Running From Critics

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“To avoid criticism say nothing, do nothing, be nothing.” — Aristotle

So many of us are trapped by a fear of being criticized.



Frankly, I’m a lot more afraid of being trapped by a life that somehow just happened to me, because I was too afraid of being knocked for my beliefs, my quests and my actions.

Sure, criticism hurts.

But a life unlived hurts more.

[Inspired by Chris Brogan‘s tweet earlier today “I’m wrong many times a day. I just keep steering the ship as straight as I can.”]

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33 responses

33 responses to “Running From Critics”

  1. Jonathan..I appreciate your thinking…My friend and attorney once advised me that a decision I was making to launch a business wasn’t going to kill me or land me in jail if I failed…Not a bad litmus test…

  2. Tim Brownson says:

    How many of us?

    Just a guess, but I’d be amazed if it were less than 90% and quite honestly I’m not surprised with what I hear from clients on a daily basis.

    Parents do their best to shield their kids from disappointment, but so many try and achieve that by getting them to aim low and be ‘realistic’. In the meantime they (with the help of schools) instill a belief that being wrong is unacceptable, a belief that stays with many people all their lives.

    • Jeffrey Tang says:

      It’s a simple truth, but like so many simple truths, few people take the time to let it sink in.

      When you care, you make yourself vulnerable – to disappointment, to criticism, to failure, to ridicule. If you don’t care, things slide off you.

      One response is to care about nothing, to avoid becoming vulnerable at all costs. The other is to decide that the reward is worth the risk.

      Criticism, failure, disappointment, ridicule – all these things are the specters of the immediate future. They’re close by and frightening. Accomplishment, pride, a life fully lived – these are treasures of legacy. They take longer to find, but they last.

  3. Amy Harrison says:

    People don’t like criticism because it makes them feel like they’ve failed.

    We’re surrounded by advice on how to succeed, but I’d love more resources on how to fail (and keep going!) and embrace criticism.

  4. Jean Sarauer says:

    The way I see it, criticism is just one of the byproducts of a life well-lived.

  5. Peter Ahrens says:

    Even if you do choose what you want to do, there will always be someone waiting in the corners to criticise you.

    It just seems to be the way of life. But at least choose the life you want.

  6. Great point of view; it is very true. If you go through life with out criticism you are either not challenging yourself or not being true to yourself, or perhaps daydreaming?! Constructive criticism is how one learns and develops their skill.

    There shouldn’t be a point where you are confident you will not have criticism; there should not be a point in which you feel you cannot improve a process; there should not be a point in which you think you have learned all there is to learn.

    This was a great thing to post – it really motivated me to embrace the muddy waters today and appreciate when I learn from my mistakes.

    Thanks Jonathan!

  7. bencurnett says:

    We used to say out on the river: Each new paddle stroke is a correction of your last one.

    Thanks for the post.

  8. Noah fleming says:

    Love it. The resistance and the lizard
    like to criticize.

    I say carry on.


  9. Oh thanks for the reminder. I think that fear stops me more often than I realize, but I naively attribute it to something else. Thanks for bringing the monster out of the shadows so that I may stick out my tongue and mock it.

  10. So powerful – you had me at Aristotle!

    I AM afraid of being knocked for my beliefs and quests. But I want to live life without regrets.

    I am afraid of being hurt but a life unlived sounds like the ultimate pain.
    Enough silence.
    Thanks Jonathan

  11. My view is, if its worth doing, you’ll probably be criticized for it.

    Getting criticism is a good way for renegades to know they’re headed in the right direction, yeah? 😉

  12. Ed Gaile says:

    You know what Jonathan, personally I think this is the number 1 cause of people not taking action on something they want to do. My theory is that folks may say it is fear of failure, when in fact it is the fear of criticism. No matter who you are or what you do – criticism will find you. You gotta push through and live that life!

    • Jonathan Fields says:

      No doubt, fear of criticism or judgment is a big barrier for a lotta people

  13. Jenny Fenig says:

    I often like to think criticism as FEEDBACK (feels better to me).

    Ken Blanchard, management guru and all-around amazing man, has a fantastic way of thinking about feedback … he calls it the “breakfast of champions.” That concept helps me digest the feedback (positive and negative) that comes my way.

    Keep rocking, everyone!

  14. Lindsey says:

    I’m still really scared of the critics though.

  15. I can’t find where Seth said it, but something he said once really struck me: “I found out that being laughed at wasn’t fatal.”

  16. Nicki, Dismayed Healthcare Worker says:

    Ouch! That one hit me! As a recovering “A” student, there is this tremendous terror associated with criticism. Thoughts of “Oh no—- how could I have gotten it WRONG?!?” do plague me. I’m used to praise & accolades, but how did I get them? Through rote memorization and playing it safe. But is it really achievement if I’m simply resentful in the end? I’ve just the gone the path that fewer people would complain about….but now I’m my biggest complainer!!

    Again, OUCH!

    • That’s a great point worth noting – the current school system really conditions students to fear criticism.

      We shoot for that “A+” in the hope that we’ll simply receive external validation… and not get criticized. In the school of life however, is there really such a as a A+ that wins you a free pass from criticism?

  17. Mick Morris says:

    To the point….and that is the point isn’t, we often spend a lot of time tinkering around the edges pretending it is action towards a goal when if fact we are just trying to appear busy and avoid anyone criticising us and life does just happen to us. A good reminder to just go ahead and do it!

    • Jonathan Fields says:

      No doubt, it’s easy to fabricate “legitimate” reasons not to try

  18. It’s amazing how HELPFUL criticism can be. Sure it hurts to know you’re wrong, but if you get feedback and adjust accordingly you’ll be a little less wrong each time and eventually you’ve got something to be proud of!

  19. […] Jonathan Fields kept it short and sweet on criticism. […]

  20. topi says:

    If you never try, you’ll never fail…but surely not trying is the biggest failure of all?

  21. RalfLippold says:

    Critics will lead you right back on your truly believed course of life 🙂

  22. Joseph Fontak says:

    I agree. Good points and insightful comments above. I would add that I have learned more from my mistakes and failures than from the success I have experienced. I don’t know where it comes from (I am sure I need only look hard in a mirror to figure it out), but I already see my 7 year-old afraid to be wrong or admit a mistake. I am working on removing that fear of failure/criticism, because at times it clearly keeps him from achieving.

    • Jonathan Fields says:

      No doubt, failure is a powerful teacher. And, yeah, it’s a giant challenge to teach our kids to embrace trying and missing the mark as signpost of getting closer to success.

  23. […] Critics, wherever they exist, should be no threat.  You owe it to yourself to push past the critics and get on with living: “Sure, criticism hurts. But a life unlived hurts more.” – Jonathan Fields […]

  24. Duff says:

    One great way to learn how to take criticism is to speak out (i.e. criticize) that which you think needs to be changed in the world. You are bound to get people mad at you for doing so, which is excellent practice. Respond with compassion and understanding for best results.

  25. Steve Errey says:

    Fear the right things. Don’t fear failure, don’t fear what others might think and don’t fear going after what you *really* want and not getting it.

    Hell, don’t even fear the pressure that getting what you really want might bring, or the fear of losing it once you have it.

    Only fear not trying and living a constrained life.

  26. Val says:

    We don’t want to be thought stupid or wrong or judged incorrectly but we hate ourselves every time we sell out to the safe play. We don’t grow or progress and give too much power to those who criticize to mask their own insecurities. Maybe if we consider the source of criticism. Does the critic do anything but critique? What have they accomplished? Are they constructive or snarky for amusement? Do they actually take risks and step out themselves or simply put others into their box to please the crowd of safeplayers?

    If I were criticized and felt it hit home, it might sting but I’d know it was truth and could grow from it and own it. If it came from one of the professional talkers and without merit, I think I could live with that and use it to fuel my purpose. Accomplish my goal or otherwise present my position. It’s easy on the web when pseudo anonymous flamers want to crush someone out of powerlessness in their lives. When face to face can they muster it? We value the opinion of strangers over our own way too much. We take it so personally when it is likely not about us at all.

    What if we thought of honest critique as a tool to make us more effective and shave off the rough edges? What if we started thanking the idiot for the slam? Ask ourselves if there’s anything of worth in it for me and if not drop it like a bag of rocks? It’s an exercise that we need to get good at if things are going to improve, for us and the world. Too long we’ve all let mediocrity run the game, fly under the radar and phone it in and now we’re in the result of it.
    Sorry for the soapbox, just started to roll.

  27. Just wanted to say this is a wonderful post. Thank you. x