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“Imagine what you’d do if it absolutely didn’t matter what people thought of you. Got it? Good. Never go back.” ~Martha Beck

Confidence.  One of the definitions of confidence is the “belief in oneself and one’s powers or abilities; self-confidence; self-reliance; assurance.” (dictionary.com).  When you’re confident in yourself and your abilities, you don’t give a hoot about what others think about you.  Or, you don’t let it get to you.  But, what if you weren’t confident?  What if you doubted your worth?  Think people would pick up on that?  (answer is yes).

Confidence in yourself, a belief that yes you are actually good enough just as you are, is elusive for many people.  And here’s the kicker:  more people are thinking about themselves than about you.  However, go to any gossip website, and you’ll see plenty of comments–negative and positive–about different famous people and you’ll see what is thought about them.  It’s so easy to criticize someone.  Is it accurate?  They’re only judgments and opinions–not facts.  They’re perspectives (and they can tell you a lot about the person making the comments).  Brene Brown talked about this on a show with Oprah recently when she read the comments about herself after giving a TedTalk.  Some comments had to do not with the talk, but judgments about her appearance.  I think Brene gives incredible value to the world.  Others choose to focus on disparaging her.  This was devastating to her.  But, she said, she read Teddy Roosevelt’s quote on daring greatly and this changed her entire outlook on critics.

confidencePeople can say some really mean-spirited things to others, or about others.  These words are meant to hurt–but only if you accept them into your consciousness.  You have a choice whether to believe them or not.  I’ll give you an example:

Hannah and Megan are sisters.  Megan is in an enmeshed relationship with her father and the two of them, with the father’s new wife, have been talking about (I call it dramatizing–when they build up stories that aren’t accurate but based on their opinions and filters; it’s mean-spirited gossip)  Hannah and her new husband without Hannah’s knowledge.  When Hannah comes to visit her sister and father for vacation, they let slip little digs and negative comments throughout her stay.  She isn’t sure what is going on, but tries to ignore their behavior.  Upon arriving home, she receives emails on the same day from the both of them.  According to her sister, she is a bad mother and is a robot; Hannah is not courageous and Megan can’t be authentic in their relationship if she can’t tell her sister these things about her and she has to hide them.  Her father’s email echoes the same sentiments.  He has decided not to contact Hannah anymore until she “learns a lesson.”  Megan refuses to talk to Hannah as well.  Confused, Hannah at first takes it on and personalizes it.  Feeling betrayed and rejected, she asks herself:  “Am I bad mother?  What does being a robot mean?  What lesson is it?  What did I do wrong?”  Then, she starts to be angry:  “How can I be treated like that?  What the heck?  And who made them parents of the year?  I thought being part of a family meant accepting imperfections and talking about things.  They’re rejecting me–and I can’t even try to resolve it because they won’t pick up the phone to call me.  Well, that’s dysfunctional!  How is that being authentic in relationships?” Then, acceptance:  “It’s their loss.  Boy, what ridiculous things to say.  Wow, their projection is over the top!  Why would I want that in my life?  I want supportive and loving people in my life, not people who put me down.”  For Hannah, getting criticism from her family was more hurtful than from getting it from others.  This rejection could have easily devastated her.  Instead she relied on what psychologists call resilience.  This term means having the ability to bounce back from experiences that are difficult or traumatic.  Part of resiliency relies on a positive view of yourself.  It also helps if you have loving and supportive relationships.  Additionally, the ability to manage intense emotions and impulses helps as well (you can find out more about resiliency on apa.org).

Resiliency = the ability to bounce back from experiences that are difficult or traumatic.

A person can really become damaged when they take on others’ criticisms–especially like Hannah who received it from family members–the very people who are supposed to be loving and supportive of one another.  Some don’t even stop to reflect on whether the criticism is even accurate — they just accept it as “truth.”

So here’s a great visual for all you visual people out there:  Say someone stops you on the road and tries to give you a load of dog poop they found on the street.  Do you take it?  Would you accept it?  Please, oh please I hope you say “NO! Are you kidding Nicole?”  You wouldn’t allow it to touch you would you?  Why take on other people’s crap?  You know in your heart you’re a magnificent being.  You know you are enough, that your life is too valuable to accept this.  Sometimes we can grow from what others say (that’s feedback), but criticism is not kindhearted; it is nearly always mean-spirited.  I’m reminded of that old kid’s rhyme:  I’m rubber you’re glue.  What ever you say bounces off me and sticks to you.  Let it stay with the person who’s trying to be hurtful.  You have a choice to take it on–make a choice that is life-enhancing, not life-distracting.

“What other people think of me is none of my business.” – Dr. Wayne Dyer

I’d like to know:  Has someone’s criticism of you held you back?  How do you handle other people’s opinions of you?  Which hurts more:  Someone you are close to’s criticism/opinion/judgment or a stranger’s?