"Don't worry if you're making waves simply by being yourself. The moon does it all the time."
~ Scott Stabile
In my last blog, Taming Our Inner Troll, I wrote about coping with our own inner critic. But, what about the outer critics, the ones who might consist of some of our closest relationships?
When speaker, wellness coach, and writer, Quentin Vennie, was on my internet radio program, we spoke about making the choice to do what we love, rather than to do what we think we're supposed to or what will lead to what most people view as success. "I like to wake up every morning and be glad that I'm making a difference and love what I'm doing," he said. "I know a lot of people who make a lot of money, but hate their jobs. Are they successful? I would rather get paid less to do what I love than get paid more to do what I hate."
If you follow your truth, perhaps stepping outside of your Zone of Excellence, as Gay Hendricks, author of The Big Leap, calls it, in order to step into your Zone of Genius, you will undoubtedly run into critics. "In the Zone of Excellence ... you provide a steady supply of all things that family, friends, and organizations thrive on." On the other hand, when we're in the flow of following our true calling, we're in the Zone of Genius, wrote Hendricks, and we're likely to find that many of those same family members, friends, and organizations are less than happy with us for making that choice.
Vennie continued in our interview by stating, "Whatever you speak out into the world, you start to believe. Your beliefs become your actions. At the end of the day, whether you believe that you can or you can't, you're always going to be right." Also, at the end of the day, ultimately, what you speak out into the world, will lead to criticism by others. There will be those who say that you're wrong, whether it's about taking your desired path or regarding your beliefs about what's happening in the world. "If everyone loves you, you're probably playing waaay too safe. If you're real, at least a few people might be annoyed. A little criticism sometimes can be an awfully good sign," wrote Tosha Silver, author of Outrageous Openness.
However, while "a little criticism" might be a "good sign," sometimes people go way too far. For example, during this presidential election, some have taken to verbally assaulting each other to a degree that we have not ever seen before. Perhaps, this trend reflects our comfort with social media so that we feel brave enough from behind the shield of the computer screen to make more extreme negative personal comments toward people whom we consider to be our friends. In fact, there has been so much name-calling, character assassination, and vitriol in this election season, that it has made me wonder if we'll be able to heal our friendships when we have a new president in the White House.
So, how do we deal with these criticisms and even verbal assaults, especially when they come from our friends, family, or partners? Therapist and author of The Five Things We Cannot Change, David Richo, wrote that one of the absolute truths that we cannot change is, "People are not loving and loyal all the time." That applies to even our closest relationships. Richo points out that once we accept this as true, we won't be disappointed when it happens that those people who are dear to us say or do something that is the opposite of what we might consider "loving."
One tip given by Richo for preventing hurt feelings is to keep the focus of the disagreement on the topic discussed, rather than slinging personal attacks at each other. Richo writes, "The choice in communication is between two approaches: adult problem solving with focus on the issue or an ego-competitive or defensive style with focus on winning, self-assertion, and not losing face." The latter approach is most likely to lead to bitterness.
No matter how much we try to prevent it, though, there will be times that hurtful criticisms are made. In his bestselling book, The Four Agreements, author don Miguel Ruiz, writes, "Don't take anything personally. Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won't be the victim of needless suffering."
In addition, we need to ask ourselves if we also have become so caught up in being right, that we've made personal attacks, as well. If that's the case, making amends can go a long way toward healing the relationship. Extremely important in this healing equation is the act of forgiving, both forgiving others and forgiving ourselves. The most that we can ask of people in our life and of ourselves is that we all do the best that we're able to at this moment.
Author of the bestseller, You Can Heal Your Life, Louise Hay wrote, "Forgiveness opens our hearts to self-love ... That person who is the hardest to forgive is the one who can teach you the greatest lessons. When you love yourself enough to rise above the old situation, then understanding and forgiveness will be easy. And you'll be free."
As I wrote in my blog, Forgiveness: Why? And 8 Tips for HOW, forgiveness is necessary for our own wellbeing. Anger and resentment burns up our energy and keeps us stuck. Forgiveness releases this anger and increases our ability to feel joyful and peaceful. It can even improve our health, because holding onto anger has been linked to many health issues, including cardiac dysfunction and chronic back pain. However, it's easier to decide to forgive than it is to actually forgive. It's difficult, even for myself, sometimes, to give up old resentments.
Having the intention to forgive and acknowledging our responsibility for our own healing are very powerful steps for releasing pain and enjoying life. We also need to be willing to adopt a new perspective about that person whom we are trying to forgive. That is, make an effort to see where they're coming from in their own life, realizing that people hurt others when they've been hurt them selves.
Empowerment coach Kathy Sparrow, founder of Thriving at Your Edge Adventures says, "Miracles happen when we are courageous enough to heal for our own benefit. Then forgiveness is possible and we become free of any hooks and resentments that keep us from truly living our own lives." Sparrow related a personal story to demonstrate the power of forgiveness. Her first marriage to the father of her two children was extremely volatile, she told me, and yet eighteen years after their divorce, they were able to break bread over Thanksgiving. "We've all done our work to forgive and move on. What a beautiful legacy to leave to our children and grandchildren," said Sparrow.
Learning from our pain is an important part of forgiveness. What did you learn about yourself and about relationships from the hurtful event? Perhaps, what you learned was that you can survive being hurt. Greek poet, Dinos Christianopoulos, wrote, "What didn't you do to bury me, but you forgot that I was a seed."
Practice forgiveness with other people and with yourself daily. As with most skills, the more we practice, the easier it becomes. When you decide to let go of the resentment, notice how joyful you feel and how much freer you feel to follow your dreams.