We are all guilty of caring too much about what our peers or family members might think of us. But sometimes, this fear of judgement can stop us from achieving great things in both our personal and professional lives.
Best selling author Seth Godin argues that it isn’t the “overrated” fear of failure that holds us back and keeps us small, rather it is the fear of criticism. We hesitate to be innovative, creative or to speak up because deep down we are worried that someone will hate it and voice their opinions. No one wants to be told that their ideas suck, or that a career change will be a big mistake.
Luckily for us, there are successful risk takers out there who are sharing their strategies on how to stop thinking the worst and keep criticism from holding you back.
You Are Not Your Work
We’ve all been there. You spend hours on a piece of work you can finally feel proud of, only to submit it and receive a bad review. And it really hurts. Thus comes the negative self talk right on cue to make us feel worse.
Rohan Gunatillake of Mindfulness Everywhere (the company responsible for the popular app Buddhify) says that we have a bad habit of identifying ourselves with the work that we do, wrongly attaching the opinions of the work, to ourselves. So if the work fails, by simple logic, we feel like a failure.
In his 99U talk, Rohan explains that this is a dangerous place to be in, especially in today’s volatile world of scattered attention.
The cure? Decoupling self and work. Rohan uses mindfulness phrases (certain phrases you choose to read out loud, reflect on them and notice how they make you feel) to do this.
He invites you to repeat the phrase: “I am not my work”. Then to pay close attention to what happens when you say it, being aware of all the thoughts that come up. He states that practicing this mindfulness technique starts decoupling self and work, in turn helping to defuse some of those fears of being a failure, and the pain that comes with it. And then, he says, is when the magic happens.
What If You Do Nothing
Marie Forleo, host of MarieTV, American life coach and entrepreneur (and she’s been on Oprah, people!) says that when we have the opportunity to do something new or outside of our comfort zone, we tend to think about the worse case scenarios if we decided to say yes to this. Try her exercise to rewire your relationship with fear, and make progress towards your aspirations:
Grab a pen and paper and write a list of all the things that could possibly happen if you said yes to taking up this opportunity or change you are thinking about. Include all the worries of criticism you might get from this decision.
Next to that list, make another one, but ask yourself this: “What’s the worst thing that can happen if I decide to do nothing?” Again, write down all the things that could happen if you decided to play it safe and keep your ideas and plans hidden from the world.
Now compare each list and decide which life you would rather live. This practice flips your negative self talk on its head, helping you decide whether the thought of not doing something can actually be scarier than going for it, making a bit of critique sound like the better option.