Shakespeare was wrong. All the world is not a stage. You just think it is. And it is this thought -- the belief that you need to perform for an always-watching and always-critiquing audience -- that creates massive anxiety. If you'd like to reclaim some of the time and energy you spend worrying about what others think, then read on and be inspired to be, create and share your talents without fear of embarrassment.
There are three sure-fire ways to eliminate criticism in your life: be dreadfully normal, do not take any risks whatsoever and do your best to sacrifice what is special and unique about yourself in order to blend in as much as possible. Of course, this is clearly not the recipe for living your best life. You cannot avoid criticism, but you can learn to live with it and not allow it to have such a grip on your life -- in other words, you can get to the point where you care so much about yourself or your idea that you're not sidelined by a critical comment, negative review or raised eyebrow.
With these nine tips, you can stop letting fear and anxiety prevent you from being the person you are and from sharing your creativity:
- Find a role model. Last week, the first installment of the film version of Ayn Rand's classic book "Atlas Shrugged" was released in theaters. But if you really want a boost of inspiration from one of the greatest creative rogues in literary history, read her other book, "The Fountainhead." Howard Roark will have you cheering.
Focus where it counts. Think of your available attention as a glass with a limited capacity. You choose what goes in the glass, but the glass restricts how much you can put in it. Similarly, you have a limited amount of mental energy with which to pay attention. Great public speakers have a trick to reduce nervousness. The more they focus on their message, on how much impact they want to make and on their audience's needs, the less mental energy they have to devote to their butterflies, to screwing up or to how much the presentation could make or break their career. So whether you are interviewing for a job, pitching something to a new client, writing a book, submitting a blog post, dancing or asking for a raise, the more you can focus on the task at hand, the less energy you'll waste being afraid or worrying. Be like Bruce Lee. Anxiety is the product of what is vs. what could be. The best way to reduce anxiety is to clear your head of what could be. Bruce Lee was a master at this. Instead of focusing on the outcome of a fight, he emptied his mind and became formless and shapeless to adapt in the moment to what was, rather than what might be. Focus in the moment on doing, not on winning. Be careful whom you ask. Stop asking people what they think of you and your ideas -- especially people who are critical, unsuccessful or unhappy. Their comments will be less about your idea and more of a reflection of their negative and unhealthy state. Desensitize yourself. What is the absolute worst-case scenario? A bad review? Being booed off stage? Getting fired? Imagine the absolute worst-case scenario and then ask yourself, "Could I survive that?" Stop reading negative comments and reviews. Has a waiter ever placed a plate in front of you and warned you that it was really hot, but seconds later you felt compelled to touch it anyway? Why do we do this to ourselves? I've spoken to bestselling authors who have garnered hundreds of five-star reviews on Amazon.com, but they become obsessed with reading and re-reading a handful of negative comments. If it hurts, don't do it! Ask the right questions. First, make sure you are asking the right person. Then, instead of asking, "What did you think?" a much better (and more positive) question is, "How can I make this better?" Pray for criticism. The second-to-worst thing is getting negative feedback, but the worst thing is being ignored. Jump at the chance to have an impact on the lives of a few rather than being ignored by all. Remember that. Don't need to please everyone. All it takes is 51 percent of the people to like you (and sometimes not even that) to become president of the United States. This means the most powerful person in the world has a job leading a country where half the people to fire him. No matter who you are or what you do, there will always be people who won't agree. Accept it or hide. Those are your only two options.
Don't try to psych yourself up to the point where you simply don't care enough to let criticism affect you. This strategy is wrong and dangerous. A much better approach is to care deeply about who you are and what you are creating. Follow your passion and your inspiration. Go where you are called and create what is inside you. Care so much for others that you don't care what they think. The greatest achievements the world has ever seen were started by individuals who marched to the beat of a different drum. As you set out to change the world, just make sure your drum is loud enough drown out all the critics.
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