Letting Criticism Make You, Not Break You

yellow conference: spread goodness and bloom

It is nearly 2 a.m.

My baby, husband, and teenager are all sweetly dreaming. The house is silent, and I have my computer screen dimmed so it doesn’t wake my husband up. And my heart is burning; my hands are shaking.

You see, today I posted this piece on my personal blog about something that was pounding my convictions.

It got a good amount of reads and a decent amount of likes, agrees, and reposts…but then there were two…the TWO.

Two opinions that caused me to reread and reread and reread my writing, my opinions, my heart and ask where did I go wrong!?

yellow conference: spread goodness and bloomOne overt comment asking me why I would post about this issue when there are so many others, in his opinion, larger, to be talked about. I felt this was an attack on my creativity and my process. 

Another was asking me a personal, political question–to which I responded privately only to get a long answer as to why I shouldn’t share my opinions in this arena. I felt like my intelligence was being questioned, and my voice was being silenced. 

There were only these two negative interactions. So, why am I still up? Why am I fuming? Why do I feel like the rug has been pulled out from under my feet and there’s an incessant need to just do something to fix it…

I was never trying to ruffle feathers. I’m a pretty peaceful introvert, and usually keep my posts very personal with a focus on foster and orphan care…but this time, something really hit me hard…I just felt defeated.

yellow conference: spread good and bloom

When our cause is attacked, it can feel extremely personal.

Something I’ve invested my life in (women’s justice) was just demeaned and dismissed. And something that I take so much pride in (communication and writing) was rallied against. I was told, in so many words, that I was focusing on the wrong things, and that the red flags and dangers I’ve been trained to observe were “not that bad.” 

Sharing what you believe in is vulnerable.

Whatever you are sharing about or advocating for, whether it’s your favorite shampoo or your opinion on the 14th Amendment, it’s deeply personal. You are sharing a piece of yourself with the world, and this is a beautiful thing about social media. The danger comes when people don’t celebrate you being you and decide to invoke their beliefs on what you stand for.

yellow conference blog: spread good and bloom

So how do we move on from this sort of criticism set-back?

I wish I had five foolproof steps to offer you, but, the honest truth is I am clearly in process. What I will share though is, as going along with our current theme, the concept of elegance comes to mind…So how do we let this criticism make us better, and not break our spirit? 

Deal with the attacks gracefully.

Watch what you say, because it may come back to bite you later. Take a pause before you respond, and really assess if a response is necessary, helpful, and worthwhile. Will you feel better after it (long term…not that ravenous spit out that will surely start a never-ending, defensive rebuttal dance). Read over your response a few (hundred) times just to make sure you are really representing yourself, your brand, and your cause well-and not just reacting to an attack.

Try not to take it personal.

Said the girl who just tossed and turned for thirty minutes before getting up and writing her feelings out (it’s nearly 3am now…). But truly, a lot of these responses are just trying to make a fussy over something that probably doesn’t make sense or really matter! It’s really odd the kinds of things people hear when they are on the hunt for an argument. No matter how well structured your piece is, there will always be room for someone to add or dismiss something and start an argument with you over nothing. Just, take a breath, and remember–this is not about you. This is, most likely, about them.

Shut it down, or simply don’t engage.

You do not have to respond…

Can I repeat that? As painful as it may be…you do not have to respond or engage. If a senseless argument is what they are looking for, the best thing you could do is either not respond or give a quick, “hey, we disagree…I’m not going to engage any further. Have a good night!”

yellow conference: spread good and bloomRemember what you are fighting for.

If you are passionate about Haiti orphans, look at some pictures of a recent trip you went on. If you are passionate about civil rights and racial reconciliation, reread comments you’ve received on posts that have inspired your followers. Take time to remind yourself: you are doing hard and good work. And you are doing the best you can. Remember your successes and rejoice in your growth.

Log off, turn it off, and take a break. A LONG one.

Go to bed, take a walk, drink a latte, vent to a friend, pet a kitten (it’s real therapy guys)…do anything you can to set your mind back at ease and remind yourself of the good and simple things that exists in the world. A baby doesn’t have to _fight _to be cute–they are innately adorable and kissable. Remind yourself that not everything has to be a fight, step back and smell the fresh air. Then put your gloves back on (or “white hat” for my Scandal lovers out there…) and get back to work.

Last, but not least, find encouragement from your tribe.

Wake your husband up, call a best friend, meet with a fellow activist or mentor and just ask them to listen. Tell them what’s on your mind, your fears, your anger, whatever feelings were brought up for you-bring them up. But here’s where it get’s good: then let them speak into it. All of it. Let them remind you that you are doing good (hard…but good) work; something necessary and noble that’s worth being listened to and respected. Let them affirm your call and affirm your growth so that you can take one step just a little taller. Let yourself be believed in.

What are some of your tricks for getting over criticism?

Photos by Haley George

Sally Kim

Sally is a wife to one and momma bird to five-it’s a good story. Well crafted Vanilla Lattes and gram-worthy coffee shops are her love language. When not mommying, you can find her editing for her client friends or writing on her blog, Letters From A Mister.