Why Criticism Is So Hard to Take

There was only one. One comment among fifty. One negative comment among 49 positive ones about my speaking engagement.

But it was the only one I focused on.

It stung. I obsessed over it for days. Even now, months later, I can recall it word for word—yet the positive comments are fuzzy in my mind.

Why is that?

Photo by Alexander Krivitskiy on Unsplash

Because I fear what was said is true. It’s called imposter syndrome. We secretly fear that one day the world will wake up and realize that we, the emperor, have no clothes. We’re fakes. We don’t belong here (whatever “here” is) doing this (whatever “this” is).

A friend who is now adding “speaker” to her career successes, recently posted on Facebook, “Imposter Syndrome is real.” I wanted to comment, “and will stick around forever; even when you’ve been doing something for 15 years.” I didn’t. I didn’t want to discourage her.

Just know that if you do anything brave—take a promotion, decide on an unusual career path, pursue a ministry you feel called to, step away from the consumer culture that threatens to swallow us all—at some point, and maybe quite frequently, you will be sure you’re an imposter and someday people will catch on.

Do the brave thing anyway.

Sunday in church, and again tonight at our Ash Wednesday service, we sang this song:

These lines slammed me:

I am chosen
Not forsaken
I am who You say I am
You are for me
Not against me
I am who You say I am

I am who God says I am.

Photo by Sammie Vasquez on Unsplash

I’m not who the critic says I am.

I’m also not who the complement-giver says I am.

Honestly, I’m not even who I say I am.

I am who God says I am: 

  • “God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved” (Colossians 3:2)
  • “A chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession” (I Peter 2:9)
  • “Beloved by God, His choice of you” (I Thessalonians 1:4)
  • “Called, beloved in God the Father, and kept for Jesus Christ” (Jude 1:1)
  • “Children of God” (I John 3:2)
  • “The image of God” (Genesis 1:27)
  • “God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10)

So go forward and be who God created you to be, doing the good, brave works he prepared for you to do. Because God is for you! And you are not an imposter (unless, perhaps, you pretend to be less than he created you to be).


10 thoughts on “Why Criticism Is So Hard to Take”

  1. Thanks for the reminder- it’s hard to sort through the voices. Here is a similar song that I sing over and over when I’m listening to the judgmental voices too much. It’s by
    Barlow Girl.
    I don’t need to listen
    To the list of things I should do
    I wont try, I wont try
    You don’t define me, You don’t define me
    Mirror I am seeing a new reflection
    I’m looking into the eyes of He who made me
    To Him I have beauty beyond compare
    I know He defines me.

  2. Good reminder, it only matters what God thinks…full time ministry, the struggle is real. We are who we are only because of Christ, and for that I am eternally grateful. Thanks!

  3. Sometimes I don’t even need someone else’s negative comments to have tjhe imposter syndrome. I supply them myself. Thanks for the encouragement!


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