Last week’s Facebook post about rape (reprinted here) garnered a lot of comments, most of them favorable and many from women familiar with experiences of abuse and intimidation.
But it inspired some push-back as well. As I should have remembered, not everyone supports survivors of abuse coming forth with their stories and, in fact, some are immediately suspicious when a woman says something that may “take a good man down.”
Just thinking about these comments still makes my heart pound and my adrenaline rush. I do NOT like expressing anger in public and I do NOT like debate – and yet certain criticisms tempted me to both and left me feeling torn between wanting to destroy my opponents and wanting to change their minds. Getting so worked up, I also feared losing control over my worst impulses and revealing a side of myself that I didn’t want people to see.
And yet, as I step further into leadership and self-expression, I will inevitably confront further criticism and disagreement, some of which – like last week’s – will come from people I know. And I may feel angry.
So I had to do some hard thinking this week and learn myself a few lessons about bearing the brunt of other people’s disagreement:
- Being questioned or criticized, and feeling angry about it, doesn’t make me wrong, stupid or powerless.
- On occasion, it’s appropriate to block someone from Facebook. It doesn’t mean I can’t tolerate other opinions or am a bad person. It simply reflects a commitment to the kinds of conversations I value.
- I can feel angry and still remember my higher intentions. While it’s easy for me to get triggered into a debate and want to win it, my higher purpose is never to be right. My higher purpose is to create a space in which others are safe to express their highest selves, share their truths and discover authentic power.
- I can separate myself from the cause of my anger, i.e. the person who criticized me. Ultimately, what someone says is more about them than anything else. Whether they’re trying to shut me down, disprove what I’m saying or just being a jerk, I don’t have to take it personally. I can just let it (and them) go.
- I’d rather make a difference in the lives of people I care about than waste my limited energy trying to change the minds of people who don’t like what I have to say.
The fear of criticism causes many people to step back from their own best selves. Don’t let it stop you. Much of my work is dedicated to supporting others in doing what is risky to their sense of security and stability but which nevertheless offers them the most vitality and power.
There is life in speaking out, whether it’s against injustice or for something you believe. But if it was easy, everybody would do it. Your voice is needed and your voice is important. Be brave. Speak up and don’t let the F’ers get you down.