On criticism and developing a thick skin

naturopathic and functional medicine treat the whole person

I did a face plant a few weeks ago. Or what felt like a face plant. I was promoting an event and faced a trio of rejections that took the wind out of my sails. In particular, there was an email response that came out of left field.

Even though a part of me could see that this person’s response was out of proportion to my initial email, I still felt criticized, embarrassed and hurt. I felt stupid for having sent the invite in the first place.

In the days after, I talked through my frustration, took a morning off of email and social media, meditated and spent time outside. But, I could still feel the sting. The ouch that had happened.

It was there in the background cautioning me against risk, tempting me to be quieter, to stay under the radar. Then, I happened upon an article by the wonderful Tara Sophia Mohr. In her article, she outlines 10 steps to “owning your brilliance and bringing it to the world.” While those words still feel like a way tall order, there was step #4:

Develop a thick skin.

She writes: “Can you think of any leader or innovator whom you admire who doesn’t have enthusiastic fans and harsh critics?.”

While I think it’s probably impossible to be like Teflon to criticism, what if the criticism itself was a product of engaging with the world and the work. Instead of a sign of having done something “wrong?”

This made my heart tender for all the times I stay quiet out of fear of the criticism. And I realized there is no sidestepping the criticism. It is a product of engagement. Not a measure of self worth.

For me, the work of healing physical symptoms goes hand in hand with creating the freedom to dive into the places that make our heart quiver with joy. I often hear women express a desire or hunger to feel like themselves again. To that time before fatigue and weight gain and insomnia took over.

I’m coming to learn that under that desire and perhaps one of the reason why it’s important to return to energy, balance and ease is so that we have the vitality to live boldly. To be present to the whole breadth of it. To fully inhabit our bodies, our voices and our gifts.

And, inevitably, in that process of remembering our loveliness there will be critical voices. Some from the outside and, most likely, a good dose of our own self doubt, but if that sticky email taught me anything these past weeks, you haven’t done anything wrong. It’s the grist to develop a thicker skin.

Hopefully, a thick skin and an open heart so that you can tend to the pain and fear that arises while also gathering your power and courage to move boldly in the direction of your dreams.                

With love and warmth,