A common fear amongst writers and other creative sorts is pouring your heart and soul into your latest masterpiece only to have it ripped apart by way of criticism and negative feedback. This is especially true in the digital arena where people often sling mud at strangers from behind their keyboards without batting an eye. I've seen this fear actually paralyze many talented artists from really going for their dreams and putting their work out there. In my own writing, I used to find myself playing it ridiculously safe, careful not to stir the pot too much or offend anybody.
I remember the first time I submitted a somewhat controversial blog to The Huffington Post, a little over a year ago. The topic itself wasn't actually all that contentious. It was about the power of looking on the bright side and finding the positive outlooks in life. However, in an attempt to reach a broader audience and hopefully inspire some clicks from folks who would not normally click on a "fluffy" title (and who perhaps needed to read it the most), I named the piece with a provocative, "Are Positive People Annoying?" Posting a question like this, I knew that I was just asking for it. For starters, not everybody believes in the power of mindset and might even find optimism to be far-reaching because life isn't always rainbows and sunshine. The question itself was opening up the gates for criticism.
Honestly, I'm not sure what stirred in me when I presented this particular submission, but I basically said "f" it. I had played around with this title for a couple of days. Should I hit submit? Should I change it to something a little fluffier? But, ultimately, I decided to stick with my guns. The whole reason I pour my heart and soul into writing blog posts is to help others find inspiration, face their own fears, and step into their own truths. I felt like I was doing a disservice and not being totally authentic by playing it safe and ignoring my intuition. I also felt like I could reach more people by being real. And, I was right. By following my gut on this one, I got more exposure with this particular article than with 10 prior. I got many replies from people who felt inspired with a plan on how to start changing some of their thinking patterns in order to be more happy. Those replies made my heart sing!
I also got the criticism that I was previously holding back in order to avoid. Some took little jabs and others called the advice hogwash. One person even said, "No, positive people aren't annoying, but this author is." I actually got a little giggle out of that one. And, you know what? I survived. None of it stung as much as I had anticipated in my fearful state. (Isn't the anticipation almost always worse than the actual act?) The fact of the matter was that I was standing in my truth. I was writing from my heart about my experiences and offering advice to others that had helped me tremendously in my own life. And, many were so very thankful for it. This is the mission I had set out on in the first place! My intention was manifesting. It was glorious. So what if everybody didn't see eye to eye? That's life. We all have different opinions and ways of thinking. And we all know that, especially on the internet, people will feel free to share their negative thoughts in constructive or non-constructive ways. But, I knew it wasn't about me personally and I didn't mind. Not everyone will love my writing. Just like not everybody likes chocolate (weird, I know! But true).
In the work I do in my private coaching practice, I know that this fear of rejection and criticism is a huge block for many talented folks. Fear of starting, fear of failing, fear of push back. But, it doesn't have to be that way. Since facing my own fear head on, I've gained a new perspective. Instead of writing to please everyone, I've felt free to stay true to myself and the purpose and intent that I started this labor of love with in the first place.
With each blog post after, I started to get a little braver. I shared business missteps and relationship woes. I talked about my deepest fears and things that have held me back. I opened up about my deep-rooted perfectionism. And, guess what. People connected. People crave authenticity. Yes, it feels a little uncomfortable to be totally open and vulnerable. But, that is where the magic is. That is where the real impact can be made. Any negative criticism is totally worth the price of admission when you are able to connect your art with others on that intimate level.
If you feel your own fear of rejection or criticism creeping in and putting your creativity in a choke hold, try the following to change the energy around it:
- Remind yourself why you do what you do in the first place. Why are you so passionate about it? What is your mission? Where do you vision yourself taking this love of yours in the coming years? How are you going to help make the world a better place with what you have to offer. These are the things that REALLY matter! Connect with your purpose.
- Realize that pleasing everyone is mission impossible. Don't bury your head in the sand avoiding potentially negative feedback. Once you receive some, you realize its not that big of a deal anyway. We've all been there. As a matter of fact, you might just learn something from it. So, pay attention!
- Go inward. Meditate and/or reflective journal on it. When I was going back & forth with myself for two days "should I submit this ballsy title that is basically begging for criticism or just play it safe?" I meditated on the question and received powerful feedback from my inner-guide that was telling me in no uncertain terms, "Push the button, already!!!" And, I am so glad that I did.
- Get logical. What is the worst that can possibly happen? Seriously. Some people might not like it? They might even leave negative feedback on the internet. So what? They are just opinions. Everybody has one. They don't define you in any way. And, what is the best that can happen? You finally faced a fear of rejection (and it only gets easier from here on out on future creative efforts) and people actually love it. (Of course they do!)
You can use this mindset reset on anything you are holding back from. Maybe you are scared of taking the leap on a new business venture because of fear of failure. Maybe you aren't going big enough with your dreams because you fear feeling crushed if it doesn't happen. Just go to the steps above. If you have strong passion points driving you, can tune in to your inner-guide for assistance, and the derail the irrational fear through some simple logic -- you're golden. Go for it!