They used to terrify me.
Critical and judgmental people, I mean. I remember when one of my first articles went viral on MindBodyGreen. A friend contacted me saying that he had read my article on the site. When I checked, the post was being displayed next to Deepak Chopra’s and over 16,000 people had shared it.
Holy moly! I couldn’t believe what was happening. At first, I was thrilled. My work finally got visibility and traction. Then the daunting thought hit me, “What if people think it’s bad?”
The thing was, I had chosen a rather provoking title: “Why ‘Selfish’ People Are Happier & Healthier.” I knew it would evoke curiosity, but also haters and critics (even if the article explained the reasoning behind the word “selfish” in it).
Today, MindBodyGreen doesn’t have a comments section, but back then it did. At the time, I barely dared to look at the article, because I knew the headline was like the Maldives for negative and judgmental people.
Once I finally did, though, I read comment after comment where people were trashing both me and the article. Ouch!
That was the moment I had feared for so long. I was getting judged and criticized publicly, which was terrifying. But also strangely exciting in a way.
I decided to write back to every single person. To greet their critique, not by being rude back, but by being ultra nice. The result? Almost every single person wrote back saying that they really appreciated my answer. Some apologized and several even added me on Facebook. (Not that I wanted to be Facebook friends with these people, but you get the point.)
Meeting the critics and haters can be painful. We don’t want someone else to invite doubt in, to trash our work, or to make us question ourselves. Just the thought of meeting them can often hold us back from pursuing long-desired goals and dreams.
But here’s the thing: There will always be critics and haters. Sorry to say it, but judgmental people aren’t going anywhere. Waiting for a time when nobody will be judging you or your work will mean waiting forever.
“There’s always haters, no matter what you’re doing — whether they’re complaining that everything you do sounds the same, or it’s too different.” — Avicii
So instead, choose to focus on the only thing you’re in control of: you. Below, I’ve listed eight ways for you to deal with judgmental people so that you can pursue your dreams:
If somebody is judging you, it says something about them — not you. If we’re scared of pursuing our dreams, we tend to be very harsh on people that do. If we’re scared of being seen as strict and cold-hearted, we tend to judge people that come across that way.
Simply, we judge others for the insecurities or shortcomings we find, or know exist, within ourselves. So somebody’s judgment is about them, not you. As Wayne Dyer said: “When you judge another, you do not define them, you define yourself.”
A few years ago, I stayed with an acquaintance for a couple of weeks. During our time together I noticed how critical, negative, and judgmental she was. If I chopped tomatoes, I didn’t do it the “right way.” If we were going out, I wasn’t wearing the right outfit for that particular place.
At first, I felt hurt and started to distance myself from her. That was until I realized this: If she was this judgmental towards me, she must be a hundred times harder on herself. I got to taste about one percent of her critical and negative side, while she was living with it all day long. Uh-oh!
When we feel good about ourselves, we don’t walk around criticizing people. Then we give constructive feedback that is genuinely helping the other person. Criticism and judgment come from a place of fear. And what happens if we respond to fear with fear? That’s right, we get more fear. (Pretty simple equation.)
So instead of reacting with fear — choose to respond from a place of love and compassion. Ask yourself what you’d say to someone who, deep inside, wasn’t judgmental, but scared. This is what I’ve found: The people that deserve love and compassion the least are usually the ones that need it the most. Be the bigger person.
Whenever I get criticized or judged, I do a “check in” with myself. Sometimes I get emails like, “Please unsubscribe me right now!” At first, that kind of email might freak me out, but after checking in with myself I’ll probably realize that I’m not affected by it. This was probably just somebody having a bad day and I happened to be there at that moment.
However, sometimes I get comments or emails that do get to me. When I check in with myself, they poke something inside, which means that there’s feedback there. So always check in and see if there’s a lesson in disguise. Dust it off and use it to your advantage!
Mark Manson wrote an epic post (and book) called The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F**k. In it, he talks about that there is no such thing as not giving a f**k. Basically: You cannot not care. If that would be the case, you’d turn into a psychopath or emotionally unavailable person. So caring is a good thing.
But your job is to choose what to care more about. Either you care more about making a difference, or about getting negative comments. Either you care more about creating the life you want, or about what people will think. In short: Become very selective in what you’re willing to care about.
Be honest with me. Who’s the biggest critic in your life? Most likely, that person is you. Am I right? So when people are judging or criticizing you, what judgment or criticism are we actually shaking and stirring? That’s right — your own.
Let’s pretend that you’re bad at painting, and frankly, you don’t really care about being good at it either. Then imagine someone telling you: “You’re really not a good painter.” Not a very nice comment, but would it keep you up sleepless at night? Most likely, you wouldn’t care too much about it. But if that person would talk about something you actually do care about, you’d probably feel offended. So, whenever someone is being critical and it gets to us, it’s a reflection of our judgment. Know that the judgment always was there — now it’s just been brought to the light.
This touches on the previous point. When it comes to expanding, growing, and developing we need to cut ourselves some slack. All professionals and pros were once beginners and amateurs. So settle your self-judgment by cutting yourself some slack.
Lower the bar of what you expect from yourself. Praise yourself for the progress you’re making and when failure, rejection or frustration bangs on your door — be ultra nice to yourself. Ask yourself how you’d be towards someone else in the same situation and say the same thing to yourself. The more you judge yourself, the more you fear judgment from others.
Judgment is a vicious cycle. The more you judge others, the more you’ll fear that others are also judging you. Whenever you find yourself judging someone else for their clothes, intellect, questions, hairstyle, or behavior — decide to replace that judgment with curiosity.
Judgment disconnects and separates. Curiosity connects and opens the door to new perspectives. Whenever judgment comes in, choose to look at it through the eyes of curiosity. Ask yourself, “How would curiosity look at this situation?”
We can’t avoid being judged or criticized. But we can choose how we interact and respond to it. Either we allow the fear to hinder us from pursuing our dreams. Or we use the judgment to our benefit.
As mentioned above, it can help us to gain valuable feedback, increase our compassion for others, and to build a better connection with ourselves. Whenever you find yourself in a place of fearing judgment from others, come back to this list.
Whatever you do — don’t allow fear to lead the way.
This planet needs you to come forth in fullness and to express your talents, gifts and epic personality. You need to be an example for others, not to be limited by their fears and perception.
Lastly, if all else fails, here is a piece of advice from Dr Seuss:
“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those that matter don’t mind.”
About the author: Maria Stenvinkel is on a mission to help people get a career they truly love. Download her free worksheet Get a Clue to Your Calling With These 10 Powerful Questions.
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