What if Your Biggest Critics are the Ones you Love the Most?

What do you do if your biggest critics are the people closest to you? That’s the question a reader emailed me recently in response to my post, This 1 Thing Will Silence Your Critics ForeverIn it, I suggest the best thing to do with critics is to leave them. In her case, her biggest critics are her mom and her brother. So what should she do?

Change your critics

It’s not your job to change your critics. It’s your job to live out your purpose. (Tweet That) | Share this Graphic on Pinterest | Share on Facebook

Before I answer the question, let me repeat my definition of what a critic is and isn’t, just so we are clear:

A critic is not someone who brings up legitimate concerns or occasionally points out flaws in your logic. A critic is not someone who tells a 300-pound man who hasn’t exercised since the Clinton administration that he should lose some weight and get on a training plan before running a marathon. There is a big difference between a realistic friend and a critic.

A critic is someone who tells you that any dream beyond his or her bubble of understanding is ridiculous or impossible. They label you a dreamer or a child. They believe it is impossible to live a dream and still provide for your family. They think that happiness on the job and responsibility are mutually exclusive. When you leave a critic’s presence, your energy is depleted, your joy stripped, and your dreams crushed.

So what do you do when your biggest critics are loved ones, particularly your mom and brother like this reader? Here is my response to her:

I could quote Scripture which says “who is my mother and brother?” and remind you that your purpose is greater than pleasing one or two people.

I could suggest that Jesus would have given the same advice if the home or town was their mother’s or brother’s home or town.

I could say that Jesus came to turn mother against daughter, brother against sister, etc. (Matthew 10:35)

And…I might be right. But, I’m not sure that helps right now.

So, I’ll tell you three stories instead.

Jack Canfield and his Mom

I heard Jack Canfield give a speech in which he talks about how his mom is always negative towards him and his career.

This is Jack Canfield! He’s a multi-millionaire. He’s an author who has sold maybe 500 million books, a speaker, and is known around the world. And his mother gives him classified ads?!?!?! Seriously? “Get a real job?” He makes more money in 8 minutes than she’s made in her lifetime. He has more influence on the world in a day than most people have in decades. And she tells him to “get a real job.”

So what did he do?

He did two things.

1. He spent less time around her. Key word: less. Unless the relationship is beyond repair at the time and completely toxic, I don’t suggest cutting off family. But I do suggest remembering that your calling and mission are more important than any one person.

2. He prepared for his time with her. He mentally prepared himself going into calls or meetings with her. He affirmed himself, prayed, and spent time inputting positive messages. He did whatever it took to nullify the effect she could have on him.

Denis Waitley and his Mom

Denis Waitley had a mom similar to Jack Canfield’s. She was also extremely negative.

What did he do to counteract his mom’s negative influence?

1. Positive responses. He found something positive in response to everything she said. He ignored her requests to get a “real job” and didn’t feel the need to prove himself to her. When she said, “it’s too hot,” he said, “good sun.” When she said, “the factory is hiring,” he said, “great, someone will enjoy a great job there, but I’m happy where I am.”

2. Practiced the 3-for-1 Rule. For every one negative person in his life, he surrounded himself with three positive people. So, for him, that meant that in order to spend time with his mom, he needed three others building him up. For you, that might mean you need to call a friend or two before and another one or two after being around your negative family members. Tell them you are about to meet with your family and they’ll be ready with a pep talk afterwards.

My Story

When I was 25, I was working 100+ hours a week to start a business. I was close to killing myself. No days off. 15 hours a day. Every day it was 6am to 11pm with only a break for meals and a long walk at midday for my little exercise.

My mom criticized me, thinking I was crazy. But I told her “successful people drive to and from work in the dark.”

She responded with “It doesn’t seem like you are very successful.”

Ouch.

I was making less than $1500 a month at the time. That worked out to about $3.50/hour. She made her comfortable $35,000 a year in a steady job. But that’s not me.

Soon $1500 a month became $2000, which became $5000, which was soon $15,000, which became…a whole lot more.

This story has a happy ending though. Two years almost to the day of her telling me it didn’t seem like I was very successful, she drove nine hours to attend an awards ceremony for our company. We won the Best in Business Award from the Nashville Business Journal. She was there to celebrate. (She even made it as the thumbnail on the YouTube video announcing it)

So what did I do in response to her initial negativity?

I told her once (that was enough):

“I will be successful someday.”

And I moved on.

I didn’t hold it against her. I simply recognized that she had a different mindset than me. And that was OK.

I stopped discussing business with her for the time being. And over time, my success changed her mindset. Not because of my words, but because of my results; because of my actions.

Action item: Pick one strategy to use with the critics you love the most. Spend less time, prepare through prayer/positive input, enlist three positive people to help, or prepare positive responses. Start with one and add more as you progress.

The negative people in your life aren’t evil. They just have different mindsets. It’s not your job to change them.

Remember your purpose. Remember your calling. Remember your dreams.

Change the world…and you just might change your critics.

Question: How have you dealt with critics who are also loved ones? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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  • Steve Daniel

    I currently live with my biggest critic. For every step forward I take, she pulls me back three. I know her history and a good bit of her reasoning for this. She had an abusive family life growing up (it’s not a family reunion until the police show up), abusive boyfriends, and girlfriends that stabbed her in the back. She really knows drama.
    In the midst of looking at all of this, I came to believe that she is operating out of fear . She isn’t afraid for me, but for herself. It is her self preservation that is causing the issues. If I become successful, will I then want a more intelligent wife, or a wife that I have more in common with? She wants me at her level, so that she feels comfortable. She has no idea, that stepping out and putting yourself out there like I’m beginning to do is very uncomfortable. I do it because staying where I’m at is unacceptable. I do it to survive! I don’t know of any other way to live anymore. I don’t know that she will ever understand that, but my goal is for her to have everything that she has been denied due to the lousy people of her past. It not the knight in shining amour syndrome, it is simply trying to restore some things that were taken from her, because I do love her and only her.
    By the way, my biggest supporter is at work…my boss. I get to spend more time with my supporter than my critic. It makes up for a lot of the criticism that I get at home.

    • Wow Steve. That is powerful.

      You’ve acknowledged the reason your critic is the way she is. It’s not because she is evil, it’s because she doesn’t know any better.

      I encourage you to encourage her as much as possible, while also keeping your distance and changing yourself. Remember your true, larger purpose. She’ll start to change when she sees your change.

  • It can be tough facing the critics, especially those we love. Sometimes I’ve found those closest to me can be the most critical, just like those you mentioned and yourself. Yet I push forward in the relationships. I continue to love and show my enthusiasm. It’s paid off in some of those relationships that were too valuable to lose.

  • Great stories and topic, Matt!!!

    My mother loves me but she is very critical about the things I strive to do. She shares the facts but in a negative way. For example, when I first was thinking about attending college she was warning me about how hard and difficult it was so to really think through attending/ or attending full time classes.

    • How did you handle that Dan?

      Thanks for sharing openly!

      • I said nothing but proved her wrong with my action.

        • Perfect response. Reminds me of the Frank Sinatra quote: “The best revenge is massive success.” You weren’t looking for revenge, of course, but I’ve also found that the best testimony is massive success as well.

  • Gary Omerland

    Wow. This is powerful.

    I’ve been going through this with my parents. Thank you for sharing.

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