The criticism that kills

This morning, I woke up feeling really low because last night I got negative feedback. “You’re trying too hard” was what they said. “You’re taking more than your share”. If I was a salesman, that would be more than my share of the clients. If I was a on a team, that might be more than my share of the boss’ attention.

On any other day, I would have been fine. I would shrug it off, ensure I give more of my time and keep going about my day, balancing how much I take with how much I give. But today, I have a build up of negative self talk; a build up of problems that individually would be easy to overcome, but together bring me to my knees. The speech I am supposed to be writing for my gig in a mere month’s time, the lawn that is getting too long while the mower gets fixed, the daughter that wants a daddy to play with her, the bills that want me to get paid so I can pay them – the build up of things that need my attention and my utter lack of ability to deal with them all has accumulated to the point where I just can’t cope any more. Then comes the criticism. Like twisting your ankle while you try and crawl home, battered, bruised and sore, after losing a fight, it appears much bigger than it actually is.

The thing is, as a speaker you are selling yourself. So when someone tells you they don’t like the speech you gave, or that your website could be improved, or that you are taking more than your share, the step to thinking they are criticising you, not your product, is very small and very easy to make.

It would appear that I am not alone in this situation. Apparently there are other people out there somewhere who also sometimes feel low. People who also get negative feedback and let their positivity be overridden by that feedback. My good friend Tom O’Neil tells me that having times when you are feeling low, rejected, as though the world doesn’t like you is normal, to be expected, happens all the time to everyone he knows. Even though he is an international speaker, top selling international author and regular contributor to the NZ Herald (among other publications), he insits he has been through phases like that in the past. (Surely not! I think. Someone as successful and proactive as Tom can surely never have doubted himself!).

The big question is what do you do when that feeling hits? Do you let it get you down to the point you fall out of being proactive to just being reactive, hoping to therefore stay under the radar of those people (the ones with your best interest at heart, of course) who say you take more than your share? Is the answer really to listen to them and stop taking? How do you react when you are in the ditch and feel like every passing car is throwing rubbish out their window, using you as target practice? (Just a passing thought: Is it that you take too much? Or is it that they are actually afraid to ask and resent you for having the confidence to simply go out and get what you really want?)

Here is the advice Tom gave me; advice that got me back into the driver’s seat of my car. Advice that I would like to put out there for those of you who have experienced feeling like I did this morning and would like to avoid doing so again:

Experiencing fear, being criticised, having problems, feeling low and depressed is like driving really fast over a small hill on a country road. There comes that moment where the car lifts slightly, your stomach lurches up into your throat and you feel like you are weightless. It is both a thrilling and scary feeling. In that moment, there are two ways you could go:

  • You could listen to the fear, let go of the steering wheel to hudle into a corner, lose control of the car, miss the corner just behind the jump, go off the road and have a nasty accident
  • Or you can choose to grip the steering wheel even tighter, remember why you are driving on this road (i.e. what your ultimate goal is), concentrate and correct your direction as necessary, so you make the corner, stay in control and continue driving towards your destination, with increased experience and a story to tell.

Tom reminded me that fear and experiencing problems is not the problem. Letting those problems rule your life and take over your rational thinking is the problem. Not getting back on the horse and continuing to ride like the devil is the problem. Allowing others to dictate how you feel is the problem.

Why are you in the position you are in? What is your goal? Where do you want to be in 1, 3, 5 years time? By concentrating on the goal, you realise that in 5 years time, the problems you experience today won’t really have any importance. If anything, they will only have made you stronger, given you things to talk about, enable you to tell the new recruits that they are not alone in feeling this way. You realise that a positive person would say that these problems are actually just glitches – really useful glitches – they are actually the things that make the journey worth taking. They make the stories.

And think about it: how many of you would have read this post if the content of this post was, “Today was a completely normal day. Things went exactly as planned. No surprises.”

These ‘problems’ are the spice of life. Enjoy them, embrace them and learn from them. Just make sure you have your seatbelt on. My seatbelt is called Tom O’Neil. Thank you Tom.*

Who is your seatbelt?

*Please check out his website:


One thought on “The criticism that kills

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s