Ep. 89: How to Manage Criticism Anxiety

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One of the hardest parts of starting the Rebel Buddhist Podcast for me was anxiety around receiving possible criticism. If someone says something on a social media post or a blog post, I’m able to respond and maybe even point out where they misunderstood or something. But for a pod, someone can just say something and that’s it… it’s out there, without a chance for me to respond. 


That was really scary to me because I really want to feel understood…and I like other people to think I’m right (don’t we all?). 


I hear this fear of criticism a lot in my clients when they talk about why they’re resisting putting themselves out there. Then there are people who are writers, actors, or chefs, and in those professions there are people whose job it is to be critical of others’ work. I asked an artist friend how she learned to deal with that, and she said she had to develop a thick skin over time. 


So how do we manage criticism of our career or our creativity so that it doesn’t keep us from putting our unique gift out into the world? 


First is to understand where it comes from. Fear is a legitimate reaction. Our primal brain was trained to seek approval and validation for survival, because if we were ostracized, it could mean literal death – no help with food, water, shelter, or protection. So reacting fearfully makes sense from that perspective. 


One option to manage criticism is avoiding it, and trying to protect yourself from criticism by living a vanilla, safe, insulated life, hoping that if you don’t stand out, no one will notice. But humans are resilient AF. Sure, we can plan small and feel safer, but that is not what we were built for! 


Plus, when you play small to please others, your inner critic gets loud about you not putting yourself out there more. You’ll be uncomfortable either way – feeling the risk of discomfort by putting yourself out there, or guaranteed discomfort by not putting yourself out there and wondering, “What if?” 


If I’m going to feel uncomfortable either way, I’d rather feel it going for my dreams and risking external criticism, instead of the discomfort of not even trying. 


So, while it IS a valid option to not take risks, if you’re like me and you’re willing to take the discomfort of taking the risk over the pain you’d feel for not even trying, I have some additional tips for you to handle the inevitable criticism that will arise. 


One option is to not even read, or listen to, the criticism you receive. You’ve probably heard about actors or writers and chefs that do this. They don’t read their own reviews. Thankfully, I had my artist friends to help me see this as an option early on.  


Because I have this podcast, write blogs, and contribute to a ton of journals, magazines, and articles, I receive criticism. For me it’s sometimes helpful to have my VA look into these and bring any to my attention if there is something worth giving time and energy to instead of just reading them all myself, even if it’s a lot of internet trolls who just want to get a reaction. It was much more productive for me and helped me to avoid a never-ending argument with some online troll. And since I may miss the “good” stuff when I stay away all together, I also ask my VA to show me the client love that I receive. 


Another tip is to remember the research in positive psychology out there about the 5:1 ratio, which is related to countering negativity bias. This concept suggests that for every negative comment, we want to gather ideally 5 positive comments to counter it/neutralize it.  

This takes practice and is easier said than done, because negativity bias is the natural response for us all – it is trying to find danger to keep us safe, and warm fuzzies are not a threat (to most of us;). We also have to pay attention to applying this technique to our own negative self-talk and inner critic too. Often we are our own worst critic. 


Another tip is to keep an open mind when hearing or reading criticism. I was taught to ask, “What’s the 2% truth in this?” It helps me open my mind to possiblity, and it feels safer than “What is 100% true about this?” (though there may be a time when 100% true is also important to look at). 


Asking this question helps take away the defensiveness and opens us to really seeing other options that might help us grow. It also helps us truly listen, and for the other person to feel heard.  


Once we hear that criticism and find any truth in it, we can decide what to do with it. Take it or leave it. Like, “I’m ok with that truth. I’m naturally imperfect and that’s totally fine.” Or, that’s good to know – I’m going to tweak a few things. 


We have to make sure that what we don’t do here is to decide that it’s part of our identity… that we’re not worthy or good enough, intelligent enough or lovable, for example. We can accept the part of the feedback that is true, then let the rest go. Or we can say it isn’t true and let go. 


It’s important to also consider who is giving the feedback to us. Are they doing the work and putting themselves out there too? Are they engaged in growth and questioning their truth and willing to learn? I personally don’t waste energy on people who aren’t also engaged in their own growth and willing to question their own beliefs and opinions. 


Remember: criticism means people hear you, see you, care about what you’re saying, and took the time to say something about it. When we can manage our minds when we receive criticism so we don’t get hooked and start spiraling, we can use it to improve the work we do and make sure we are staying aligned with our values and mission and goals. 


Don’t let the fear of potential criticism hold you back from speaking your truth, from living your dreams, from creating your masterpiece, which really is living an authentic, aligned life – which you 100% deserve.


[Correction: The original source for the quote about “The Man in the Arena” was incorrectly stated as Thomas Jefferson – opps! Didn’t have my chai yet! The correct author is Theodore Roosevelt.]


In this Episode, you will learn:

// Why we freak out when we receive criticism (hint: you’re not broken) 

// When avoidance is helpful with criticism, and when it’s not 

// What kept me from starting the Rebel Buddhist podcast for 2 years 

// 4 courageous ways to handle criticism 

// When receiving criticism can be a GOOD thing 

// How we make criticism worse by make it mean something about who we are 



// Episode 88 – Overcoming Imposter Syndrome 


// Episode 87 – The Problem with Being Right 


// If you’re new to the squad, grab the starter kit I created at RebelBuddhist.com. It has all you need to start creating a life of more freedom, adventure, and purpose. You’ll get access to the private Facebook group where you can ask me questions! Once you join, there’s also a weekly FB live called Wake the F*ck Up Wednesday, where you can get coached on things that come up as you do this work – in all parts of your life. 


// If you’re ready to *truly* know yourself – all of you – and to start actively transforming old broken habits into new healthy mindsets, check out the upcoming Adventure Mastermind. It’s a no-BS group of 6 womxn ready to slay the next year – YOUR way.  Six months of transformation and adventures (inner and outer!) that will have you blowing your own mind, and you can learn more at www.AdventureMastermind.com Check it out – applicatio  is open, with an amazing bonus of 1:1 coaching with me (expires soon!), and you won’t want to miss the chance to hang out with me and a small group of rebel womxn in adventurous places to get unstuck and create the next chapter of your amazing life! 


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It’s also where you can get individual help applying the concepts to your own life. It’s where you can learn new coaching tools not shared on the podcast that will blow your mind even more, and it’s where you can connect over all things freedom with other freedom junkies just like you and me. It’s my favorite place on earth and it will change your life, I guarantee it. Come join us at JoinFreedomSchool.com I can’t wait to see you there.