About this time a year ago I was advised, "You shouldn't take things so personally."
And for the last year I've tried to figure out how not to take things so personally.
Here's my takeaway - IT'S PERFECTLY OK TO TAKE THINGS PERSONALLY!
As a leader in public education, when we receive pointed criticism (often unwarranted and off base I may add), we have a tendency to take the feedback as feedback and then some. Often times, it feels like a personal attack, and that eats at us. Sleepless nights. Wandering thoughts. I thought it was just me until recently, I reflected with a group of leaders with many more years of experience than I've had, and leaders whom I truly respect.
Their advice was this....we take criticism personally because we care. We care deeply. In our very humanistic profession, the decisions we make impact generations of children who grow up to be contributing citizens to our communities. Our work is life-changing.
I recently read an article about Arianna Huffington, founder of the Huffington Post, who had thoughts of her own on this very topic. While she feels that women need to better learn to withstand criticism and very negative feedback, she advised that its not realistic or even appropriate to tell women not to care when we are attacked.
You know what she said? React! React emotionally! Get mad. Feel the sadness.
And then move on. Learn from the way children respond. When they fall down, they skin their knees. They cry. And they go right back out and do whatever they were doing all over again, pain gone and tears dried.
I'm still trying to thicken my own skin. But if the likes of my mentors in public education, Arianna Huffington, and even Sheryl Sandberg (as noted in her book Lean In) have learned, feel upset and move on.
I am getting better at it.