.
And even though we’re ALL about being open to unique perspectives here in the BB community, it’s important we also understand:
If you’re excessively taking to heart irrelevant types of critiques and advice, you risk sacrificing your sense of courage, vulnerability and authenticity in the gunfight.
Because this arena of vulnerability and honesty?
May only be embraced by a special few.
And, if you’re still reading this, I wholeheartedly believe one of them is YOU.
Which means it will be worthwhile for you to remember:
Mind only the opinions that truly matter.
Okay – pow wow DONE – and NOW let’s get into the fun.
CREATING CONFIDENCE AND COURAGE
We create courage and confidence by choosing to stand UP in our arena, and be vulnerable both with ourselves and with others.
As Brené says, “Vulnerability is not knowing victory or defeat, it’s understanding the necessity of both; it’s engaging. It’s being all in.”
Being in the arena means being brave enough to risk the rocks that may get thrown at you from all angles, and choosing to live out your authentic experience anyways.
Being in the arena means being conscientious about the criticism you take to heart (including your own!), and surrounding yourself with those ready to be real around you, as well as respect the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to LIVE in the arena alongside you.
Because, the truth is, until you’re all in the arena (and all OUT of caring what cheap-seat-peeps think!), you will shy away from stepping into your most gloriously authentic self, and the person you were born to be.
Because WITHOUT being all in, we may miss out on uncovering and embodying what our purpose within the arena really is.
And isn’t that the worst risk of all?
Having merely lived a half-life, half in?