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March 08, 2018

 If you’re trying to do something different – people will judge you.

If you’re doing something in the public eye – people will criticize you.

The best way to never be critiqued or judged is to sit back and do whatever is expected of you.

Whether you’re an artist, entrepreneur or maker – the likelihood of you being met with rejection, critique, misunderstanding or negative feedback is very high.

Sam Altman, the President of YCombinator once said during a podcast interview:

Good entrepreneurs are often particularly sensitive to rejection – they take criticism online very harshly.

Further, he expressed that “first-time entrepreneurs are generally very insecure” as it relates to seeking out opportunities and having people judge their ideas or businesses.

Why Are We So Sensitive To Criticism?

The fact that you obsess over negative feedback is a universal trait amongst all humans.

It’s in our nature to be influenced by the feedback we get from others.

Our brains are hardwired to react to criticism as a threat. So it’s easy for us to become upset, defensive or isolate ourselves upon receiving critique.

One negative comment can ruin your day. These negative comments are amplified because they trigger our most primitive and reactive parts of our brains. It’s called the ‘dino brain’ which in the face of a perceived threat triggers the sympathetic nervous system placing our body into action for fight or flight.

The Dino Brain is the first wall of defense as it relates to danger. It’s this portion of the brain that has given people a feeling of invincibility upon being met with a near-death experience.

When this trigger happens, stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol rush to our bloodstream. The response ranges from heavy breathing to an increase in our heart rate – it happens so quickly that our frontal lobe doesn’t have time to even react. As a result, we can often make snap decisions like feeling angry, walking away, defending ourselves or coming back with a harsh or cruel response.

How To Respond More Effectively To Critique

One of the best pieces of advice that I’ve ever received around dealing with harsh criticism is walking away from it and then coming back once my mind has cleared. I like this approach because it allows time for the more sophisticated part of your brain to catch up with the situation and help lead to a more logical and productive reaction.

But beyond dealing with your response, it’s also important to understand the internal game. The feelings and thoughts that go through your brain after being criticized are just as important as your public response. In fact, I’d suggest that it’s even more important as its what gives you the ability to stay resilient and sane during some of the hardest times.

Here are a few things that you should always remember:

  • Sometimes people don’t have enough information surrounding your product, brand or idea to provide a quality critique. Don’t allow their ignorance to blur your perspective of the opportunity.
  • Don’t think of it as a personal attack. The idea or product is what they are critiquing – not you.
  • Understand that the person critiquing you could very well be acting from their own Dino Brain rather than their evolved brain.
  • You don’t need to convince everyone in the world to agree with you or see the vision.
  • Your job is to gather feedback – take what’s helpful or constructive and throw the rest of the feedback to the side.

This is one of the many rejection emails that the founders of Airbnb received when they were attempting to raise $150,000 at a $1.5M valuation. That means for $150,000 you could have bought 10% of Airbnb.

Today, Airbnb is worth an estimated $25.5 billion.

I point this out because no matter how great of an idea you have, you can be met with rejection & critique. What matters most is not the criticism itself but how you bounce back and respond.

From my experience, the first step in dealing with criticism is to know that you’re not alone.

Realize that every maker is subject to it and most makers are negatively influenced by it. Keep pushing forward. Keep creating. And keep chasing the dream.

Comment below and let me know how you deal with critique and criticism – I’d love to hear from you!

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