When I first started getting my feet wet in the legal profession (I still am), I once wrote a brief and my supervisor, after reviewing it, returned it with a note that read: “Good. Well-researched.” He didn’t make any edits. A few weeks later, in the reply brief, the opposing counsel wrote that the argument in the brief was “nonsensical,” was filled with “lack of knowledge,” and was a “gross failing” on my part. I was devastated.
About a week after we received the scathing reply, my supervisor walked into my office waving a sheet of paper; the Judge ruled the motion in our favor. The judge found my ‘nonsensical’ argument more convincing than the opposing lawyer’s.
As you try to succeed, people will tell you that you are not good enough, sometimes well-meaning. These encounters will affect your self-esteem and make you question your abilities. Don’t be discouraged. Here are three reasons why you should not give up on your goals in the face of criticism.
1. You Cannot Avoid Criticism if You Want to Succeed
How ever good you are, you can only avoid criticism by locking yourself up in a room, everyday. Once you make the decision to get off your bed and speak to even a family member, expect that from time to time, you will be reminded of areas you fall short. The more people you interact with, the more your ideas and actions will conflict with someone else’s. For e.g., if you are a stay-at-home mum, you have only your husband to please. But if you work, you will get criticisms from the workplace too.
It follows that the amount of criticism one gets is directly proportional to his responsibility. Despite his good intentions, President Obama is the most maligned person in the U.S. (bedsides perhaps the Kardashians). In Nigeria, President Buhari is the scape goat. Before him, President Goodluck Jonathan was. So if you aspire to play a significant role in the society, brace yourself for disapproval.
First Lady Michelle Obama learned this from experience. In a TV interview, when asked what her most important advice to young people was, the First Lady said, “to always keep in mind that however good one’s intentions are, one will be criticized.” Another quote I heard some years ago sums it up, “If you don’t want to be criticized, don’t say anything, do anything, or be anything.”
2. Criticisms Don’t Define You
Often, when people are criticized, they internalize the negative words such that they weigh heavily on their minds, lingering more than they should. But when put in perspective, criticisms hurt less.
If you consider that some criticisms are made in good faith, by those who care about you, to help you grow, then you will take them to heart and work on areas that need improvement. In the same vein, you should disregard criticisms made by detractors to pull you down.
Moreover, considering that people’s judgment and values are subjective, you should not care of people’s opinion when you need not. This quote credited to George Clooney sums it up: “You’re never as good as everyone tells you when you win, and you’re never as bad as they say when you lose.” So learn to put both ovation and condemnation in their right place. If people’s judgement are not always reliable, why place undue importance on them?
3. Criticisms are Blessings in Disguise
Millions of people heard of Steve Harvey for the first time when he mistakenly announced the wrong winner during the Miss Universe contest. After the mistake, commentators predicted that Harvey’s career was over. But the reverse happened. Miss Universe invited Harvey to host the pageant again next year and his career is flourishing more than ever.
In an interview he granted Hollywood Reporter after the Miss Universe gaffe, Steve Harvey told The Hollywood Reporter, “I was asking God to help me increase my global persona. I don’t appreciate the route he took.’
I got to know Nigerian musicians Wizkid and Davido only after I read their Babymama drama on Nigerian blogs. While the stories defamed them, and rightfully so, it also made their existence known to me. Next time I hear their songs play, chances are that I will listen in more than I would have if I had never heard about them. More people listening to their songs translates to more money in their bank accounts.
People in public relations business say “there is no such thing as bad publicity.” So the next time you get a public reproach, remember that you could be receiving a free advertisement.
As far as you continue to relate with people, expect that people will disapprove of certain things you do. If you want to succeed, be open to criticism and humbly improve where necessary. If however you are not keen on succeeding, you now know how to fail–avoid criticism.