The enemy within – 5 Ways to deal with criticism and return to inner peace

17/7/2013

So, it’s happened. The thing I feared the most when I first started this blog.

I’ve received the first overtly negative feedback from someone about Pockets of Peace.

When I got it, via email, the self-flagellation warning alarm began sounding loud and clear. Having happily floated on clouds of praise, love and appreciation for Pockets of Peace in the last few months, I experienced a sharp thud, right on to the cold hard concrete of “constructive criticism”. What was supposed to be seemingly benign blog advice, given to me for free from a shall-not-be-named website (don’t want to throw bad ju-ju about), was my first foray in to bloggy negativity. And I sunk slowly in to the murky waters of unsureness and  fear.

Enemy

The lady who gave me said advice began her email with a reference to ‘not meaning to be harsh’. A little life tip for you, dear reader, if someone prefaces a statement with words to this effect – what’s about to come is going to be harsher than a silver steelo pad scrubbed hard on your little behind.

What largely followed was her basically saying that after spending a few minutes on my blog she couldn’t tell what my message was nor what I’m offering to people, and blogs like mine, which are ‘like journals’ are hard to get anyone interested in besides my mother. Unless I’m a celebrity.

And yes, Mum’s a big fan of mine. But sheesh, doesn’t this lady know WHO I AM?

Kidding aside, it hurt. I craft this blog really carefully to make it what I think is a helpful combination of insights, inspiration, tips, tricks, and resources, laced with my own personal experience to make it relatable, human, and interesting. It’s not my journal (that would be largely yawn-worthy, trust me). And all of this is aimed at encouraging me and my readers to cultivate a life brimming chock-full of joy, love and ultimately inner peace – which is at the root of everyone’s desires (in my opinion).

She’s also wrong with it being hard to get people interested. I’m likely not breaking any records, but my blog traffic is humming along very nicely, and growing steadily. 3,500 unique visitors and just over 11,000 views in four months is not too shabby for a newbie blog on the block. Especially seeing as I had feared there would only be two people reading it when I launched.

The kind lady also asserted that I needed to sharpen my demographic focus more finely, ‘because what appeals to 20-somethings will turn 60-somethings off’, so I’m essentially diluting my message ‘trying’ to appeal to both. REALLY? My demographic is actually quite broad, and I’ve had great feedback from both ends of the spectrum and in between (both male and female). I’m writing my authentic truth in my voice, to appeal to people who are interested in reading my words. I think I’d be diluting my message if I tried to manipulate it to appeal to a certain demographic. Doing this would be so counter to what I believe in and what I stand for.

Anyway, as you can tell I was a wee bit shell shocked at it all, and couldn’t even think of how to respond. Should I defend myself? Thank her and be done with it? I couldn’t decide, so I didn’t do anything.

When I got to delving deeply in to my reaction to this email though, I began to think of a marvellous African proverb: “When there is no enemy within, the enemies outside cannot hurt you.”

What I began to realise is that this exchange was a clear signal to me that I still have remnants of not feeling 100% confident in my blogging. There is still a persistent and determined little enemy within, and this is why I was upset at hearing such feedback. If I was completely confident, I’m sure I wouldn’t have plunged myself in to despair over it. It sucked a few precious hours of my day,  until I was able to look at it squarely on and really pull it all apart to see: A) Why I was reacting like this, and B) What can I learn from it?

So I came up with a five point plan to wade through it, and I now give it over to you:

5 Ways to Deal with Criticism and Return to inner peace

1) Identify which enemy within is being triggered. Is it confidence in your abilities? Your self worth? Your body image? Drill down on what’s created the emotional charge within and do some investigating as to what can be done to release it. Support yourself and get external support to work through the issue. For me, I think it’s further affirming my confidence in why I created Pockets of Peace, it’s raison d’être, –  and maybe also a few more miles in the blog biz.

2) Depersonalise it and see whether there’s anything salvageable from the critique – what shards of truth can you take from this and use it to help strengthen yourself? If I was completely confident in myself, this is where I would have jumped to at the outset. Maybe she has a point about my message, perhaps it isn’t clear to people. I’m working on my Pockets of Peace Manifesto to really distill what this site is all about, and perhaps that will help with clarity.

3) Who is giving this advice or criticism? Are they really qualified to give you this advice? This woman’s background was in business and writing for an entirely different audience to mine. Hers is just one opinion. I can completely let it drop – and I certainly don’t need to put it in my pocket to self-flagellate with at a later date.

4) Release the rest. Give it over to the universe. Write it down on a piece of paper and release it out in to the ether – burn it or throw it in the bin. I do this exercise time and time again. If I’m struggling with something, and it keeps whirring in my head, I write it down and give it over to a wisdom far greater than mine. I get out of my own way. If sneaky egoic thoughts relating to the criticism start to reach their sticky fingers in to my day, I remind myself that it’s not in my lap anymore. It works wonders, I tells ya.

5) Give yourself loving attention and remind yourself of your strengths. When I’m feeling battered and bruised a little, I do a stocktake of the many wonderful aspects of my life, my talents, and abilities. I begin to feel instantly more positive when I shift my mindset from focusing on the criticism, and more towards my strengths.

Once I’d gone through this five point process, I was really able to see this critique for what it was: a clumsily worded opinion that I could take or leave. It had no reflection on me and my worth whatsoever. In fact, it gave me a valuable insight in to a couple of things I need to work on with my little enemy within. And blog post material. Which is great! A gift, even.

Perhaps I should email to thank her after all.

How about you? Do you have any tried and true ways of dealing with criticism?

Image source

17 comments :

  • Michelle Marie McGrath

    hi lovely, it’s always interesting to get this type of ‘constructive criticism’ and as you are doing, notice the internal response. At the end of the day it’s irrelevant what anyone thinks – no opinion about you more important than your own. I’ve had a few of these types of unsolicited messages that start with ‘I think you’re great OR ‘This is coming from a place of love BUT’….. You have to also ask yourself really ‘what is this person’s motivation for sending such a message? What are they hoping to achieve? And really, who has the time or inclination to send this sort of ‘helpful’ commentary when it’s not been asked for? Not a happy, fulfilled person – that’s for sure…. Send them love and gratitude – they really need it 😉 Just keep on being you and sharing your gorgeous energy with the world xxx

    • Carly

      Thank you so much, lovely Michelle. How anyone could critique your gorgeous message I do not understand. To be fair, this wasn’t quite unsolicited, I was offered some free advice on ways to promote my blog, which I took up. But I definitely didn’t ask for a critique, that’s for sure. Much love to you xx

  • Amy Miller

    Hi lovely, thank you so much for sharing. Please don’t let this one person set you off track. From what I can see you are standing by and delivering your byline: ‘an online sanctuary for lovely souls wanting a regular dose of peace, inspiration and authenticity’ – your blog is a peaceful and inspiring place to visit, keep being your authentic you. The souls that need to read your words will find you. Love Michelle’s advice above too xxx

    • Carly

      Thanks so much, lovely lady. Your kind words are just so sweet. Thankfully I haven’t been turned off because of the experience, it’s just raised some niggling insecurities within me, which I’m working through! I really appreciate you taking the time to say such nice things. Love xx

  • Michelle

    I adore your blog and I get excited when there’s a new post to read. Keep going! 🙂

  • Jessie

    It is wonderful that you were able to turn this from a hurt into an exploration of criticism and self belief. I love what you have written about questioning the message and the response, finding shards of truth if they exist, and letting go. As I love the rest of your writings too, and the comments they inspire such as Amy and Michelle’s above. Thank you!

    • Carly

      Gorgeous Jessie, thank you. I was determined to make it a learning experience! Your support has been unwavering from the get-go, and for that I’m truly thankful. Love xx

  • Kate Holley

    Hi Carly,
    I found your blog through a post on Susana Frioni’s blog recently, and loved your work. I’m only new to the blogosphere and got one of these “helpful” comments on my Facebook page recently. I know the pang you speak of well. I immediately remembered reading about Brene Brown experiencing the same thing with a photo she posted on Facebook. It reminds me to make sure I take the time to comment when something really resonates with me in order to maintain the balance. I love the way you are looking at the situation. For those of us who have experienced it too, it’s nice to know we aren’t alone.
    I really enjoy reading your posts. As a gorgeous friend said to me the other day, “Keep doing what you are doing. Don’t think no-one is listening, because we are.”
    Kate x

    • Carly

      Oh Kate, what lovely words. I think it is really important to share these experiences but it certainly does leave me feeling a bit raw and exposed. So hearing that it resonates with you is really great, and I appreciate you taking the time to write a comment. Madame Brene is a massive inspiration to me, I’m slowly but surely finding strength in my vulnerability. Much love to you xx

  • Nicola

    You see for every one negative there are hundreds of positive comments, focus on the positives because those are what matter! I love how you dissected her email and decided to use it to grow yourself. She is def. in need of a big thank you! x

  • Tracey

    Criticism is hard to take and this does not even sound like it is constructive. You are fabulous and you speak powerful words to do many. They will out way the haters. One thing with confidence is that I think it is good in some ways not to be 100% sure of yourself because it means you reflect more and strive to do better. Never doubt yourself or your blog. Xxx

    • Carly

      Thanks, honey! It’s interesting what you say about confidence. I think it’s a fine line between being ‘self-assured’ confident, and over-confident to the point where we don’t reflect so much or strive to improve at all. Your support means the world, my love xx

  • Emma

    You. Are. Amazing. xxxx

  • 大樂透獎金

    Great content, thanks for sharing !!

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