How to Live Your Dream When You’re Terrified of Criticism
I used to be terrified of what other people thought of me. Terrified is a strong word, but it really was an emotion that felt greater than fear.
It’s the reason I didn’t publish my writing until now — I had to take the time to work on facing my fear, understanding it with compassion and then slowly moving forward with it still being there.
Trying to do something when you’re no longer afraid is the wrong goal.
Fear will always be in our lives — it just comes with living a human life. Our brains are trained to be afraid of many things that would actually serve us: getting out of our comfort zones, trying something new, and being bold.
The goal is to learn how to move forward despite fear, especially if you are being called to do something creative or meaningful. You then have a responsibility to bring it to life.
If you’ve got an idea you want to pursue but you’re racked with fear like I was, here are some mindset changes I’ve made that helped me finally start my own creative projects and put them out in the world.
1. You have to be willing to let people be wrong about you.
I was afraid of other people’s negative opinions about me. That was something I just couldn’t bear the thought of.
But it’s something that none of us can control. The greatest news about this is that you are never responsible for how another person perceives you. Everyone interprets everything through their own biases and personal opinions. People choose their own thoughts.
When you worry about other people’s opinions, you are worrying about something that you cannot control.
Worry is a useless emotion. It brings you nothing. Combining it with the fear of something you cannot control is a recipe for stress and anxiety — and in this case, the stress and anxiety does not serve you in any way.
Let’s assume the worst (as far as caring what other people think goes). People are going to talk shit about you. They’re going to tell everyone they know about how bad your work is or how much they can’t stand you. They’re going to talk shit about you to their family and friends.
You were not put on this earth to worry about what other people are going to think and say about the you that is filtered through their own beliefs.
Remember, it has nothing to do with you.
2. Create a new meaning for your fear.
What are you afraid of? Really narrow it down and think about it. For example, here are some of my thoughts about my writing that create my fear:
People are going to think I’m stupid.
This is useless and won’t help anyone.
My work sucks.
All of these seem like well-founded fears when they’re in my brain, but they are also the meaning I am giving to the situation. The great news is that we can always change the meaning of anything.
So I decided to change it to this:
This is going to help someone.
This is important, because I feel like it is, and I don’t need a concrete reason on why it’s important. I know it is and that is enough.
This will reach the right person.
This is for my self-expression.
I love doing this. I love my work.
It is important to acknowledge our fear and then rewrite the story we are telling ourselves. We are either living in love or in fear.
3. Embrace your “Elusive Creative Genius”
“Is it rational, is it logical that anybody should be expected to be afraid of the work that they were put on this earth to do? What is it specifically about creative ventures that seems to make us really nervous about each other’s mental health in a way that other careers don’t do?”
Elizabeth Gilbert gave a speech about our “elusive creative genius” that many of us experience. She says that there is some sort of creative spirit or energy that comes and goes; it possesses you and then leaves.
“Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome: People did not happen to believe that creativity came from human beings back then. People believed that creativity was this divine attendant spirit that came to human beings from some distant and unknowable source, for distant and unknowable reasons.”
Sometimes we need to stop asking questions and trying to understand our dreams so much.
I’ve been able to produce content that I am really proud of by just allowing this energy to exist and take its course without questioning it. I don’t stop it. I let it happen. I get out of the way.
4. Stop making it about yourself because it’s bigger than you.
“It’s about the genius. It is about the message in your heart that has to come through your lifetime and it can only come through you. There is nothing at stake here because it is not about you anymore. It’s about sharing, it’s about being committed to the vision coming forth and manifesting, versus being committed to looking good.”
This is what Alexi Panos really solidified for me in her speech, “Why Vulnerability is Still a Cop Out.” When you’re possessed to do creative work and you feel like you must do it, as if there is just no other option for you, then it is greater than you even realize.
Something is working through you. It is your job to allow that to happen. It is your job to get out of the way and stop making it about yourself. There is nothing to be afraid of because it isn’t about you anymore.
Take a look at the integrity of your work and what you’re trying to do. Are you trying to guide other people? Alleviate their suffering? Inform them? Make them laugh?
If you are putting aside your ego in order to bring this vision to life that could potentially make a difference and impact someone’s life in a positive way, then what better thing could you be offering the world?
If you want to show up with integrity and a willingness to be raw and real in order to serve people, what more could you offer?
5. You Are Enough
We are going to end on this note. This is always an important reminder. We live in a society that operates through the human ego, so the idea of living our dream can feel scary, nonsensical and overwhelming.
Remember, you are a divine being. You have been made perfectly and everything you do is enough. Just you breathing is enough. Your consciousness existing and experiencing life is enough. Everything else you do is your abundant gift to the world.
There is a reason you have a desire and a dream. You’re meant to fulfill it.