“Don’t worry if you’re making waves simply by being yourself. The moon does it all the time.”

~ Scott Stabile

Not everyone, as you may have already discovered, will join our cheering squad and applaud us for having the courage to take such leaps of faith. Receiving negative responses from people when we put ourselves out there, in whatever way we feel called to, is likely one of the deepest fears we experience along this path.

When we decide to listen to our soul’s whispers, as Naomi Levy, author of Einstein and the Rabbi: Searching for the Soul, describes it… when we embark on the expedition to follow our dreams — to live with purpose — there will always be pushback from others. It’s a given. I could write an entire book made up of all of the criticisms and words of doubt that I’ve received along my journey over the past few years. It might make for some interesting reading, especially if I were to put those statements next to the list of the milestones I’ve achieved.

There are always risks involved with putting ourselves out there, living out loud, and following a path that has meaning for us. And it’s also a given that, if, when we come to the fork in the road, we give in to the fear of taking some level of risk and, instead, choose to follow the most traveled way, we are less likely to find our passion or to unleash our most auspicious gifts. “Our greatest problem in the human condition is our negative relationship to suffering and struggles of any kind,” said Akshay Nanavati, veteran, motivational speaker, and author of Fearvana: The Revolutionary Science of How to Turn Fear Into Health, Wealth and Happiness, when I had the chance to interview him on my radio show. Fearvana, as Nanavati defines it, is “the bliss that results from engaging our fears to pursue our worthy struggle…our path…because anything worthwhile is going to be scary, it’s going to be hard.” Fear and bliss, he told me, “are complimentary. We need one to experience the other.”

Not everyone, as you may have already discovered, will join our cheering squad and applaud us for having the courage to take such leaps of faith. Receiving negative responses from people when we put ourselves out there, in whatever way we feel called to, is likely one of the deepest fears we experience along this path. “If everyone loves you, you’re probably playing waaay too safe. If you’re real, at least a few people might be annoyed. A little criticism sometimes can be an awfully good sign,” wrote Tasha Silver in her book, Outrageous Openness: Letting the Divine Take the Lead. So, how do we deal with criticisms or even verbal assaults, especially when they come from our friends or family? Compassion is often the key, even compassion for the people who are criticizing us.

Some of the people who show resistance to our decision to follow our calling are those who genuinely care about us and are worried for us. I’m grateful to all those in my own life who care enough to worry about me. And I know that’s it’s important to take constructive criticism, perhaps leading to some adjustments in our course. But, then, it’s equally important to continue on our way, in spite of the continued fear expressed by our loved ones and the increase in our own fears that might have been triggered by their concerns.

As we continue along our passage, it’s likely that we’ll encounter others who will try to knock us off-course with unhelpful and, sometimes, rather callous criticism. Let’s remember that this might be because they, themselves, feel paralyzed by their own fears about taking such risks. Our courage then serves as a contrast, painfully highlighting their paralysis. Or, perhaps, these naysayers are uncomfortable that we’re shaking up the status quo. And, then, there are those who just feel miserable, in general, and believe that they will feel better if they hate someone. In social media lingo, those are the trolls. When we put ourselves out there, we become the target of such trolls.

Remember that, very often people strike out when they, themselves are experiencing deep emotional pain. This does not make their behavior OK. But, having that understanding helps us to have compassion and to not take what is said personally. “Don’t take anything personally,” wrote don Miguel Ruiz in The Four Agreements. “Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream.”

We all want to be loved and accepted. Being in relationships is healthy. But, there will always be those who say we’re wrong. And, when we give in to this fear of being criticized and we squelch our own dreams and our true path because we don’t want to make others upset with us, we all lose. Giving up on our true calling leads to missing out on realizing our true purpose in life. And, ultimately, the world will miss out on the incredible gifts we have to offer.

We can counteract the sting of disapproving remarks, or worse, by surrounding ourselves with positive people who are part of our “dream team,” those who encourage us to follow our dreams and for whom we can, in turn, cheer on their passionate journey. This positive energy exchange is energizing and creates more joy and vitality along our path. It also gives us a chance to demonstrate kindness and generosity in helping our “team” members achieve their dreams. This is an extremely powerful antidote, transforming negative energy into healing energy. Expanding out to show the same kindness and generosity to those in need in our community and around the globe then further serves our greater purpose by opening our hearts to increasing our compassion. This results in even more magic in our lives and in the world. For more about the power of compassion to bring magic into our lives, see my previous blog, Compassion and Living a Passionate Life: An Essential Element of Passion is COMpassion. Writes Jack Kornfield in his book, A Lamp in the Darkness, “Your experience of being human in this way — opening to the ten thousand sorrows and joys of yourself and others — becomes a kind of salvation.”

If we keep our eyes open, we will notice that, for every criticism we receive for following our soul’s whispers, there will be many more who will be grateful to receive our gifts and who are inspired by our passion. Having the courage to follow our passion in spite of our fear of criticism is not just for our own joyful life, but it brings light and joy into the world…and the world sure could use more light and joy right about now.

In Peace & Joy,

Dr. Mara

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  • Dr. Mara Karpel

    Psychologist, Host of Radio show, “Dr. Mara Karpel & Your Golden Years,” Author, "The Passionate Life: Creating Vitality & Joy at Any Age." www.DrMaraKarpel.com

    Dr. Mara Karpel has been a practicing Clinical Psychologist for over 27 years and is the author of the International Bestseller, "The Passionate Life: Creating Vitality & Joy at Any Age," a guide for all who want to live a more vital, joyful life! Dr. Mara also hosts the Blog Talk Radio show, “Dr. Mara Karpel & Your Golden Years,” which can be heard at BlogTalkRadio.com/YourGoldenYears and on DrMaraKarpel.com. Most recently, she has been named the Passionate Living Motivator for CompassionateAustin.org.