I had a great conversation with a new principal with very big aspirations on how they were going to help their school move forward. Very quickly, she seemed to have detractors that were more focused on her than the hopes she had for where she would lead her school. To be clear, this wasn’t even people that were in her school, but outsiders. My advice to her was that the more greatness you strive for, the more people will come out of nowhere to hate on you.
The reality of our world is that people get threatened when other people shine their light on the world. This bothers me even more so when it is educators doing 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, and although we all have different obstacles to overcome, some more daunting than others, I believe that we ultimately determine our own path and destination.
From one of my favourite pieces:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do.” (Marianne Williamson, “A Return To Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles”)
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.
- Be kind, always. When being seemingly attacked, it is easy to want to attack 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 nice to those that hate you, and they continue to be cruel while you are kind, everyone will see who is the mean one in the situation. People believe that attacking back shows strength, but being kind even while someone is going after you, shows strength on a totally different level.
- Ask questions. Not all criticisms are bad. People are sometimes genuinely trying to help out, and if we are not open to being challenged, we never grow. By showing humility and trying to learn from the criticism of others, it creates a great opportunity to learn not only from success but from 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. Which leads to the next point.
- Move on and ignore. Time is the most precious currency we have, and how we spend it, is what 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 mind on the words and actions of others.A favourite quote:
Give people a chance to share their thoughts, but don’t give them a chance to take away to deter you from your dreams.
- 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. People always help out, even in the smallest ways, 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 is much different from beating yourself up. It is normal to let the criticisms of others get to us, but do not let it stop you from doing something great.
The world needs your light to shine.