How to Handle Criticism

Last week something happened that really rocked me. I received my first scathing email from someone who attended a recent event I led. As I opened the email and read the first sentence, I stopped breathing and braced myself for the blow that was coming. My eyes raced through the first paragraph, trying to avoid the stinging words leaping off my computer screen. I thought the quicker I could read through it, the less it would hurt.

As I proceeded to read through the 13 paragraphs of what I did wrong, my emotions went in every direction imaginable.  I felt angry, shocked, hurt, pissed, and sad.

It was my worst nightmare come true…someone didn’t like me or what I had to offer. My inner people-pleaser was crushed.

My mind started racing around all the “wrong” things I did, and my thoughts spiraled to “I must be wrong,” “I must not be good enough if someone else thinks so.”

Then, the other part of my brain kicked in, my inner defender who digs her heels in the dirt, points the finger back and says, “That’s bullshit,” “She’s out of line,” “This is about her and not me.”

My thoughts continued to run rampant and the email became the last thing I thought about at night, and the first thing I thought about in the morning.

It took me a few days before I decided to revisit the email, this time with compassionate perspective. I put myself in the messenger’s cowboy boots to see where she’s coming from.

Once I adopted the compassion angle, I realized this was a gift. I pride myself on doing a damn good job in my work, and doing the best I can, but I can’t please everyone. Thank goodness I realized this because it gave me relief. Not everyone will like me. Or be happy with me. AND THAT’S OKAY.

“Appreciate the constructive; ignore the destructive.” – John Douglas

Before I re-read the email, I burned sage, said a prayer for the messenger and myself, took a huge breath, and clicked “open.” This time my body wasn’t in fight or flight mode and I could read the words clearly without my emotions taking over. From this place, I plucked out the constructive feedback and bypassed the destructive criticism by taking deep breaths and staying present.

“Criticism is something we can avoid easily by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.” – Aristotle

I’ve avoided criticism most of my life and have gone extra lengths to be in the “approval” zone. For many years I played it safe, stayed under the radar, limited my exposure, and sought out relationships and scenarios I could control. All that is shifting as my desire to create and expand grows, and I realize I can’t please everyone. My growing edge is to continue putting myself out there in spite of the familiar fear, “What will they think?”

“Sandwich criticism between two layers of praise.” –Mary Kay Ash

Before and after I re-read the email, I went through testimonials on my website and recent feedback from other women who attended the same event, whom had raving reviews. Their positive reviews shored up my strength and reminded me that I don’t suck at this, and I shouldn’t throw down my toys and quit because someone doesn’t like me or what I have to offer.

“The dread of criticism is the death of genius.” –William Gilmore Simms

Now I know in my bones that I can handle criticism. It’s part of putting myself out there. I can hide and stay safe or I can rise up and keep showing up. Keep improving. Keep being true to myself and sharing my gifts.

If someone doesn’t like me, I won’t crumble as a result. Criticism allowed me to face my fear head-on, and walk through it. Many women at my events courageously face their fears, and recently, I faced mine.

My old fear is replaced by a newfound growing strength and conviction that I can handle whatever comes my way.

Only when we face our fears can we overcome them.

Grateful, stronger, and always learning,
Devon

26 replies
  1. Delora Comfort
    Delora Comfort says:

    Devon, some people are hurting and take it out on others, some people are jealous and take it out on others. Whatever this person’s problem was you just happened to get in her line of fire. Concentrate on the good feedback which there is so much of for you. Love, Delora

    Reply
  2. John schonewill
    John schonewill says:

    Most people who do that are just showing you ( or whomever is in their sights ) how they have been treated and or how their inner voice treats themselves. It’s never about you. Send her love at a higher divine level and let it go. It’s her path and you attempted to help!!! Great job!!!

    Reply
    • Devon
      Devon says:

      Hi John, I love what you shared, “…how their inner voice treat themselves.” That’s powerful, and I can relate. Absolutely agree to sending love at a higher divine level! DONE. Thanks for sharing your wisdom.

      Reply
  3. Melinda anderson
    Melinda anderson says:

    This was very inspiring and I’m grateful for you sharing your story and wisdom…and it pertinent to where I am in my life right now. Thank you! Keep shining that bright light of yours. You are making a HUGE difference and I can’t wait to have my session with you.

    Reply
    • Devon
      Devon says:

      Hi Melinda, I’m glad this was timely for you and thanks for your comment. You and I both know the power of sharing our stories….as I recall, that’s how we originally crossed trails with the Speaking Your Truth book! I can’t wait to have you at the ranch. xo

      Reply
  4. margaret wilson
    margaret wilson says:

    Devon, I applaud you for your honesty and transparency here and in the arena of life. You have grown in leaps and bounds from the early days of learning to step outside that comfort zone. Your authentic self is coming to life and this is one fine example. Thanks for sharing and providing us an example of how to deal with criticism as it is everywhere and we need to remember to hold on to our truths and value what we have to offer and who we are. Here’s lookin’ at you kid!

    Reply
    • Devon
      Devon says:

      Hi Margaret, thanks for your comment and insight….you and I go back to the early days of discovering what a comfort zone even is. I’m glad this example served as a reminder to (as you beautiful shared) “….hold on to our truths and value what we have to offer and who are.” YES, that’s what I’m talking about! I appreciate all your encouragement along this wild ride. Much love ~

      Reply
  5. Hannah
    Hannah says:

    Devon, I’m sorry about that craptastic email, but I’m happy you shared your experience, because living in the “approval zone” is the name of my game most of the time. 🙄 It’s inspiring to hear how you worked through it! 🙌🏼

    Reply
    • Devon
      Devon says:

      Hi Hannah, first of all, I’ve never heard the word “craptastic” before…I may have to start using that 😉 You are definitely not alone by living in the “approval” zone. It can be a tough habit to break but I find that making small changes helps. For example, instead of asking myself, “Will they like me?” I’ve started asking myself, “Will I like me?” and there’s my answer. One small step at a time my friend. You’re amazing. xo

      Reply
  6. Denise
    Denise says:

    WOW ! Way to go Devon 🙂 Thank you for sharing your story by being relatable and allowing us to see your authentic, beautiful, amazing, vulnerable self. I have been playing it safe for a long while and I have started pushing through my fear and putting myself out there. My soul is slowly breaking down the walls I have built and showing me how I can be of service and share my healing gifts. Doubt, fear, confidence issues creep in and then I am reminded that I can shine my light and help others shine theirs as well. Learning self love and compassion for myself. Hugs D

    Reply
    • Devon
      Devon says:

      Denise, thank you for sharing your experience about playing it safe…I love what you wrote, “My soul is slowly breaking down the walls I have built and showing me how I can be of service and share my healing gifts.” THAT IS EVERYTHING. Your beautiful comment reminds me of the Marianne Williamson quote about when we shine our light, we give others permission to do the same. I can’t wait to see what you manifest as you continue to shine your light and break down the walls. And heck yes, self-compassion is key on this journey! xo

      Reply
  7. Rhonda Lawson
    Rhonda Lawson says:

    Devon, I just want you to know that “one person’s” wrong idea of you, those who truly know you and your heart, think the world of you. I know from personal experience that you are an amazing soul that truly loves people. You helped Tori, (now almost seventeen, get through a very difficult period in her life. You are loved and are wonderful at what you do!
    Much Love!!

    Reply
    • Devon
      Devon says:

      Hi Rhonda, it’s wonderful to hear from you. Thank you for your kind words and please tell Tori that the horses and I send our love and strength. She’s an amazing young woman and I’m fortunate to know her. XO

      Reply
  8. vONIE
    vONIE says:

    Devon, so happy that you were able to find that place of self-approval. Thank you for sharing your insight, fears, and the love you have for your coaching and those you coach. Rock on sister!

    Reply
    • Devon
      Devon says:

      Vonie! Hey sister…we’re not alone in any of this, eh? 🙂 Thank you for recognizing the love I have for coaching and my peeps! I’m blessed to be a coach and have to “walk my talk,” to the best of my ability.

      Reply
  9. Holly Hansen
    Holly Hansen says:

    Devon,
    I so relate to our post and found great comfort in your post. I too, fear the very idea of “not being liked”. I feel unsettled when I become unsettled when I receive criticism. Only now, I know where this comes from, so I don’t get hooked in to the idea of “I’m not worthy.” My worth is not up for question, especially based on someone’s reation to me. I know you understand this. Your post is so validating that we are human. And we can be ok with being unsettled for a bit. And then breathe, sage your space, say a prayer, and return to center. Thanks so much for the profound, important, beautifu work you do, and for sharing your truth. xo- Holly

    Reply
    • Holly Hansen
      Holly Hansen says:

      ugh. sending by voice messaging. So messy. hopefully that makes sense. I can’t go back to correct. 🙂

      Reply
    • Devon
      Devon says:

      Hi Holly, thanks for your comment and beautiful insight. I’m glad the post brought you comfort and I love what you shared, “My worth is not up for question…”YES! I definitely relate to the unsettled feeling and I love the quote, “Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.” That has helped me a TON in my personal and professional life. I appreciate you sharing your experience…it helps us all realize we are NOT alone. Much love and respect ~

      Reply
  10. Suzanne sears
    Suzanne sears says:

    Thank you from the fullness of my heart! As usual, your authentic, inspiring post resurfaced for me when I needed it. I awoke this morning early in a storm of fears. Your post reminds me to take it all step by step with sage & compassion😉 I am so blessed to work with you on a regular basis… you are my rock’n Coach… thank you for listening & coaching me now for over two years! I appreciate your authenticity, courage, and encouragement!! You walk your talk!💕💕

    Reply
    • Devon
      Devon says:

      Suzanne, I’m glad this blog was timely for you….yep, sage and compassion goes a LONG way! I cherish our coaching time together and you have made huge strides toward your dream, amazing woman. I love working together and thank you for your kind words. xoxo

      Reply
  11. Stephanie Collins
    Stephanie Collins says:

    I learned long ago that every person, every event is an offering for our deepened learning and self-awareness. You courageously explored this from a place of compassion and curiosity. Thank you for modeling how to respond to triggering situations. I hope that whoever wrote to you will read this and reflect on what s/he can learn from all of this. Because, as the saying goes, “If you spot it, you’ve got it”. Lots of offerings all around.
    Hugs to you and your beautiful soul.

    Reply

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