Be Bigger Than Your Critics

Raise your hand if you’ve ever had someone else tear you down.  Maybe you were the butt of a joke, or just an easy target, or the recipient of some unfair criticism.  Maybe someone underestimated your abilities, or assumed the worst about your character.  Maybe they just made you question your own self-worth.

It hurts, doesn’t it?

Several years ago, I had the incredibly unfortunate experience of attending a blogging conference and being mocked on stage by one of the speakers.


Use this printable simple habits cheat sheet to develop better life practices. Good or bad, habits require repetition. Once they become habitual, they become automatic: they no longer require extra thought—we simply do them. Embrace these 10 habits to really change your life!

He and I had somehow ended up seated next to one another at dinner the night before, and everyone at the table had enjoyed a lively discussion about blogging and business and the “best” way to make it all work.

The discussion ended with us agreeing to disagree—or so I thought—but the next day, from stage, this guy chose his moment in the spotlight to make fun of my ideas and invite the audience to laugh at what an idiot I was.

Yes, it was about as brutal as it sounds, and yes, it was completely mortifying.

But it was also a huge turning point for me.

Listening to other is key to living a successful life.

You see, it was the moment where I realized that I was going to have to choose what kind of person I wanted to be in life and in business, and as mortifying as it was in the moment, it was also one of the best things that ever happened to me.

Even so, that guy wasn’t someone I ever wanted to run into again.

But wouldn’t you know it, a few years later I was at a different conference, where he was again speaking, and our paths crossed once again.

I had always assumed that he wouldn’t even remember me or that incident and that I was just a nobody to him, no more than a blip on his jerk radar.

But as it turns out, he did. In fact, the first words out of his mouth, even before he could stop himself, were, “Hey—I remember you! You hate me, don’t you?”

I looked at him for a minute, wondering exactly what I should say, and finally said, “well, would you blame me if I did hate you? You were pretty much a complete jerk.” (Side note–truth be told, I *may* have used a slightly stronger word to describe him here.)

And then he said something completely unexpected. He said, “you know what? I was a jerk. I was young and arrogant and I’ve learned a lot since then. I would never do that today.”

It wasn’t quite an apology, but it was pretty close.

We talked for a little longer, and I told him how much had changed for me since that defining moment all those years ago.

It had been painful, yes, but that moment had allowed me to see so clearly not so much what I wanted to accomplish, but who I wanted to become.

It was the moment where I realized that, more than anything, I don’t want to be small. I told him about how on the flight home, I jotted down on a napkin the five qualities that I most wanted to embody, and then kept that napkin as a reminder to myself.

Writing down qualities important to you as a person is key to living a happy life.

And when I look back, I can see that it was the moment that drove me to think bigger, to be better, to not let anyone else define my success, and to also be so much more conscientious of how I treated others.

I told him I probably needed to thank him, because in the end, his jerk move had forced me to grow.

Max Lerner once said “the turning point in the process of growing up is when you find the core of strength inside of yourself that survives all hurt.

Along those same lines, someone else once wisely saidthe struggle you’re in today is developing the strength you need for tomorrow.

In other words, we can’t control the critics, but we can control how we respond to them.

The reality of life is that there will always be people who want to tear us down, or make us feel unworthy. It might be through a backhanded compliment from another mom, a super critical friend or co-worker, a snarky comment online, or even a family member who makes us feel like nothing we do is ever good enough. There will always be people in life who find it easier to tear us down than build us up.

Even so, it is those most painful moments that give us the biggest opportunity for growth. The truth is that it’s almost always the worst things that happen to us, the hardest and biggest challenges that we have to overcome, that lead to the biggest breakthroughs.

And so, while we can’t change other people, we CAN make the choice to not let the opinions of a few jerks define how we view ourselves. We can choose to keep our heads held high. We can choose to find the lesson within the hurt, and we can choose to focus instead on what we have to give.

That’s why my challenge for you is to make that choice to be bigger than your critics. Dig deep to find that core of strength inside of yourself, and consciously look for ways to lift other people up instead of being defeated by the ones who choose to tear you down. Be humble and kind and generous. Be forgiving. Be encouraging.

But most of all, don’t be small.

Be big.


  1. March 9 at 07:37AM

    When they go low, you go High. – Michelle Obama.
    I attended your recent Boot Camp For Bloggers. You can tell from my post that I am a newbie.
    Thanks for the camp and encouragement.

  2. March 9 at 09:40AM

    Thank you for the advice.

  3. March 9 at 10:13AM

    Thanks so much Ruth for sharing, it was very much needed from my channel this week. I am so enjoying EBA 3.0 on Unit 2 writing my first post. I love how yours just flows! Thanks for the inspiration.

  4. March 9 at 01:20PM

    I read this post right on time! I was bullied at work! Imagine having to turn up every day knowing what is going to happen! I endured, it wasn’t easy to do but I did try to be the better person. I left that job eventually.
    Recently I heard that she was unwell, really unwell. Guess who reached out to her? I told her that I had forgiven her, and I had. My heart is clean and I am so relieved not only that it is over, but also that she is forgiven.
    Thanks so much for sharing

    • March 12 at 10:02PM

      The same thing happened to me at work resulting in me having to take 3 months sick leave for depression. I never returned and resigned while on sick leave.

  5. Lorraine
    March 9 at 04:10PM

    Thank you so much Ruth, for reassuring us that it also happens to the best of us! More importantly, also how to deal with it. It’s a great reminder to have while counting those 10 seconds to avoid blowing up.

  6. B
    March 9 at 06:37PM

    Great reminders. Thank you for sharing!
    P.S. I thought you said in your newsletters that you were wanting to change your appearance… but you look fabulous!!! Hope you feel as beautiful as you are both on the inside & outside!)

  7. Elizabeth
    March 10 at 08:17PM

    This is a message I need right now!


  8. Pamela
    March 12 at 12:21AM

    Just stumbled on your site Ruth.
    Thank you for sharing your story and for being an encouragement to your readers.

  9. March 12 at 09:39PM

    Thank you for the encouragement. When we have mean things said about us or even emailed directly to us we feel like the only one who gets picked on. When really everyone does at some point.

  10. March 12 at 10:03PM

    Thank you Ruth. Very inspiring blog.

  11. Lori
    March 13 at 01:07AM

    Thanks for sharing. How many times have “we” been torn down by a friend or love one. Or made a comment without realizing the effect it had on them. I’m writing down those 5 words in my planner for when the time come, and I feel like saying something or if I hear negative things I have those 5 powerful word to either lift me up or told hold my tongue.

  12. March 13 at 07:08PM

    Good word. And from the tone that comes across on your blog and emails – you have done a fantastic job at embodying those 5 qualities!

  13. March 13 at 08:50PM

    I saw the video from Activate of you sharing this story. I hate that you (or anyone) has to go through something like this but glad it made you stronger.

  14. March 15 at 04:08PM

    Thank you for sharing your story and for being an encouragement to your readers.

  15. April 2 at 04:47PM

    Thank you so much for this word of encouragement, Ruth! I think we can all relate to being torn down in our lives, but most of us cannot relate to such a public humiliation- ouch! Yes, we definitely need to learn to rise above the shame and realize we’re only as small as we allow ourselves to be.

  16. April 14 at 02:31AM

    This is an awesome story Ruth! I love the way you used a horrible incident to make yourself a better person! Forge through fire all the way. As mothers (and fathers for that matter) we are constantly under the scrutinous eye of someone, anyone. And it can get to you! But better to respond than react! Inspiring read, thank you.
    Rose @ Our House of Love

Leave a Comment