How a Former People Pleaser Learned to Embrace Criticism

How a Former People Pleaser Learned to Embrace Criticism

If there’s one thing this past year of personal transformation has taught me, it’s that life is so much better when you just own who you are.

As someone who has spent the past 20 years of my life trying to act like someone who I thought people would like most, I can verify that the life I’m living now (as purely myself) is so much more colorful and beautiful because I’ve chosen to just be me.

But learning to trust and be your authentic self is not easy.

As I’ve taken the (sometimes really scary) steps of deepening into the most authentic version of myself, I’ve opened myself up the criticism. It’s only natural for some people to be challenged by their own insecurities and secret desires when they see someone shining brightly as their whole self. I can recall being deeply jealous when I saw a beautiful woman wearing bright red lipstick on the train in Boston. Her comfort in her own beauty and confidence to display it in public was something I deeply desired, and my response was a little bit bitchy. Whoa, can she take it down a notch with that lipstick? That’s so intense, I bet she’s super high maintenance. But all that triggered bitchy girl really wanted was to be able to wear bright red lipstick too.

By being the most authentic versions of ourselves, we can trigger the harsh voices of others.

Back in November, I wrote my first radically honest post where I talked about leaving my six-figure job to step into the wild unknown of starting my own business and following my heart towards a life of wonder and well-being. This was a huge step for me and one I really celebrated. For the first time in my life, I was announcing to the world that I was choosing my path and not anyone else's. I was no longer attempting to follow someone else’s blueprint, which had gotten me to the top of the ladder only to realize it was leaning against the wrong wall.

And, while this big step was celebrated by my community (both locally and across the globe online - I love you all so much), it pissed some people off.

What was so upsetting?

The fact that I said I walked away from a six-figure salary. It didn't make sense that I walked away from a salary many people dream of making to pursue my passion. Or the fact that I was making that amount of money to begin with somehow disqualified my decision for people who aren't making that much in their job currently.

Oh money, you fickle creature. So much angst and emotion in our world is centered around money, and my story triggered that for some people.

Triggered them enough to talk about it openly online and try to poke holes in my story - finding any reason for it to not be true (I suspect so they could justify that it wasn’t possible for them - thereby justifying their discontent with life and being trapped due to money).

And when I found out that some people were having this reaction, I was initially hurt. My former people-pleasing self was wounded from realizing that not the whole world was celebrating this moment with me.

Why can’t everyone love me and get along?!

I was also feeling challenged to tell the world even more of my truth.

Why do they doubt my hard work and assume I have a trust fund or a rich husband? 
Do they want me to open my bank account to prove it to them? 
And so what if I did have a trust fund or bank account to support this transition in my life? 
Why does struggle have to be the only way to make this shift? 

I went down a deep rabbit hole of exploration with these questions. It was clunky and uncomfortable, and at times I wanted to run and hide and call these people horrible names for questioning my integrity.

And, after all that exploration and the sting of criticism, I’ve emerged with a deeper understanding and gratitude for the criticism.

It’s tempting to run away from the pain and discomfort of criticism, but when you feel into it more deeply you will find the lesson. The lesson for me was to reinforce my intuition and trust in myself. To read those comments, and see the pain and frustration behind them - just like the bitchy version of myself on that train in Boston. All beautiful little signs of your true desires from the universe.

My response to the specific criticism about money and how I support myself is this:

I would have made this happen however I could. I used the resources I had to make this work. If I had a trust fund, I would have leveraged that. If I had nothing, I would be waiting tables every night to pay the rent so I can dabble and inspire and explore myself during the day. It just so happens that Tim and I made certain sacrifices we were comfortable with and figured out a reduced household budget to make this happen for us. It was what worked for us, and I encourage anyone out there who is maneuvering through this type of decision to do the same. Whatever works for you is the right thing.

I know that, as I continue to tell my story, I will invite more critics (or “haters”) to explore their desires and frustrations. And I’m 100% OK with that.

So I ask you, dear one, to consider seeing criticism as a natural part of living an authentic, openly expressed life. And, while having everyone like you may feel like the better option, trust that a deeper experience of life is waiting for you on the other side.

Photo by Gina Eykemans

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