Overcoming Unfair Criticism

Overcoming personal attacks is something not many people are equipped with. Especially leaders feel this kind of heat quite often: blaming and shaming, unfair criticism, unfair complaints, resistance to good initiatives, betrayal by those you trusted, and untruthful rumours.

How do you overcome things like that? And yet, they abound. And it leaves severe and often lifelong scars and wounds if you don’t take care of it. It can drain your passion and rob you from your energy and joy to do what you feel called for.

Recently, when I sat with a friend, talking through his leadership battle scars, I realised again this is where you need to be more than tough and thick skinned. They say in Afrikaans “benoude katte maak benoude spronge” – “anxious cats take anxious jumps”. In other words, people take drastic steps when under pressure. When the heat is up and people get into survival mode, we see them at their best and their worst. And part of that might be to go to fight-mode, blaming you for what is wrong on their side.

So, how do you deal with that when you are unfairly on the receiving side of blame? Every situation, of course, is different. But maybe a few suggestions might help:

  • Firstly, anchor yourself in your identity. Who are you really? What do you stand for? What are some of your greatest successes and good fruit of your work so far? Celebrate who you are and be grateful for what you have achieved. Change your inner state and narrative.
  • Secondly, get perspective and be realistic and sober about people. See life through their eyes (however wrong it might be) and try to understand where they come from. See the situation for what it is and don’t make more of it. Tell yourself: “it is only another one of those…”.
  • And then: Forgive and let go. Choose to see the person as a normal human being, prone to make mistakes of judgement and action. In this way you are setting yourself free so that you don’t stay in the prison of bitterness.
  • After that: Invite new emotions in. Emotions like gratefulness, peace, love for self and others, joy and friendliness. And display it to the world around you.

It is important that you take yourself away from a victim mind-set and deliberately move yourself to a solution-focused approach. Ask yourself: what will be the best outcome? How do I/we get there? So, instead of an “Away-from” approach, choose a “Towards” approach. Take a proactive approach, where you discern and make your choices to take you to a better place.

You might be surprised how this can change your life and release you to play your A-game again. May you receive the grace and power to set yourself free and move on with the energy to make the change you have been made and prepared for! But if you need help in this, ask for it and get it in time…