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Risking Criticism

“We won’t lie. The decision to become visible is a risk.” – Chris Brogan and Julien Smith

We have put ourselves out there, followed the dream, taken the stand, shown up because it was right and necessary… and someone takes a pot shot, undermines us, talks trash. Being visible can suck. Not acting because we fear visibility is worse.

In order to be criticized for what we’ve done, we have to be willing to do something. Sometimes the continued activation of our true Will in the world can feel difficult because it means we fly above the radar. There is no longer as much room to hide from ourselves or others. This is true whether we end up in the larger public eye, or step forward within a small community of friends.

This is often the bane of work on scales small and large. We grow tired of scrutiny, or shy from even the idea of scrutiny. We complain about other people’s projects and have to field complaints about our own. There are two facets of this that interest me:

First, when I am offering criticism of someone else’s project, it isn’t just good form to think of something to compliment them on in order to bracket the critique. What is more deeply important is that I have to realize the risk and effort required for them to have put the project together at all. If I can start with that, my view changes immediately, which then enables my critique to offer more valid information. Truly, something in me needs to applaud the chutzpah and will necessary to have dreamed the dream, nailed the boards together, built the coalition, organized the event, written the book, planted the garden, raised the child…

The attitudinal shift I’m speaking of changes something that connects me more deeply to my core and broadens my vision of what it is I am facing that I wish was different. This applies in multiple situations and with many people: at work, at home, amongst friends, with public figures, artists, politicians, committee members. If I can access my frustration after I acknowledge an appreciation of someone sticking their neck out, I bring both power and compassion to my response. That is always a good thing. It also serves to shift mere carping and complaining toward actual criticism, that might help me or someone else to learn something different.

The second thing I want to address is our internal difficulty with ideas of perfection. Thinking things have to be exactly a certain way or be counted as failures not only attaches too much importance to the outcome rather than the process, it ties our life energy up into knots, often with the help of thoughts and emotions. When we are worried about “what will people think” we are not moving from our core desires, nor are we daring to enact our will. We allow fear to dictate our growth and our learning. We end up staying home, smaller and less rich than is possible.

In order to enter the creative phase of activation, we have to be willing to risk censure, derision, and even applause. We have to be willing to be seen. To help turn energy toward greater flights of daring, let us make an internal turn first: whenever we start to criticize someone – even ourselves – can we first pause and thank them for showing up to try? That alone is a source of inspiration.

Since everything is a risk, we may as well learn to shine.

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