It was a beautiful and bright Saturday afternoon. My closest friend and I sat outside sipping the last of the summer's rosé as we took in the sights at the outdoor wine bar we were nestled in. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, she said it. She said the words almost no one (certainly no writer) wants to hear, let alone from someone they love and respect.
"I don't like your book."
The book she was referring to is my second novel in The Quest series (currently, the first has been optioned as a feature-length film), Following Bliss. And because I love my friend dearly and know that she meant no real harm, her criticism wasn't a barricade to our friendship, but it did spark something within me that needed to be addressed. Through my investigation, I uncovered five insights that reconnected me with who I really am, even amidst criticism, and it's my intention they do the same for you. I found that we can let criticism inspire, not deflate us. Here's why:
1) Just because it's "true" to one person doesn't it make it helpful or accurate. A critic usually thinks they are sharing their criticism from a place of "helping" -- either you or in the larger scheme of things, the world. But the truth is, it's merely their opinion. It may be true for them, but they are one person with one opinion. Their truth is most certainly not your truth, nor does it have to be. If there are many critics who seem to be knocking down your door with their "help" move on to insight number two...
2) Not everyone will "get" you. Everything we experience in life comes in through our numerous conditioned filters. It's why 10 people can see a car accident and all 10 have a different version of what happened. Or why we can view a work of art and have our whole world opened up while others may despise it. We all see life through the lens we have been conditioned and raised with either through religious beliefs, cultural guidelines or significant life experiences. The hippocampus, part of the brain's limbic system, records what occurs throughout our life as fact. Then it works with the rest of the brain to create stories and meaning for whatever has occurred. How we see the world depends entirely on our conditioned filters and that's different for everyone.
3) It actually doesn't matter what anyone else thinks. "I pay no attention whatever to anybody's praise or blame. I simply follow my own feelings." -- Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
I chewed on my friend's words, allowed them to sink in and even though it hurt, I couldn't let her thoughts deter me. In fact, I realized that even if I was the worst writer in the world, there's nothing that can stop me from writing. While I had agonized over the guidance I received to write fiction, I now know that it is an important part of my path. Besides, I'm writing because I can't not write it. Because the story flows through me and my inner guidance screams at me to complete it and share with others. Because when I pass on from this life, I will be so proud of myself for doing what I came here to do, even if people anywhere or everywhere think that it sucks. And isn't that what we're all going for -- loving our lives no matter what, experiencing the fullness of doing what we love?
4) Someone loves you. For every naysayer there are 10, 100, 1,000-plus who will love the work you are putting out into the world. Recently, I met a working an artist who has a very unique style of art. He was sharing with me that people often have incredibly strong reactions to his art, many with criticism. But, he also has carved out a niche that allows him to sell hundreds of paintings to those who not only "get" but absolutely adore his work. As he reminded me, his job is to honor the gift that comes through him and let the Universe take care of the rest. So, while my friend strongly disliked my latest novel, I've also received countless emails from readers who have felt inspired and even moved to tears from it. Bottom line: it's all relative and your people will "get" and love you for whatever it is you are moved to share with the world.
5) It's all happening for you. Ultimately, every experience in life happens so that we can become more of who we really are. Even when people show up with negativity and criticism, it's showing us a part of ourselves that needs attention. My friend was mirroring back to me my own shadow, my own self-doubt. Our exchange forced me to look at the areas where I was being critical of myself. So, instead of getting caught up in blaming her for being an unsupportive friend, I realized that I needed to become more of a champion for my writing and to release the self-doubt that she was clearly mirroring back to me. And that's when I called up my favorite BodyTalk practitioner to release my own internal criticism and step into my own self-cheerleading.
Instead of letting criticism sideline us, we all have an opportunity to let criticism inspire us. Criticism can allow us to get even more clear about our gifts, talents and what we want to share with others. It can allow us to heal aspects of our own inner critic and release us into the knowing that doing what we are guided to do is all that matters. It can set us free from people-pleasing so that we can be fully aligned with our soul's purpose. As I work on novel number three in The Quest series, I feel ever more determined to shine my light through each page, knowing that the message will reach those that it is meant to and that most importantly of all in this journey of life; I'm having a whole lot of fun along the way.