One potentially life-altering afternoon spent hanging out in my bedroom as a teenager, a friend discovered some of my poetry and short stories. They had been hidden under my bed in a manilla envelope, and I was bloody horrified by the sight of my precious darlings being cradled by her unmerciful hands. I was so panicked, I nearly crumbled the pages, shoved them in my mouth and swallowed them whole. I felt naked – as though the innermost workings of my mind had been exposed and violated.
She laughed and read my words aloud with a mocking tone. It was a torturous moment for my hormonally vulnerable, teenage self. My friend, who I deemed as being wildly beautiful and effortlessly cool, was sorely disapproving. “Since when did you try to be deep? she said, nearly shrieking.
I decided then that I would need to conceal that part of myself – a part of me that felt the most alive and real. Because the notion of no longer being acceptable was much too terrifying. And I did hide that part of myself – for a while anyway.
But what if her blood bath of a critique had provoked me to abandon writing permanently? What if I had allowed that to pierce through the trajectory of my path as a writer? I would have never taken flight. And I certainly wouldn’t be doing what I love more than anything in the world – what feels as natural and organic to me as rolling my windows down on a beautiful and sunny 75-degree weather day.
Some Feedback Deserves Nothing More Than to Be Shown the Door
My mom said to me, recently, while preparing me for an article release in a major publication, “Lacey, just remember you will please many, but you’re never going to bat a thousand. No one bats a thousand.”
Not every melody is going to resonate beautifully with every ear just as not every person is going to be inspired by every idea we share. This doesn’t mean feedback isn’t a key ingredient in every success story; we need the exchange of ideas. For example, I want to know what tugs at the heartstrings of those who read my words. I want to know what wakes people up inside – what provokes them feel seen, and known and come alive.
But not every assessment should be granted an open invitation. Some feedback deserves nothing more than to be shown the door.
Sadly, oftentimes when one attempts to build their own dream, there are others who have a knee-jerk reaction to be critical of it, to dismiss it or knock it down. Some are even waiting for the moment to silently applaud when it crumbles to a pile of smoke and ashes. But, ironically? Those individuals are often not building anything at all. If a person is building nothing, it is impossible for me to take their feedback seriously. However, if a person is stretching themselves, as I do, and staring at a computer screen into the wee hours, I want to know what they think. But if they are spewing poison in my direction while doing nothing with their own ideas, why should I be interested?
Oftentimes Those Doing Nothing Are the Most Eager to Critique
If one is not also brave enough to step onto the stage, if one is not also tying their shoelaces and warming up for the race, their assessment of your efforts should be irrelevant. If they are not courageous enough to join you on the field, their feedback should offer no appeal. If they’re sitting on the sidelines, picking their fingernails leisurely, delivering comparisons with an air of mockery, you should have no interest in their critique. Kindly inform them that their feedback can remain with the other cowards who are also sitting in the cheap seats.
“I could do everything she is doing and more,” says the girl who has yet to knock on a single door.
“I have greater skills and more talent than she,” says the girl who is doing nothing about the girl who is succeeding.
“If I trained that way, I could put him to shame, ” says the lazy man with a scowl about the man wiping the sweat from his brow. ”
“I could write a better song than that, by far,” says the man with dust collecting on his guitar.
It’s always those doing little who claim they could do it so much better. But its a lie they are telling themselves to pacify their regret of not trying for something. It’s nothing more than their own feelings of inadequacy.
Action requires bravery. The applause is owed to anyone who is brave enough to pursue their wildest, most far-fetched dreams. The credit goes to those who are rehearsing until their feet are cracked and swollen, who are researching until their eyes can no longer resist the need for slumber and who are on the battlefield wearing a brave face even on the days they would rather revert to the safety of their bunk and hibernate. The credit goes to those who are earnestly brave, who have the audacity to stand up for their dream and give birth to something, allowing the champion from within them to step forth. The ones who give breath to their visions without waiting for permission deserve the applause – regardless of how many times they may stumble and fall.
Maybe Your Vision Wasn’t Meant for Their Eyes to See
Not everyone is going to share in your enthusiasm or be eager to celebrate in your venture, and it’s OK. It doesn’t mean they are either right or wrong; it simply means your vision is not their business. Oftentimes those who are criticized the most passionately or dismissed as being ‘crazy’ are on a path to making history. It’s up to you to stand up for idea, for your goal – for your truth.
One of my favorite stories belongs to Jack Canfield, the best-selling co-author of “Chicken Soup for the Soul.” While preparing for the book’s editing process, he was relentlessly pressured to choose a different title for it. His advisors tried to convince him it was “cheesy” and would never be granted mainstream appeal. Their intentions were pure, yet they were incapable of seeing his vision – at the time anyway.
Canfield knew he and his co-author had crafted a collection of stories to explicitly comfort and nurture the heart of every future reader, therefore he was certain there was no title more fitting. He claims to have experienced a surge of energy throughout his body each time he spoke the title aloud. There was an inner knowing he could never stray from, and he was unwilling to compromise. That book – the one dozens of credible advisors said would never be received by the masses – is now a series with 250 unique titles, and has become its own sub-genre. Canfield is a multimillionare because he chose to follow his instincts.
You cannot expect every person to see your vision, for it wasn’t gifted to them. It was gifted to you. It is your responsibility to stand up for what you love more than anything else in the world – to put in the time, to plant the seeds and to nurture your soil. It is your obligation to incubate it, to birth it and to nurse it.
We must resist the urge to focus our eyes on the reaction from “the other guy,” for comparison is like a thief in the night. It may seem innocent, but it will rob you of energy needed to sustain tyour race. It will drain your fuel, it will distract you, frighten you and – worst of all? – it may cripple you. There is plenty of room in the universe for everyone’s completed mission. All you have to do is remain committed to your vision without seeking approval or asking for permission.