No one wants to hear something negative about themselves or their work. We try really, really hard to avoid this. But in doing so, could we actually be losing part of what makes us all so uniquely great? This brilliant talk from an expert on vulnerability, Brené Brown, gives us a few great tools to go about dealing with critics.
Every one of us, regardless of our professions, will eventually have to put ourselves and our work out there in our own personal arenas. And in doing so, there is only one guarantee: there will be critics.
It’s easy for us to get caught up in them, even finding ourselves altering the work we do best based on our worry of negative remarks. But Brené Brown asks, is there another way to go about dealing with that negative impulse? Her talk gives us all some great tools to try out.
“I want to be in the arena. I want to be brave with my life. And when we make the choice to dare greatly, we sign up to get our asses kicked. We can choose courage or we can choose comfort, but we can’t have both. Not at the same time.” —Brené Brown
So, who is Brené Brown?
Simply put, a very wise person who is pointing to insights that are long overdue.
As a research professor at the University of Houston, she’s spent the past two decades studying courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy.
And the best part? She’s applied her research in her own life, putting herself out there with five #1 New York Times bestsellers and TED Talks that have gone crazy viral—like, one of the top 5 most-viewed TED Talks of all time kind of viral. (We’ve featured two of her talks before here on EWC, actually, check it out).
Brené has a gift for inspiring us into looking at ourselves—at those characteristics that we may see as weaknesses—and flipping the script. Vulnerability? Well, that’s just the opening for connection. And critics? Those people who make it so that we may not even want to show what we’re doing to anyone? Who make the act of being vulnerable even more difficult? She has a way of helping us look at them differently as well.
I stumbled upon this talk of hers from the 2013 Adobe 99U conference, at what I’m seeing as the best possible time in my own life. At 25 years old, I’m finally realizing that it doesn’t matter how hard I try to make everyone happy, it’s just simply an impossible feat (which is surprisingly relieving). This talk has helped solidify that idea, given me the tools to execute it, and put me in the mindset to keep moving forward in the way that I prefer; doing what needs to be done to create the reality I want for myself.
My hope in sharing this talk is that it gives you a glimmer of that feeling as well.
(This conference is for “creatives”, but don’t get nervous if you don’t identify with that label. If you’re a person who has to interact with the world at all, this is a must-see.)
Here’s that quote she was talking about again (this time a bit longer):
“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 and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, 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 he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.” — Theodore Roosevelt 2
So with that, what’s stopping you from getting in the arena?
The stairway is lined with worry and doubt, but at the top, chances are, you’ll be met with congratulations and support. Of course, there will be the naysayers—even in your own head—but the choice is yours to weigh whether what they have to say is worth giving up the pursuit of doing what you love. (And really, the people who matter are the ones who actually like your work!)
Every time you put yourself out there, that’s progress. And just by entering, you’re already the winner—at least in the regards to your own life.
“What’s the greater risk? Letting go of what people think – or letting go of how I feel, what I believe, and who I am?” —Brené Brown
Continuing the conversation…
Alright, so now that we all know how to enter the arena and keep our critics in their place, what if—now, hear me out—you actually want to listen what they have to say?
If you have time to watch to another brilliant talk, I’d like to point you to the following article. In this, we look at how former Danish Parliament member, Özlem Cekic, sat down with numerous people who sent her hate mail and through their seemingly opposing views, they found connection.
This may seem counterintuitive, but just think: if you know more about the lives of the people who are saying the awful things about you, how could that affect how much of an impact their words have on you? What is life like for that person who made that awful comment on your work?
Check it out here:
So how do you go about dealing with critics?
“When I see people stand fully in their truth, or when I see someone fall down, get back up, and say, ‘Damn. That really hurt, but this is important to me and I’m going in again’—my gut reaction is, ‘What a badass.’” —Brené Brown
Do you have any tips of your own on how to get up those stairs and into the arena to face the world? Any phrases you repeat to pump yourself up? Jumping jacks, maybe? How do you make putting yourself, and your work, out into the world easier? And how do you get yourself back up when you fall?
Please send me an email with your tips, tricks, and motivations! I’d love to put together a follow up with suggestions from our awesome readers like you.
As always friends, stay open to new possibilities! You never know what will come when you just put yourself out there.
“No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.”—Albert Einstein
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- “Brené Brown: Why Your Critics Aren’t The Ones Who Count.” YouTube, 99U, 4 Dec. 2013, www.youtube.com/watch?v=8-JXOnFOXQk. Accessed 20 Feb. 2019. ↩
- Vora, Tanmay. “Great Quotes: It Is Not the Critic Who Counts – Theodore Roosevelt.” QAspire by Tanmay Vora, 11 Jan. 2010, https://www.qaspire.com/2010/01/11/great-quotes-it-is-not-the-critic-who-counts-theodore-roosevelt/. Accessed 20 Feb. 2019. ↩