I’m back! And I’m ready to slay another myth with you in this series as we uncover some of the reasons why women are hiding their brilliance. In case you missed the first in the series, you can catch up here.
Today’s culprit is a big one, is connected to the fear of failure I mentioned in the first post and it is most certainly holding back and distracting women from being their most honest selves. Let’s find out what it is, shall we?
The second reason why women are hiding their brilliance is….
FEAR OF CRITICISM AND THE OPINIONS OF OTHERS.
This came up a lot in the responses to my question about what was holding people back from moving towards the things they would most like to do. It’s no real surprise that most of us are consumed by what other people think. We are bombarded by the opinions of others incessantly. Daily! On so many platforms! And sometimes we even illicit it ourselves! We create polls and ask for opinions and we take it all in from anyone and everyone. Our brains consume and catalogue the thoughts and responses of others at a rapid speed so it’s only natural that being concerned about what other people think has become a big barrier to women feeling like they can pursue the things they really want to. When it comes to other peoples opinions, we need to be careful and we need to get really clear on who’s opinions of us really matter.
Fear of criticism or the opinions of others is ultimately a creativity crusher and like I mentioned in my first post in this series, when we operate from a place of fear we will never be doing our truest work. When we operate from a place of constant concern about what others think we will never be liberated enough to show our most authentic selves. We will always be hiding something; some part that we worry isn’t enough or is too much for other people.
And that’s the risk. The risk is that we stay hidden in that place because it’s safe.
Being interested in the opinions of others is completely normal; it’s part of our human nature to be curious about what others think of us, if we’re connecting or resonating but it doesn’t have to rule us. It’s completely OK to want to connect with others but that connection should never come at the cost of our authenticity, our real opinions, our real desires and our autonomy to change our minds, try new things or diverge.
Often the people closest to us find it hardest to see us evolve and grow. There are honest fears for them in there about what it means for them if you change - and often their fears or seeming resistance of your growth comes from a loving place of not wanting to see you put yourself in any kind of emotional risk.
Don’t forget, fear - whether it be of failure or of what other people think - is the little safety mechanism in our brain that senses vulnerability looming. It is the guard at the door that anticipates that we are about to share something or reveal something or produce something that may expose our truest selves and it shows up to try and close the door in different ways to try and keep us safe. Sometimes it shows up in our own negative thoughts and sometimes it shows up in the form of family or friends who put down our ideas, resist our growth, make light of our pursuits or maybe never acknowledge our successes.
You see, when we begin to leave the same old routines, test old stories and beliefs about ourselves, stretch beyond our normal comfort zone, or contemplate any kind of change in our life we can be assured that the safety mechanism in our own brain will spring into action and it can also trigger that safety mechanism in others who want to protect us or keep us safe.
But safety is not the same as fulfilment. Safety is not the same as bravery. Safety is not the same as honesty. And we all deserve to live fulfilling, brave, honest lives on our own terms. Even if it means risking failure.
When it comes to feedback, I love what Tara Mohr has to say (I always love what she has to say). She says that “all substantive work will bring both praise and criticism”.
This means that if we are bringing our best, most honest selves to the table in the work that we do or the ideas we have, we will never get to avoid criticism - in fact, we should expect it. But we need to work out a more healthy way of dealing with it than the old stories of defensiveness, deflation or maybe both.
If you take risks and present the world with your own authentic thoughts, ideas and actions, sometimes you’ll be praised and sometimes people will dislike you or misunderstand. And the most liberating part of this is that we have no control over that whatsoever! I know, I know…no control! That sounds excruciating, not liberating. But believe me, when we reframe criticism in this way, it frees us. Stick with me…
Our only responsibility in the world is to show up and do the work that is most true to us. We are not responsible for how anyone else responds to us. I can’t think of any major influencer, leader, change-maker or creative thinker that has not had both devoted die-hard fans and equally harsh critics.
During the ‘Playing Big’ course I was part of this year we dug into the topic of criticism and feedback at length. One of my great takeaways from that part of the course was the understanding that feedback only tells us about the person giving the feedback. It doesn’t actually tell us if what we are doing is good or bad or anything else. It really only informs us of the expectations or the preferences of other people. I love this way of thinking about feedback because it detaches the work from being good or bad which is where most of us trip up. We get feedback, we zoom in on it and agonise over it and let it define our path ahead…
However, this model suggests a more healthy alternative: when situations of feedback arise, if we can calm ourselves enough to understand that the person giving the feedback is telling us only about themselves, we then get the opportunity to decide if that information is something we want to take on board or let slide.
Things to consider when feedback comes:
Is that person my target audience?
Are they also working in the same field? Are they putting themselves out there?
Are their opinions or feedback important for moving my work or ideas forward?
What does this tell me about the person’s expectations of this idea or piece of work?
And the thing is that some people will simply just not connect with you. Some will feel threatened by what you are doing. Some people love to put others in small places because they are worried about there not being enough space. Some people will want to be part of what you are doing only if it is helpful to them. Interpret feedback carefully. Test it. Be curious about who is giving it, and what it is saying about them and their expectations. Then, and only then YOU get to decide if the feedback is something you want to take on.
Here’s another tip from me: Please do not ask family and friends for feedback on something precious to you; something you’ve worked hard on or that you are excited about. This might feel counter intuitive but trust me, it’s important.
Firstly, it is unlikely that your family and friends are your target market and secondly, as I said above, there are too many complications added onto their feedback for it to be helpful or propelling for you – their own issues, their love for you, their desire for you to be safe. Go to them for support and encouragement, absolutely. But don’t go to them for feedback or opinions and make those boundaries clear from the get go. If you want to seek out feedback about something in particular, go to the people you are keen to connect with, to serve and impact. That’s where you’ll get the information you need to know if what you’re offering is connecting.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on how this fear of opinions and criticism effects you and I hope this post helps you detach a little bit from the opinions of others that can cripple our momentum and spirit. I hope this gives you permission to frame feedback in a way that is healthy and propelling for you. I hope this enables you to move more freely in the world in a way that is true to you without the baggage of other peoples expectations and opinions hanging on.
BEFORE YOU GO…!
Tonight is the last night for enrolment in my small group coaching course called ‘Movements’! It begins with a beautiful day retreat at my house this coming Sunday, September 30th and runs through the month of October. If you’d love some support in slaying your fears and moving towards your truest self, I’d love to have you join us. Click here to read more and grab your space!