How to Really Embrace Yourself (Even in the Face of Criticism)

Arms Open

Above all, be true to yourself, and if you cannot put your heart in it, take yourself out of it.” ~Unknown

Sitting at a party minding my own business, I wasn’t expecting it. I had no reason to. A comment filled with sarcasm and authority shot out at me from a across the room.

“Shut up Kathryn.”

It hit me like a bullet aimed straight at my heart.

I wasn’t even aware I was being particularly quiet. I was simply being me. Taking in my surroundings, quietly observing, listening to the conversations that encircled me.

But someone had noticed I was in a quiet mood. And for reasons that I will never fathom, they felt the need to bring it the attention of the entire room.

“Shut up Kathryn,” they smirked.

The comment instantly consumed my thoughts as all eyes turned toward me and sniggers of laughter filtered through the room. As my mind went fuzzy, I grappled for an appropriate response.

But what possible response is there?

As my insecurities were highlighted to anyone who would listen, I wanted the ground to open up and swallow me whole. Right there and then.

They thought they were being funny. But I found little to laugh about. The pricks of tears welled up as I fought hard to push the pain away, deep inside me. But I had to play along. Had to pretend. Had to smile. Had to laugh. As if all was okay.

But it really, really wasn’t.

And when I got home I cried. Then I cried some more.

I was haunted by three little words that represented everything I felt insecure about: my quiet nature. My introversion. My shyness. The things that I wished I didn’t have to deal with. The things I wished I could change.

When I look back at that day as a teenager, I want to comfort my younger self. To hold her close and whisper in to her ear that it will all be okay. To tell her that she will look back at this day and gain strength from it.

That she will learn to grow, embrace herself for who she is, and feel so empowered; that even though she didn’t dare share her feelings with anyone at the time, as an adult she will find the courage to share this story with you today.

To really embrace your natural persona, to live life in a way that’s completely and utterly true to who you are, and to let go of the words of the critics that may shroud your thoughts, here are three pieces of advice that have worked beautifully for me and which I hold close, if ever I falter.

Surround yourself with support.

Here’s the thing—you aren’t on your own. We all have insecurities, we all face challenges in our lives, and we can all find support if we reach out for it.

Move yourself away from the critics and release their scathing comments from your world. They come from people with their own troubles and you don’t need them in your life.

Instead, surround yourself with the people who make you feel alive—who provide you with support, inspiration, and words of encouragement.

And then turn to these people in times of need. They are the ones you will help you grow, thrive, and learn to love every inch of who you are.

Work out where you shine.

We are all born with wonderful strengths that, if used on a daily basis, can help us find our true calling.

Give yourself the time and space to reflect and then begin to develop a self-awareness and understanding of situations where you feel completely content and comfortable.

These are the moments when you are in ‘flow’—when life feels easy as you start doing the stuff that you were born to do.

By bringing more of these moments into your life, your confidence in your abilities will flourish and your insecurities over time will fade.

Listen to your body and give it what it needs.

I truly believe we all need to listen to our bodies more. If you start your day feeling exhausted and drained, then think about what that means.

You are only human, so give yourself a break. If you feel like resting, then rest. If you crave time and space by yourself, then don’t feel guilty about turning down an invitation to go out with friends.

Nurture your mind, body, and spirit in whatever way it craves, and your strength will surely grow.

Learning to embrace yourself is a journey that can hold many challenges. And if you’ve had to face unhelpful criticism or scathing comments throughout your life, then it can be all the more tricky.

But do you know what? There are amazing ways that you can help yourself and find peace with who you are.

You’ve just got to give yourself the time to grow.

Photo by pshegubj

About Kathryn Hall

Kathryn Hall is founder of The Business of Introverts, an avid writer and mentor to individuals who want more freedom, solitude, and creativity in their careers. She’s big on helping people to embrace their introversion in all its glory, while creating a life they love. Sign up to connect with Kathryn and receive her free audio series "How to create a soulful business the stress-free way."

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  • Louise Watson

    Love this Kathryn! I’ve had a similar experience to yours and can totally identify with your story from the beginning. Why anyone would think drawing the room’s attention to someone would make them feel like talking is beyond me. I think a lot of us quiet folk have decided enough is enough and are beginning to demand that we be accepted in a our own quiet way, which is fantastic to see. Thanks again for a great post.

  • Ash

    Hi Kathryn,

    Thanks for sharing your experience and your wisdom. Much appreciated. I visited your website and want to congratulate you on taking the big step away from the corporate world. I’m trying to do exactly the same thing and finding that it’s a really hard road – I write a blog on productivity and stress reduction which has had decent traffic but I’ve been so busy creating good content that I haven’t had a chance to put a monetization strategy in place.

    To your point about listening more to our bodies: I was listening to a mindfulness talk today which had an interesting perspective about being mindful of the body.

    The speaker (Gil Fronsdal) said that we are usually trapped in our mental commentary and don’t really experience the world as it is but rather as our constant mental chatter interprets what we perceive. i.e. we believe our own stories more than what’s actually before us.

    Interestingly Gil goes on to say that if you focus on your bodily sensations it’s a good way to stay in the present moment and not get swept away by the stories we tell ourselves.

  • James Hernandez

    I love this!

  • Debbie W

    If everyone is talking then who is listening? As an introverts, we suffer enough with our own internal feedback.

  • Jeevan/Mirthu/Gupt

    Hi Louis..Personally for me, “Why anyone would think drawing the room’s attention to someone would make them feel like talking is beyond me,” can be seen in two ways: 1) The person(s) maybe looking for attention & social validation, with disregard to hurting someone else’ feelings (Just shows how insecure they are about themselves deep down). 2) The person(s) noticed that you were being awfully quiet & simply wanted to get you involved in the conversation(s) with everyone else & they truly might have said it out of best intentions & no other ulterior motives. Talking from my own experience of both scenarios here! As a wise person once said, ‘What defines us is not how many times we fall down, but rather the courage to get back up each time.” :).

    P.S. This was an inspiring blog, Kathryn…thank you for sharing!

  • weedpuller

    I am strong enough to think differently and be true to myself. TWH stardate 12242013

  • Louise Watson

    Hi. Point no. 2 still doesn’t explain it for me. They may well have the best intentions, but that doesn’t explain why they would imagine anyone would suddenly feel encouraged to get involved in the conversation by another person making fun of them and causing everyone stop talking and stare at them. It baffles me how it doesn’t occur to them that it may just make the quiet person feel slightly self-conscious and therefore less likely to join in.

  • Nik Jones

    (Louise) Maybe because the person making the comment doesn’t have the
    same insecurities as the introvert and can’t see it from her perspective
    – not necessarily from a bad place. I’ve been on both sides of this
    scenario, and sometimes people do need encouragement to talk and
    sometimes sarcasm can lighten the mood, and make it safe for the person
    to communicate. It all depends on the situation, the people you’re with
    etc. Sometimes people aren’t being dicks, they’re just trying to help,
    in a clumsy way.

  • Laurette Champagne

    We do all have insecurities and not everyone is naturally outgoing or the life of the party. I can relate to being this way when I was a teenager also. I was naturally shy & introverted. I’ve come along way bringing myself out of my shell. The most important thing to remember is when someone does make a comment that might be hurtful, just remember they are being and finding their self too and may of not even realize they hurt your feelings etc….if you can help it take it objectively, not as a personal attack. Anyways thanks for sharing that. Makes me glad how far I have come on personal growth and character.

  • Rainer

    Hi Kathryn, Thanks for sharing your story. As a “quiet” person myself, I finally realize that silence can make some people super-uncomfortable. In fact, those “life of the party” people sometimes have the most insecurities. If they stop talking for even a second, and allow a quiet space to emerge, they will suddenly have to face themselves and their own “stuff” (which we’ve all got). My wish is that all people would accept social situations as they are, quiet people and all, and quit trying to control other people they deem “not acting right”……good intentions or not, it is obviously the other person’s issue that they’ve put in the center of the room (ie: judge her and not me). More importantly, I bet some people at that party could see that too. Have a great day, and keep being you.

  • Jeevan/Mirthu/Gupt

    hey Nik, thanks for clarifying the 2nd scenario a little better than I prob did…:). Louise, if you ever had such issues with anyone that you consider important in your life…you should communicate with them about how you felt when such an event happened. As for those that are not really part of your life, its their problem & not yours…we can’t always understand or change the actions of other people, but we always have a CHOICE as to how we REACT to such situations.

    By the way, Louise…I would like to add that none of us are complete ‘introverts or extroverts,’ as particularly the American Popular Culture makes it sound…leading many of us have the view of, ‘Us Vs Them.’ Usually, we are all a mix of both…its about finding the balance depending on the individual.

  • Louise Watson

    Ah, now that makes sense. Thank you.

  • Louise Watson

    Hi, yes I know there’s no such thing as a complete introvert or extrovert, plus the more extrovert among us also have their fair share of criticism for supposedly being ‘too loud’. I’ve never been one of the ‘them Vs us’ people, it’s just that some attitudes/ways of thinking are harder to understand at times. Nik’s explanation did make things clearer.

    I’ve never had such as an issue with someone particularly important to me, just comments from people I don’t know and a few bosses/teachers, but as you said, who cares about them? These things happened to me a long time ago, and the last few times I did tell them how I felt about it. It was when I started standing up for myself that the comments began to stop.I was merely commenting on a story from Kathryn’s article because I’d had a similar experience.

  • Kathryn Hall

    Hi Ash,
    Thanks so much for your lovely words about my site. The talk by Gil sounds really interesting – I’ll have to check her out. Thanks for commenting!

  • Kathryn Hall

    Thanks so much. Yes, in western society there seem to be certain social expectations of how people should behave which can make it tricky for introverts. Ironically I’ve found that the more accepting I’ve become of my naturally quiet persona, the more relaxed, confident and chatty I now am in social situations. When I was a teenager it was often the fear of judgement that held me back.

  • Kathryn Hall

    So true! We have to have observers in this world. I take pride in the fact that two of my biggest strengths observation and reflection.

  • The Astral Zen

    Great personal article. I am by nature quiet. I find that silence makes a lot of people very uncomfortable as it highlights their own unease and anxiety. I know plenty of people that will just keep talking about anything to fill the silence. Others, as you experienced, will try to make you feel uncomfortable in your silence as they can’t bear their own discomfort with it. Ever noticed how being the only non drinker in a group of people out socially to drink often causes an awkward dynamic?

  • Jeevan/Mirthu/Gupt

    oh, okay…I’m glad to hear to hear about you standing up for yourself now. I have struggled a lot with similar situations in the past as well and still do at times…that’s why I decided to comment hoping it would be of some help. Hope all is well!