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DUNN: Fear of criticism holds us back

Features column

“To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.”Elbert Hubbard

This quote reminds me that inherent in trying or reaching toward any dream or goal, is the opportunity for and likelihood of criticism. To go after what you want, to speak out about what you believe, and to make something of yourself requires that you put yourself “out there” for others to voice their opinions. What I have learned is that the quality of my life is dependent upon my ability to filter both the praise and the criticism I receive because it is an impediment to cling to either of them.

Fear of criticism is the death of possibility. When we are fearful of being criticized by others, we fail to try. We play it safe and learn to do only what is likely to get a stamp of approval by those on the outside. To take risks in our work, to do something different than the norm, and to live outside the box that society has built requires courage. And, to live this way means being willing to be vulnerable. Dr. Brene Brown says, “Vulnerability is the most accurate measurement of courage.” I believe that without it, without vulnerability, we cannot achieve ultimate fulfillment in life. How can we live fulfilled lives when we are basing what we will and will not do, who we will and will not love, what we will or will not write, or where we will and will not go on the opinions of others. When we allow criticism to dictate our actions, it effectively silences our truth and distorts the vision we have for our own lives.

The fear of criticism is connected to our experiences of shame and humiliation. We are deathly afraid of someone validating the already recorded message we carry around in the back of our minds, “I’m not good enough. I’m not smart enough. I’m not … this I’m not … that.” We operate from a place of inadequacy, treating this message as some truth to which to adhere rather than as some fallacy which to overcome.

This means taking a risk to do something, say something, and become something. Criticism is tough. It can feel like someone knocking the wind out of your sails, but if you can just stay with it and use all the available support and resources you have in your arsenal, you can sail into the possibilities and realize your vision. You are resilient enough and capable enough. Stay in courage … be encouraged.

Email columnist LaTonya Dunn at ln_dunn@yahoo.com.