• James McNeil

Critics and encouragers

“Every baseball team could use someone who knows how to play every position, never strikes out, and never makes an error. The only problem is that it’s hard to get him to lay down his hot dog and come out of the stands.” John C. Maxwell.

We are all intimately acquainted with criticism. Sometimes, it’s unwarranted from total strangers. A casual stroll through practically any social media outlet will show this. All you have to do on social media to be criticized is express an opinion and wait. Sooner or later, your opinion will be blasted because “of course it’s wrong!”

However, the difficult criticism does not come from these people. Just like a professional athlete does, we can learn to ignore the criticisms of those who don’t even know us. The difficulties come from trying to deal with the criticisms of those that know us. When our parents, siblings, other family members, and friends criticize our choices, it affects us much more deeply.

Criticism from those close to us can become a huge trigger for impostor syndrome. Impostor syndrome is characterized by not feeling good enough or feeling like a failure. When those that we’d think know us best criticize us, this can intensify incredibly.

What do we do?

How do we combat the criticisms of those closest to us that pull us down with their criticisms?

Craig Valentine has the answer. If you don’t know who Craig Valentine is, you are seriously missing out. He won the 1999 World Championship of Public Speaking. (Yes, there really is a world championship.) After winning, he wrote a book about the basics of public speaking. After all, as a former champion, he would know a great deal about how to be successful at it, right?

Yet on a video on YouTube, he tells us that his friends thought he was wasting his time. He hadn’t thought about the cost involved, marketing, or even the fact that outside Toastmasters Inc. ® he was relatively unknown. This could have easily triggered impostor syndrome for him, but he turned to a good friend to ask for some encouragement. His friend obliged, and Craig finished the book.

What he did, we can do too. I’ve had to do it. “I need some encouragement. I’m feeling very discouraged.” Granted, you need to be very careful about who you ask to encourage you. I strongly recommend you not ask this of those criticizing you. Find someone you can trust to give you a word of encouragement when you need it, and offer one in return. After all, your friend will be discouraged too.

Just as many people use their ability to communicate to tear others down, we can use ours to lift others up. Which will get you closer to your dream? Think about it.

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