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The fear of criticism is a common human trait. We all feel hurt in a way when someone points out to us what they believe to be our weaknesses.
While taking note of a couple of critical comments from others is not a bad thing in itself, it becomes a problem when you allow the negative things people say about you or your project to control or discourage you.
As a student, you will be familiar with the disparaging remarks some of your tutors can make about individual students.
When a teacher makes very negative remarks about a student whose only fault is to be weak at a subject like Mathematics, then that teacher is no longer performing his duty. He has turned himself into a dream killer. His is simply a poisonous teacher. And that is why no student should take such a teacher’s comments too seriously.
The same goes for parents who condemn their children to the point of even cursing them only because they did something they don’t like.
If you are a worker in an organization, you will have come across at least one situation where a “boss” makes remarks that reduce a subordinate to sub-human depths.
How I coped with the fear of criticism
As a little boy growing up, I loved to create and build new things. I devoted all of my play time to building anything from miniature cars to houses.
But I also had this friend. Let’s call him Agbeko.
Agbeko would always stand by and point to, or laugh at any fault he saw with what I was building. Worse than that, he would draw my attention to approaching passers-by who would definitely be ridiculing whatever I was building.
The worst part of it all was this: Agbeko would suddenly run off to go and call our peers to come and see the fool I was making of myself.
You can imagine what would follow – a cacophony of shrill, chuckling, little voices telling me all the things I’d got wrong with my pet project.
Frankly, there were a few times I gave up on my dream of building something new. Why? Because I feared Agbeko would soon join me and start his thing.
Luckily for me, there was this other boy who would always come to my rescue.He helped me cope with my fear of criticism.
This other boy wouldn’t say much though: Don’t mind them. They can’t do what you’re doing that’s why they’re discouraging you. Envy would kill them all.
Before I knew it, he would be gone. He wouldn’t wait for the heat to be turned on him.
This second boy’s attitude helped to develop in me a certain kind of self-confidence right into my adult years – a self-belief some call my stubbornness.
I call it stubborn stick-to-it-ive-ness.
I don’t let what others think or say discourage me whenever I embark on a dream project.
But that doesn’t take away completely the fear of criticism. The good news for me is that I know how to deal with this fear of criticism, any time it rears its ugly head.
Almost all of us have this fear of criticism especially if we’re unlucky to have an Agbeko or two in our lives. But there are good reasons why we need not succumb to this fear.
I’m now going to share with you some important reasons why you should not allow the fear of criticism to control you.
Reason #1. Negative folks will never go away.
This is enough reason for us to dedicate ourselves to whatever project we dream of completing. We can accomplish great goals in spite of the criticism.
On the other hand, if we decide to put our plans on hold till the critics disappear, we’ll wait till eternity.
Reason #2. You will have supporters.
Not everyone is a self-appointed judge of the actions of others.
True, the fault-finders are very many. But you and I know that once in a while, you’ll come across wonderful, positive people who would do anything to encourage and assist you to achieve your vision.
I’ve met two such people in my life – a teacher back at school and an elderly man in my home village. I trust that you too will meet similar beautiful souls along the way.
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Reason #3. Good enough is good enough.
Did you know that we as humans will never reach a point of perfection? The technology we use today will look obsolete in a few years’ time, trust me.
But does that mean those who create what we use today are not reaping the rewards of their efforts? Sure, they are! So when you put in your all, be proud of the outcome and sell what you’ve produced because it’s good enough, at least for today.
Reason #4. Your imperfections can motivate you to go on and learn more.
Recognizing the fact that you don’t, and cannot, know it all can be used to your advantage. If for nothing at all, you will forget your fear of criticism.
Let this humbling discovery push you to search for more knowledge. Many are those who exploit this fear of criticism and make it work for their benefit.
Rather than allowing your weaknesses or those who point them out to you paralyze you, you should make them increase your appetite for greater insights.
Reason #5. There will always be folks who are smarter than you.
That’s another humbling fact of life I have grown to accept.
The earlier you begin to accept it and move on with your own life, the better it will be for you and others who are in desperate need of exactly what you have to give.
The good news is that you too are much better than a lot of folks. Chris Lema, speaking about the impostor syndrome, says this is enough good reason for us to just focus and do your best.
Reason #6. That’s why records will continue to be broken.
If the great sportsmen and women of yesteryear had worried about the fact that in a few years’ time more talented athletes would emerge to rubbish their achievements with more spectacular performances, they wouldn’t have created the fortunes they accumulated for themselves, their nations and their sponsors.
The lesson is this:
Ignore the critics. Do what you are capable of doing today and let tomorrow take care of itself.
Go ahead. Follow your heart. Create your music. Start your dream business. Study that course. Write the book. Begin your blog. Whatever it is, just do it.
Listen to me.
Stop allowing the Agbekos in your life to quench your fire. You are good enough, at least by our generation’s standards.
Dump the fear of criticism. Learn continuously to sharpen your skills. That is the best way you can impact the world in your own special way.
And remember, you can do this only when you take action now. Just act. Do it in spite of the fear of criticism.
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