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“To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.” – Elbert Hubbard

When was the last time you avoided doing something because of the potential criticism you might hear? Criticism can come from many directions. The criticism can come from your parents, your friends, your colleagues at work, or your customers. The quote above, provided by Elbert Hubbard, addresses this. Criticism is a necessary good and evil in life. It is good when it comes from a source that truly cares about what you do or cares about you as a person. The people that want you to do better will typically criticize the quality of your work. It might sound like this: “Hey, your first book was wonderful; this third one is a little disappointing.”

If you are being criticized by someone who cares about you, it may sound like this: “Hey, your first book was wonderful, you did such a great job describing this and that; the third one was disappointing, is everything ok with you?” The nuance between both statements is there, but one is truly depicting a person who is criticizing your work and cares about your product offering; while the other is depicting a person, who is criticizing your work, but cares about how you are doing and how that may have impacted your performance.

When I was searching the web for various articles, topics, and definitions of criticism, I ran across a diagram called the disapproval matrix. The author of this matrix is Ann Friedman (www.annfriedman.com). She breaks down criticism by people into 4 groups. The rational critics I described above are the Lovers and the critics. Both groups care about your work and you. The irrational group is at the bottom of the matrix. These groups are labeled the Frenemies and Haters. Obviously, we’ve all ran across the haters. These are the trolls out there whose miserable existence consists of nothing but tearing down others without any other reason than to get a rise out of someone. The Frenemies are those that undermine you and hope you fail, but criticize through a false veil of concern dripping in sarcasm. Interestingly, Ann also lists “yourself” as one of the frenemies in the irrational list.

This threw me for a loop, but after some contemplation really hit home and drove me right back to my original question: When was the last time you avoided doing something because of the potential criticism you might hear? Think about the excuses you tell yourself when it’s too cold out to take your daily run or when one donut, one cigarette, or one drink won’t hurt (I’ve earned it you say). Maybe you’re trying to establish a writing habit and before you know it that one game of “Candy Crush” turns into a 4-hour marathon, where everyone and their brother keeps sending you lives.

One of the keys to getting things done, achieving your goals, and establishing good or eliminating bad habits is affected by that one Frenemy you can’t run from—that internal you who never stops telling you that you can’t do this or that because you’re not good enough, other people have already done that, there’s no market for that, and the list goes on.

When you are trying to do something with your life, listen to the critics who really matter. These critics are the lovers and critics who care about you and your product. You can leave the rest in your dust without looking back, including that internal critic you can’t escape from. When that internal critic starts talking, turn up the music, look at something positive or motivating, meditate, or whatever you do to quiet that negative internal voice. You can do this. I know you can.

Until next time…