How To Handle Public Criticism

public criticismWhen I began working as a professional intuitive I thought I was doing a great thing. Helping people navigate the maze of their lives, offering insight and wisdom, helping the police solve crimes, and even bringing people back from the brink of suicide. And so it was that I was surprised and shocked when I received my first piece of hate email. It was from a very religious guy who told me in no uncertain terms that I was going to go to Hell for what I was doing. Wow… going to eternal damnation for helping people with their lives. That’s quite a judicial system there fella.

And the hits just kept on coming. People I’d never met and had never read for started writing things about me publically, calling me a fraud, a criminal, and a charlatan. That surprised me because well… I’d never even met the people! I couldn’t understand why someone would express an opinion like that without at least having the decency to interact with me first. But hey, it’s a free country, and people can say whatever they want, even if it’s not true.

I even received death threats from people who told me to stop what I was doing or they’d make me stop. If that doesn’t rattle you, you’re a stronger person than I am! Luckily those were few and far between.

I was very hurt and even surprised by the negative criticism and hate mail. I have a thin skin, probably because I don’t wantonly express hatred towards others and can’t understand why people would hate me. I started to wonder if it was worth it, being in the public eye, attracting the attention of people who wanted to “take me down.” I wasn’t sure I wanted to go down the road of being unfairly and unjustly judged. I had to really think about this issue.

I knew other people in my profession bore the brunt of unfair criticism all the time. Poor John Edward was featured in a Southpark episode where they referred to him as the biggest douche in the universe. One day when I was at a John Edward show, someone in the audience asked him how he felt about that episode. His reply interested me greatly and is what ultimately helped me decide to continue on my course no matter how much criticism was levied at me.

Basically he said something to the effect of, “I knew when I started doing this work publically that I was painting a bullseye on my ass. I knew people would take shots at me, and I knew I would face extraordinary criticism for my chosen vocation. But I don’t care. I am called to do this work, I do it well, and I’m not going to let other people stop me. They’re free to think what they want. All that matters is that I know I’m doing my job with integrity. I will never defend what I do. People can try to discredit me until they’re blue in the face; they can challenge me, they can try to assault my character, it’s not going to stop me.”

If you’ve ever heard John speak in person, you’ll know that his Italian and New York background make him fully capable of withstanding assaults on his character. I greatly admire his tenacity and stalwart presence in this field. He’s like the leader of the pack, using a machete to cut his way through the jungle of doubt and criticism for the rest of us to follow. And I am grateful to him for being willing to lead. It can’t be easy, no matter how much Italian and New York blood he has in him. ;)

And so it was that I adopted this same mindset. I know without a doubt that the work I do helps others and I work with high integrity and a code of ethics I don’t always see in the industry.

So one day a friend in a similar industry as mine asked me how I handle criticism, especially when people are making false accusations. I told her that it used to bug me a lot, and that I used to try to defend myself, but I stopped. And I shared my new mindset with her and told her what I’ve learned after years of being in the public eye:

I’ve learned that what others say about me does not define me. I define me.

I’ve learned that people criticize what threatens them, and that’s their challenge to overcome, not mine, unless I choose to carry that burden for some reason.

I’ve learned that other people’s opinions of me are based on expectations and assumptions that may not be accurate, and that they must do their own research to arrive at the truth. I’m not required to do that research for them.

I’ve learned that when people attack me, they are feeling fear, and I give them understanding and compassion, but not my power.

I’ve learned that some of the greatest people in our world faced criticism and false judgment, but they persevered to create long and lasting changes that benefit others. If they can do it, so can I.

I’ve learned that people don’t always think before they speak, and that what they say about me or to me doesn’t actually require a response on my part.

I’ve been known to tell people who express hatred towards me that I do not need or require their love and approval to do my work, and that I can still live just as happily even if we never see eye to eye.

Everyone is entitled to their opinion. Often what we criticize in others are the things we don’t like about ourselves.

At the end of the day if I can look at myself in the mirror and feel proud of what I do, then that’s all that matters to me. There’s no way anyone could know all that I do, what goes on behind the scenes, the efforts and lengths I go to to help people in crisis, so when people judge me I know they are judging me without knowing enough to truly form an accurate judgment. I’ve learned not to judge others for this very reason. You are the only person who can accurately judge you. Nothing anyone else says (good or bad) is entirely real, it’s just a reflection of their thoughts, expectations, assumptions, and experience.

The way to handle public criticism is to always have integrity in your work, so there is nothing you need to ever defend. Your actions will speak louder than your words. It’s not lost on me that the people who are my most vocal detractors are the ones who have never met me, and the ones who are my most vocal supporters are the ones I’ve spent the most time with.

If you are facing the prospect of doing work that puts you in the public eye, be sure you always have integrity, honesty, and truth in all of your dealings. Send compassion to those who judge you, and serve those who need you. Keep doing what you do best, keep moving forward, and don’t let anyone stop you or bring you down.

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