4 Ways To Not Let Others Dim Your Light

Today’s “revisit” post, originally shared in 2017, was written at a time when I can honestly say I was struggling with my own self-doubt. I will say that I can be especially hard on myself often, which can often lead to success in many areas. But there is a difference between holding yourself to high standards versus being overly critical. My best advice when defining that balance is to be the friend to yourself that you hope to be to others. We often give our best advice to others while being irrationally tough on ourselves.

Part of the reason I struggled was that I was letting too many outside voices get into my head. One of the best pieces of advice I have ever received on this topic from my friend Joe Sanfelippom is “Don’t take criticism from someone you wouldn’t take advice.”

Let that sink in for a minute and consider your own experience with that advice.

Here is something that I think is important in considering that quote from Joe. There is a difference in believing that the advice from different people you interact with isn’t valuable to others, but it just might not be helpful to you at that moment because of the relationship, or lack thereof. For example, if the only time I hear from someone is to criticize something I do, but I have had no other interactions, I often ignore the advice as it doesn’t seem to be coming from a place of support. That might seem harsh, but consider it in the classroom. If a student only heard from their teacher when they did things wrong, but never when they did anything right, would we consider that beneficial to their development?

Education is about elevation.

But not only of others but ourselves. We are limited in supporting others when we put ourselves in situations where we feel “less than.”

I hope you enjoy the original post below, but you can also listen to the podcast where I discussed the same topic as well.

I had a great conversation with a new principal with huge aspirations on how they would help their school move forward. Very quickly, she seemed to have detractors that were more focused on her than her hopes for where she would lead her school. To be clear, this wasn’t even people that were in her school, but outsiders. My advice was that the more greatness you strive for, the more people will come out of nowhere to hate on you.

The reality is that people get threatened when other people shine their light on the world. This bothers me even more so when educators do it to educators, as our jobs are to empower those we serve, not try to bring them down. If you are doing this to a colleague or peer, would you do it to a student? Would you do it to my daughter if she was in your classroom? In education, this is unacceptable.

Some people believe that if you shine bright, it somehow gives them less opportunity to find their own success. Instead of learning from what others do, they choose to find ways to undermine others. There is room for all to be successful. Although we all have different obstacles to overcome, some more daunting than others, I believe that we ultimately determine our path and destination.

From one of my favorite pieces:

So how do you deal with those trying to dim your light? Here are a few ways that I have learned from others that have helped me tremendously.

1. Be kind, always.

When being seemingly attacked, it is easy to want to strike back. Often when people are doing this, there are things that they are dealing with that may not be about you. It can be easy to attack immediately, but in the end, how does that make you look? I once heard from a comedian that if you continue to be friendly to those who hate you and continue to be cruel while you are kind, everyone will see who the mean is in the situation. People believe that attacking back shows strength, but being kind even while someone is going after you, shows strength on a different level.

2. Ask questions.

Not all criticisms are wrong. People are sometimes genuinely trying to help out, and if we are not open to being challenged, we never grow. Showing humility and learning from others’ criticism creates an excellent opportunity to learn from success and mistakes. By asking questions, you also can find common ground. That being said, if you find common ground and then people disagree with you still based on what you both believe, you start to realize that the criticism is less about the “idea” and more about the person. Leading to the next point.

3. Move on and ignore.

Time is the most precious currency we have, and how we spend it leads anyone to be successful. Who you surround yourself with is often who you become. If you spend time with people constantly trying to deter you from your aspirations, you will spend more time being frustrated and less time making things happen. This is not just during interactions, but when we dwell in our minds on others’ words and actions. A favorite quote:

Give people a chance to share their thoughts, but don’t allow them to take away to deter you from your dreams.

4. Give back.

If you want to be empowered, empower others. Be the example. As stated earlier, there is room for all people to be successful, and I make it a personal rule to invest my time in people who are willing to invest in themselves. Although our work ethic, personal mindset, and what we do with what we have are factors that lead to success, not one person I know has ever been successful totally on their own. Even in minor ways, people always help out to help others achieve their goals and dreams. Our own legacies continue when they live in others. If you hate others trying to bring people down, don’t just complain; be the opposite.

Success does not happen by accident but by habit. We have to be intentional in our interactions, not only with others but ourselves. It is okay to be hard on yourself and have high expectations, but that differs from beating yourself up. It is normal to let others’ criticisms get to us, but do not let it stop you from doing something great.

The world needs your light to shine.

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George Couros

Innovative Teaching, Learning, and Leadership Consultant. I also like dogs.