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Dealing with criticism: 5 tools to develop a thick skin

Dealing with criticism: 5 tools to develop a thick skin | Cultural Trendz | Scoop.it

“When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.” ~Miguel Ruiz

Have you ever opened a spring-loaded email? You know, the kind with a nasty barb inside that hits you like a punch in the gut?

My business partner and I had recently launched our new podcast, and he had forwarded me an email he’d received from a viewer.

“Just watched Episode One,” the writer said. “GREAT idea! But WAY too much talking. Want specifics, not Melissa’s self-indulgent blathering on about the creative process…”

Ouch. My vision blurred at this point, and the rest of the missive was lost on me. A hot flush prickled my skin from head to toe.

I recognized this feeling: it was something I’d been doing my best to avoid since early childhood. For much of my life, fear of criticism had kept me small and timid, hiding under my shell. Over the past several years, though, I’ve been stepping out of the shadows, playing bigger, putting myself and my work out in the world more boldly.

I knew it was only a matter of time before critics started lobbing nasty-grams my way, and thankfully, I was prepared.

If you want to live a big, bold, creative life, one of the first orders of business is learning how to deal with criticism.

The more you step out into the spotlight, whether literally or figuratively, the more attention and feedback you’re going to get, and not all of it will be positive.

As kids on the playground, we chanted that “sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me,” but words can and do hurt. They have the power to destroy us if we let them.

How, then, do we armor up against criticism?

Here are five tools that will help you grow a thicker skin.


Tool #1: Separate fact from interpretation.

When I opened that nasty gram from the podcast viewer, it would have been easy to interpret it as defining a core truth about me.

Instead, I reminded myself that her assessment wasn’t objective truth; it was merely her opinion. I might not like her opinion, but ultimately it has nothing to do with me, or with objective reality.

In the same way, if I launch a new workshop or offer a painting for sale, and nobody buys, it’s easy to leap to thoughts like “My work sucks. I suck.”

The fact that I didn’t make a sale doesn’t actually tell me anything about me or my work, however. All I really know is that this particular offer wasn’t compelling to this particular audience at this particular moment.

Separating fact from interpretation can help prevent you from sliding down into a rat hole of “I suck.” And it can even help you make tactical decisions going forward: if this audience didn’t buy, maybe I want to change my messaging, or maybe I want to find a new audience!


Tool #2: Find the shiny, red button.

Have you ever noticed how certain criticisms roll right off, like water off a duck’s back, but others cut you to the core, no matter what you do?

In elementary school, when the boys tried to taunt me by fiddling with my last name, Dinwiddie, and calling me “Dumb-widdie,” it was annoying, but it didn’t really hurt. Nor did it stick, because I had a core belief that I was smart. There were no fears or beliefs about myself for the insult to hook into.

On the other hand, for many years whenever someone called me selfish, it flattened me.

Somehow I got a message as a very young child that I was selfish. Then in my first marriage, whenever I wasn’t able to meet my husband’s needs, he declared that I was selfish. Even when my friends and family reflected back that I was loving and generous, those early beliefs were like a big, shiny, red button with a hair trigger, that got pushed really easily.

For years, the tiniest comment that I was acting in my own self-interest threw me into a frenzy of self-doubt and anxiety. As a result, I bent over backward for others in an attempt to prove that I wasn’t selfish.

No wonder an accusation that I was “self-indulgently blathering on” stung me so badly!

The criticism isn’t actually the problem here; it’s the beliefs we hold about ourselves.

When we can notice which criticisms wound us the most deeply, it shines a light on what our beliefs are. Not only can this help us to find neutrality again, with this outlook, criticism can actually become a valuable tool for self-growth.


Tool #3: Re-frame criticism as positive fuel.

Years ago, when I was a beginning calligrapher, a master teacher invited me to show him my portfolio.

I was scared to hear his critiques, until he assured me, “I’m simply going to tell you how you can make your work better.” Suddenly, instead of being terrified of his feedback, I was hungry for it.

Alas, not all of our critics will be so gentle and well intentioned. It’s not always easy to practice neutrality, but the more we can shift our mindset to look for the lesson beneath the venom, the more even negative comments can be useful to us, and even empower and fuel us to keep going and make our work better.


Tool #4: Ignore anyone on the sidelines.

That said, sometimes feedback isn’t useful at all. TED speaker and best-selling author Brené Brown has received comments on her videos such as, “If I looked like Brené Brown, I’d embrace imperfection too.”

This kind of insult has nothing to do with the work in question. It’s designed to hurt, not to help, and it has nothing useful to offer.

If there are some cases when a criticism can be useful, and other cases when it does no good at all, how do we sift through feedback to determine what to pay attention to, and what to ignore?

Brown likens nasty, unhelpful comments to the insults screamed down from the stands at the gladiators fighting in the arena below. It’s easy to yell that someone else can’t fight their way out of a paper bag when you’re sitting safely out of harm’s way.

So ask yourself if your critics are offering opinions that are truly useful to you. Are they metaphorical gladiators, fighting alongside you in the arena? Or are they potential recipients of your work?

If your critic is neither of the above, it’s likely they’re trolls hanging around on the sidelines. Ignore them.


Tool #5: Find a thick-skinned role model.

Did you know that Dr. Seuss, whose books sold millions over his lifetime, had his first book rejected at least twenty times? Thank goodness he persisted!

It’s easy to think that being on the receiving end of criticism means something is wrong with us, but the truth is, being criticized is a hallmark of doing cutting-edge, important work! Countless people who are now known for amazing things were criticized or rejected at first.

Think of Madonna, Lady Gaga, Hilary Clinton, Gloria Steinem: whether or not you like their work or what they stand for, you have to admit that these women each touched a nerve in our culture, and have gotten a ton of criticism as a result. Yet they never gave up.

The next time someone lobs a bomb your way, think about someone you admire, who kept forging ahead, despite their critics. You might even want to post their picture, or quotes by them, by your workspace to inspire you to keep going.

There you have it—my five favorite tools for handling criticism. Hopefully these will help you grow a thicker skin!

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Habits of happy and calm people

Habits of happy and calm people | Cultural Trendz | Scoop.it

Do you ever notice how some people always seem to have it together? They're calm and happy with both feet firmly planted on the ground, even amidst turmoil. Like a mountain that stands tall and strong, they weather the many storms that come their way. They seek out blessings and uncover them like the beautiful hidden gems that they are. Magic seems to find them each day, inviting an authentic smile to cross their lips.

Others, not so much. When similar turmoil is thrown their way, they tend to experience more difficulty dealing with the turbulence. Stress levels rise when life chucks its curve balls at them. The silver lining is difficult for them to see in the haze as they struggle to find their joy and feel stuck in their situation.

It's easy to say "Look on the bright side," or "Keep a positive mindset" so that everyone can be a part of the happy-go-lucky group. But sometimes in the throes of life we forget just how powerful we are in creating our own destiny.

In my own roller-coaster ride of a life, as well as in the work I've done as both an executive coach and an entrepreneur working with a diverse group of clients, vendors, and employees, I've seen and experienced the full spectrum of dealing with life's adversities.

In my observations, I've noticed that, at the end of the day, attitude is everything. It will make you or break you. But, it's not as simple as just flipping a switch to turn that powerful positive mindset to the 'on' position. It takes gentle reminders and some good, old-fashioned work.

When you're feeling the effects of stress and struggle, try to connect with some of these top habits shared by calm and happy people and allow the light to shine in:

1. They exercise regularly. It's well know that exercise releases endorphins, which leads to happiness. So get moving and get the happy juice flowing. Do so regularly and keep the stress and blues at bay.

2. They have a mindfulness practice. Many can relate to the crazy, busy, go, go, go lifestyle. It is so important to take time to slow down, savor, notice. Even finding just five to 10 minutes a day to sit in stillness or to walk in nature and really notice can help your mind build the 'muscles' it needs to let go of all the stress and worry, and just be present and joyful in the moment. This moment is all that we have, after all.

3. They honor their truth. What is it that lights you up? What do you just love to do and lose all track of time doing? Never mind what everybody else wants you to do, or what you think you are supposed to do. What is it that your soul keeps whispering to you? Honoring that is the ticket to Blissville. A suppressed spirit will cry out for help in many ways. Set your soul free and reap the rewards of a happy, whimsical life.

4. They take down time. You have to let those batteries recharge. Get your vacation on and refresh and rejuvenate. You don't need to be a big budget jet-setter, either. Take some time off. Mix up your routine. Find a new place to explore. Adventure and fresh sights are a powerful way to bring in new energy and shift your perspective in a positive way.

5. They say what they mean. It can be easy to fall into the trap of being a people pleaser or overly worrying about what other people think. But, every time you say 'yes' to something that doesn't fully resonate with you, you are essentially saying 'no' to your own goals and dreams. You can't be everything to everyone, but you can be true to yourself.

6. They let it all out (at appropriate times). Sometimes, a good cry is what is needed. Or, screaming into your pillow. Or going on a rant or perhaps a 10-mile run and taking your worries out on the concrete. Point being: Let it all out. Bottled up emotions will build and build until the pressure is so great that they come out with explosive force. It's best to honor them and find ways to let off a little steam. Then move onwards to a happier place.

7. They surround themselves with supportive friendships. By nature, humans are social creatures. Being part of a supportive tribe of people that get you and want to see you succeed is a key component to living a happy and full life. Align with those who have similar goals and dreams. The key to supportive friendships is to be a good and supportive friend. The rest will fall into place.

8. They express gratitude. By focusing on our many blessings (even the most basic ones like a roof over our head and food to eat), we have a lot more to smile about. In doing so, we take the spotlight off whatever we could be stressing over. We realize it could always be worse. And, as an added bonus, being grateful for what we have attracts more abundance into our life.

9. They get enough sleep. During sleep our body rejuvenates, replenishes and rebuilds. To keep our minds and bodies healthy and working at their optimum capacity, it's important to get plenty of rest. Find a routine that helps you wind down each night. A simple yogi way is to lay on the floor (with a small pillow or blanket under your pelvis if needed for support) and stretch your legs up the wall. This gentle inversion is restorative, relaxing, and calms the mind. Perfect before crawling into bed!

10. They disconnect from tech. We're all a little bit overly connected these days. If our mind stays preoccupied with what new emails are coming in or what is going on in our social feed, we are robbing ourselves of the precious moments of the present. It's good to take breathers. Allot specific time (and set limits) to check emails and get on social media. The world doesn't end when you log off for a while. In fact, it can actually become a lot more beautiful when you do!

11. They look for the opportunity. Let's face it, life doesn't always go as we plan. And, sometimes, it can be downright frustrating and disappointing. But wallowing in the misery of that doesn't do anybody any good. Instead, a more powerful mindset is to realize that everything is happening for the greater good. A healthy reframe is to ask, "What is the lesson or opportunity in this?" Trust you are being guided, drop the resistance, and be open to the possibilities.

12. They continue to learn and grow. Remember that life is a journey, not a destination. Once you think you have it all figured out, you cut off your capacity to make mistakes, discover new horizons and become an even better version of your already awesome self. Be the student. Be the beginner. And reap the rewards of a calm and happy life.

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It's your world

It's your world | Cultural Trendz | Scoop.it

It is up to us what world we live in.

 

Vilma Bonilla's insight:

So true. Personal perspective is a choice. Chose wisely. ~ V.B.

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16 things to let go to live a truly happy life

16 things to let go to live a truly happy life | Cultural Trendz | Scoop.it

By Sumitha Bhandarkar

“Happiness is not something you postpone for the future; it is something you design for the present.” ~Jim Rohn

Sometimes I feel like I’ve spent the better part of my life chasing after happiness. It always seemed like happiness stayed just a tad bit out of my grasp—somewhere in the future that I could always see, but not quite touch.

For instance, when I was a kid, I believed I’d be happy if I got an admission into a good college. In college, I believed that I’d be happy if I got a good job. When I got a job, I believed that I’d be happy if I got a promotion and a raise. And on and on it went.

Every time I reached a goal, it seemed like the next goal was where true happiness lay.

Sadly, this affected my personal life as well. I thought, “When I find a great guy, I’ll be happy. Wait, to be truly happy, we need to first get married. Being married is great, but we need to have kids to find real joy. Gosh, our baby needs to grow up a little so we can really enjoy being with her…” And so on.

For more than thirty-five years, I’ve chased happiness on this path, not realizing what a futile chase it was.

And then, about two years back, I was abruptly jolted out of it.

One evening, on a day that had started out like any other, I found myself at the hospital with my three-year-old daughter in tow, waiting outside the emergency room that my husband lay in.

After a week at the hospital, my husband came out okay. However, it fundamentally changed the way I look at life.

For the first time I saw the futility of our chase. I still believe that goals are important and we should strive to achieve them. But now, I see them more as mile markers in life’s journey, not having much to do with happiness.

Happiness, it turns out, is not something we go after. It’s something already within us. We just need to clear up some clutter to find it.

The two years that followed have been an amazing journey of slowly letting go of some of that clutter in the quest to find the true happiness within. It’s still a work-in-progress, but here are the things I’ve been striving to let go.

1. Let go of trying to control everything.

The only thing that we can truly control is our own attitude and reactions. Once we accept that, we can find happiness right where we are, irrespective of how things turn out. This was perhaps the hardest but the most necessary part of the transformation for me.

2. Let go of trying to please everyone.

Every time we pretend to be someone, it takes us away from our true selves, and from our place of happiness. It was hard at first to stop trying to please others. Eventually I realized how liberating it was to dare to be myself!

3. Let go of the sense of entitlement.

I often found myself asking “Why me?” It was hard to replace that with “Why not?” After all, everyone gets their share of joys and sorrows; why should I somehow be above it and deserve only the joys?

4. Let go of resentment.

Unless we walk in the shoes of the other, we really don’t know the reason for their behavior. Carrying resentment only hurts us and delays any repair. I cannot tell you how amazing it’s been to let go of some of the resentment I didn’t even know I’d been carrying for years!

5. Let go of guilt.

On the flip side, if we are the ones who made a mistake, it is time to forgive ourselves and make amends. “I’m sorry. How can I fix it?” can go a long way in starting the healing process.

6. Let go of pride.

Neither apology nor forgiveness is possible without letting go of pride. Nor is there room for authentic connection where pride resides. Let it go.

7. Let go of perfectionism.

If I had a dime for every opportunity I squandered in the quest for perfection, I’d be rich! But, no one can be perfect all the time. That’s what makes us humans. We are quirky. We have flaws. We are beautiful just the way we are.

8. Let go of negativity.

In any given situation we have a choice—look at what’s good and be grateful, or look at what’s wrong and complain. Deliberately adopting the attitude of gratitude literally changed the course of my life.

9. Let go of negative people.

We are the average of the people we hang out with, and if they are negative, it becomes hard for us to maintain the attitude of gratitude. It’s been a tough call to distance myself from the negative people in my life, but it was necessary to move on.

10. Let go of the busyness.

Somewhere along the way, many of us have bought into the notion that the busier we are and the more we achieve, the happier we will be. After thirty-five years, I’ve come to realize that busyness does not equal happiness.

11. Let go of the attachment to money.

Money is definitely good to have, but once our basic needs and savings goals are met, it’s time to evaluate the tradeoff of earning more and more. Letting go of the need for money just for the sake of it has been a very hard but fulfilling experience for me.

12. Let go of the fear of failure.

Everybody who tries anything worthwhile fails at some point or the other. Failure does not mean we are broken. It simply means we are courageous to dare! Easier said than done, but I’m trying.

13. Let go of the fear of abandonment.

Fundamentally, we all crave for connection. But when fear of abandonment starts to rule our lives we make very irrational choices. I try to trust that what is meant to be will happen. And no matter how things turn out, we’ll come out of it okay.

14. Let go of comparison.

We usually only get to see the highlights reel of other’s lives. Comparing my behind-the-scenes to that has only made me unhappy in the past. It’s time for change.

15. Let go of expectations.

In the end, the core of all my issues was that I expected things to be a certain way. I expected what a good spouse or a friend ought to act like. I expected my daughter to behave a certain way. I expected how situations should turn out. Heck, I even had fixed expectations of what happiness was! Letting go of expectations has helped everything else start to fall in place.

16. Let go of yesterday and tomorrow.

And finally, how can we find true happiness if we are saddled down by the baggage of the past or fear of the future? Once I learned to