Let’s talk about criticism
Today, I’m writing about something a little bit different than usual. I’m writing about a problem that deeply affected my happiness over the last year. It’s a problem that I have faced almost every day that has caused fear, tension, anxiety, and all sorts of other icky feelings.
In this blog, I’ve shared how my whole life used to be dictated by the opinions of other people and self-comparison, especially through social media. But what happens when it’s not online and when it’s not in your own head? When someone takes the time to criticize your life decisions, to sabotage your happiness, and steamroll you? What happens then?
This past April, I’ve graduated college and have been busy creating the life that I know would make me happy. I knew I was finally becoming a full-fledged adult: graduating from college, starting out a career, setting down with my partner, and getting my own place, etc. But I’m unlike most people that you’ve probably met… Because unlike most people, I’m bound and determined to do what I want to do for my own joy and happiness. And that meant making a lot of decisions that were just for me.
That meant going on a month long trip through Europe with a group of people that I’ve never met. It also meant starting a blog where I regularly write about topics that I’m passionate about. It meant making a decision to move to Tampa with my boyfriend. And it meant patiently waiting for the right apartment and a job offer that I’m really excited about (not taking the first one that comes along). I should mention that these were all wildly unpopular decisions with just about every person I talked to.
Like I said… I’m not like most people. I’m one of those crazy, nut jobs that believe that we have one life, and we should do what genuinely makes us feel happy and fulfilled regardless of what others think. But what I’ve learned throughout this transition period more than ever, is just how critical others can be. I’ve learned just how eager people can be to try to control the lives of others.
You Are A Badass.
Jen Sincero, a New York Times Best Selling Author talks about this issue in one of her books, “You Are A Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness And Start Living An Awesome Life.” In my favorite part of the book, which actually inspired this post, Jen writes:
“Very few people are even aware of what’s available, however, because we live in a fear based society that loves to get all uppity toward people who wake up from the Big Snooze, blast out of their comfort zones, and follow their hearts into the great unknown. Oftentimes, taking great leaps of faith is labeled as irresponsible or selfish or insane (until you succeed of course, then you’re brilliant). This is because: Watching someone else totally go for it can be incredibly upsetting to the person who’s spent a lifetime building a solid case for why they themselves can’t.”
Side Notes: “the Big Snooze” is Jen Sincero’s term for the Ego.
One of my experiences with this issue over the past year happened to me while sharing that I was taking my dream trip to Europe. I received heavy criticism for my decision to book a graduation tour through EF College Break. Let me share with you some of the comments and criticisms I heard from family, friends, neighbors and complete strangers…
- Taking this trip was dangerous, irresponsible, and selfish.
- A trip like this would be a huge waste of money.
- I should wait until I’ve established a career, got married, and had kids to take this trip.
- I could be killed by a terrorist.
- I would be sold into sex trafficking.
- A stranger could throw acid on my face like a girl they saw on the news.
- I could be drugged and assaulted by some guy on my tour group.
- I would be lost in some foreign city and not make my way back.
- I would be “Taken.”
- I wouldn’t be able to keep up with the tour and I would want to come home.
- It was going to be scary.
- It would be a bad decision to go.
- It would be smarter to stay at home and focus on finding a job instead of taking a graduation trip.
Very few people acted excited for me and encouraged me to go. And excuse me while I add… Isn’t finishing five years of college worth celebrating with a vacation? Isn’t now the perfect time in my life to take this trip? Wouldn’t a trip to Europe expand my mind and get me out of my comfort zone? Wouldn’t it be an incredible experience that I can look back on my entire life? And doesn’t this decision affect me, and me alone?
Fast forward to now…
I’m back from my graduation trip, I’m on a waitlist for the apartment I want, and I’m about to move to Tampa. All of those people that gave me such heavy criticism liked all of my social media pictures from my trip, left wonderful comments on them, and told me how incredible the trip looked. But… now there are new decisions I have made, that are getting just as much backlash. People are even going so far as to have arguments with me about the mattress that I would like to buy! As if somehow the mattress I sleep on at night impacts their life in any way.
This pattern of making a decision for myself and my own happiness, and then being harshly judged by others has caused incredible stress, anger, and confrontation. To say the least, I’ve had a very difficult time dealing with it. That is until I started reading “You Are A Badass.” Jen Sincero made me realize that I’m not the only person that has ever had to deal with this issue. This happens to people all the time throughout every stage of their lives. Other people will criticize you based on what major you choose, whether you breastfeed or use a formal to feed your baby, for your decision to become a vegan, for which school you send your kids to, for which neighborhood you live in, etc. It happens to everyone all the time, and it’s not worth taking offense to. It’s human nature to avoid risk and change, so much that it makes other people nervous when they see others doing it.
Jen Sincero writes, “…one of the first things you might have to deal with when you decide to wake up from the Big Snooze and make massive positive changes in your life is disapproval from other people who are snoring away. Especially the people closest to you…”
So what now?
Now that I’ve realized this, I feel a lot less angry and stressed out over what other people think about my decisions. I have also figured out how to liberate myself from everyone’s two cents. And it’s so easy that you could do it too.
Step One: Just go for it and don’t hold back
That thing you’ve been wanting to do that you think about all the time… do it. Buy the ticket, move to that city, start that business, go vegan, whatever. If the opinions of other people are the only things holding you back from doing what you want, that’s insane. You will never be able to make everyone happy. Even if you do take all of their advice, live like a hermit, and avoid risk and change at all costs. Humans are naturally judgmental, that’s not going to change. So what would be the point of trying to keep everyone happy then?
One of my favorite quotes is, “You could be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world, but there will always be someone who hates peaches.” Point being, don’t change yourself and the course of your life in hopes that it will make everyone else happy, it’s impossible to make everyone happy.
Step Two: Don’t tell anyone what you’re doing!
When you’ve made the decision to do something that you want to do for your own happiness, don’t tell anyone! Not unless you know that the person you’re talking to will support you. That friend or family member that thinks plastic surgery is the devil… don’t tell them you’re getting a boob job. Refrain yourself from telling people those things that you want to do for your own satisfaction if you know that it’s only going to cause an argument, bring on criticism, and make you feel bad. Save it for later, once you’ve already gone to that festival, transferred to that new school, taken that yoga retreat, or sold all your possessions and moved into a tiny house.
This seems so simple, I can’t believe I didn’t think of it sooner. I could have saved myself a lot of stress over the past year had I learned this earlier. Now, I have some big changes coming up in the next few years that would cause even more upset than my trip to Europe! And they’re all going to be surprises. Unless I know that someone will be immensely supportive of me, I won’t be divulging my plans. I shouldn’t have to feel like crap, justify my decisions to others, and ruin my excitement for the sake of other people’s opinions. And neither should you.
Step Three: Don’t be that person
Once you’ve decided to live the life that you’ve dreamed of and not hold yourself back, you want to make sure that you don’t become that person. That person who used to jump on you about your decisions. Be extra conscious that you don’t accidentally make the same mistake with others. Have an open mind and avoid looking at people’s decisions through a lense of concern, fear, or judgment. When friends or family tell you something, have a conversation without immediately sharing your own philosophies and opinions. People who are judgemental suck all of the fun out of life for the rest of us and cause people to go their entire life having never accomplished their dreams.
Thank you for reading! Comment below and tell me about a time when you made a decision for yourself and received harsh criticism! Which groups of people criticized you the most? How did you find ways to liberate yourself from their opinions and live the life that you’ve been dreaming of?
Photographer: Allen Fajardo @alewafeni.
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