The fear of criticism – with Pinballs and Whisky

“Fear of failure is actually overrated as an excuse. What people are afraid of is not failure. It’s blame. Criticism.

We choose not to be remarkable because we are worried about criticism. We hesitate… because we’re worried, deep down, that someone will hate it and call us on it. 

“That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard!” “Who’s responsible for this?” 

Sometimes the criticism doesn’t have to be that obvious. The fear of hearing “I’m surprised you launched this without doing more research” is enough to get many people to do a lot more research, to study something to death, and then kill it. Hey, at least you didn’t get criticized. 

Fear of criticism is a powerful deterrent because the criticism doesn’t actually have to occur for the fear to set in.”

– Seth Godin , “Tribes”

I had my very own taste of this a few weeks ago when I decided to do that very special project I alluded to in my last blog post. I wanted to make a video for my husband’s birthday that would involve his friends and family miming along to Pinball Wizard and the Alabama Song. I knew this would not be everyone’s cup of tea but after testing the idea with a few friends, I put out a call for volunteers and crossed my fingers. The initial response was underwhelming to say the least. And then, just as I’d feared, came a few not-so-positive remarks. 

“You want us to do what?! Do I have to?” I had to stop myself from ranting back, “Well no actually. You could just politely decline – I’m not making you do this!” Instead I walked around all day with my face tripping and feeling awful. And I had to suffer alone. Steven knew something was wrong but, as it was supposed to be a surprise, I couldn’t tell him that I had put an idea out into the world and it had been shot down.  Oh, poor me!

But I had made a pact with myself to go through with it even if it ended up being just me and the kids prancing around for 6 mins. So I held my nerve and then came a breakthrough 🙂  One of our friends replied, “I’m on it like a car bonnet”. That nearly brought me to hysterical tears of giggles and gratitude. This then seemed to spur others on as another and another came forward saying they’d have a go. I put this down to the fact that at heart, we’re still all pack animals, waiting for someone with the courage to go against the tide of convention and show us that we won’t get eaten.

The result? Well, we’re all busy people and not all the volunteers managed to send me a video but by that point I was just so chuffed that they were willing to have a go. The icing on the cake was the gusto in which Steven’s parents took up the challenge and the fact that some of those not-so-keen participants told me that they had actually really enjoyed doing it. 

Most importantly, Steven loved the finished product but the end result for me was pretty amazing too. Not because of my editing skills (ha ha), but because I found I had really enjoyed the process and had learned something valuable in the process. We all have projects we’d like to put out into the world but fear the criticism we might face. Sometimes it might come, sometimes it won’t but what this taught me was if you are convinced it is worth doing, you should dig deep and find the courage to do it. It will be worth it in the end.

You can take a look at the video here. I’m a YouTube novice and can’t get it to play on mobile devices but I think it has something to do with the music copy write being owned by a third party. I really hope that Pete Townshend and The Doors appreciate the sentiment behind what I was trying to do and won’t take me to court…


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