Why do we stay in relationships, jobs, or life situations that are unpleasant or even destructive for us?
Why do we convince ourselves that it’s easier to stay in our current reality than to face failure and vulnerability?
Victims of physical abuse return time and time again to their abuser. Why? Because it’s familiar and seems safer than trying something new. People stay in unfulfilling jobs and marriages for years. Why? Because they’re familiar and it seems safer than trying something new.
When we choose to change an aspect of our life, it takes courage, conscious effort, and confidence. We are especially vulnerable and in need of support from those around us. Interestingly, this is the time when those around us are most likely to either run away or become our biggest critics. The bigger the change, the larger the resistance you will experience.
I’ve written several blogs on the importance of evolving (changing aspects of our lives) and what goes into our decisions to change. This post is equally important as it shines a light on the criticism we will hear from many of the people around us. People we thought were “on our side”: co-workers, family members, or friends. Armed with the following two tools, you’ll be well-equipped to evolve to the next best version of your warrior self.
Two Tools to Conquer Criticism:
1) Expect It. When we expect those around us to have a negative reaction, we are able to remain emotionally stable and strong. When our expectations are higher than our reality that stress and disappointment occur. Think about it: If your family is combative and critical, but you expect a family reunion to be calm and peaceful, how are you going to feel? You will be much better off if you go into your vacation thinking: “My dad is going to yell at my children. My mom is going to criticize what I do. My siblings will drink too much.” When these things happen, and you’ve expected them, you will feel significantly different.
2) Understand it. Why are they reacting like that? Why aren’t they supportive? For the same reason that when we first thought of changing something in our life we were resistant. (It’s hard, we don’t have 100% control, it’s scary). People close to us will resist us changing because of the spotlight it throws on their lives and choices. If we can leave our job, then why can’t they? If we choose to stop drinking, then why wouldn’t they? Understand that their reaction is about them and how your change will affect their lives.
The biggest example of this in my life occurred when I chose to end my marriage. My parents were intensely critical and unsupportive of my choice to divorce. Initially I considered their reaction to be an affront to me or a vote of non-support for me as a human being. I felt sad, confused, angry, and ultimately abandoned. Once I could step back, I could see how their reaction had nothing to do with me as a person or even my actual situation. My choice to change shined a spotlight on their own lives, their marriage, and choices they’ve made. In witnessing my courage to change a piece of my life, it opened the possibility that they could choose to change also. This can be terrifying when you’ve spent your life telling yourself you have no choice or that you can’t change. It’s much easier to react or to criticize others.
Other people’s reactions aren’t your concern as they have little to do with you. People who are happy in their jobs will be supportive of your job change. People who have healthy body images, will support your change of eating habits. Only people who question their own choices and situation will react and judge. Maybe they’ll use your choice as a catalyst for change in their own life. Maybe not. That is not your concern nor is it something you can influence.
Expect criticism and seek to understand it. Trust yourself and your inner voice. You know what’s best for you. As the dust settles, those who are meant to be in your life will be by your side as you emerge as the warrior you are.