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We’re spending a lot of time over in the Starring Role Academy looking deeply at our current and existing relationships with Praise and Criticism.

Where we are looking at what triggers our need for praise and what we do to avoid criticism at all costs.

As ever, we’re in excellent company. We’ve heard Oprah say that every single guest on her show (Gloria Steinem! Sidney Poitier!), over the years asked her how they did when the cameras stopped rolling. This is the handiwork of the Impostor Complex but also, just our basic human need to be told we've done a good job.

So yeah. This is UP for us. And so this people-pleasing piece is inextricably linked to the Impostor Complex, as one of the behavioural traits we try to hide out in to avoid feeling like an impostor (along with comparison, leaky boundaries, procrastination, perfectionism, and diminishment.)

The real problem shows up when we compromise our integrity by playing to our fans OR to our detractors. At a macro level, that means we are not doing our best work.

What we’re really doing is playing the odds: How much praise can I get and how much criticism can I avoid?

So yes. We go out of our way to seek praise and approval. Why shouldn’t we? Praise gets us going, feeds us, inspires us to keep going, and bolsters us when our energy (and stamina) wanes.

The paradox of praise, however, is that too much, or not the right kind, or an unbalanced diet of praise alone really rattles the cage of the Impostor Complex (“I’m really not THAT good… they mustn’t mean it” or “it’s just a matter of time before they find out how wrong they are about my abilities”) AND so the value (and impact) of the praise starts to diminish.

And then, of course, there’s the ACTUAL diminishment we engage in lest we commit the “sin of outshining.”

As for criticism, we do everything in our power to avoid it. Stopping short. Keeping our heads down. While it’s true, we don’t get barbed with the sting of criticism, we do miss out on the honey that is available to us when it’s well-delivered and well-intended. The best kind of criticism, delivered as conscious critique, keeps us sharp, on our game, and moving us into our starring role. But too much criticism? Yeah, of course that also shuts us down.

It’s a game of discernment.

But the thing that I’m wondering about today, and the thing that I invite you to explore is this:

When does praise NOURISH you and when does it DEFINE you? Big difference with a life-shifting impact.

And then I invite you to consider the things that you want and don’t want. Do you see any connections? Any similarities or opposites?

The thing you are afraid of being criticized for is most likely the thing you have not yet accepted about yourself.

The thing you are most wanting praise for is the thing you don’t feel like you CAN accept yet.

I think that praise and criticism are two sides of the same coin. They are often mirror images reflecting back the same deep desire from different angles.

The thing you are afraid of being criticized for is most likely the thing you have not yet accepted about yourself.

The thing you are most wanting praise for is the thing you don’t feel like you CAN accept yet.


When you feel confident, you won’t be overly swayed by praise or comparison; only when there is an underlying issue, desire, unmet value, or other sticking point will you feel swayed by what praise and criticism have to offer.

Praise about my parenting isn’t what I’m after. That feels good and solid and I give thanks.

Criticism about my parenting is not what I’m avoiding. That ALSO feels good and solid and I give thanks.

You see, I am clear and comfortable with my parenting. Did I say I’m doing it perfectly? Nope. But I have accepted what is.

The praise that I seek is in regards to the power of my work. The criticism I am fearful of receiving is that my work isn’t powerful.

See how that goes?

It tells me that there is something going on internally that it is holding me back from accepting the power of my work, and I need to start looking deeply and analytically at the places I diminish. And the places I compare. (Because those are indicators that PRESENCE needs some attention, and of course, POWER underpins Presence. Full circle… just like we love.)

Let’s take it one step deeper.

If I’m really wanting people to tell me I look great for my exercise efforts and absolutely do not want to be criticized for having gained weight, well I guess that’s an excellent time to look at my shame relationship with fatphobia.

The things we haven’t accepted about ourselves will be the places criticism feels unbearable and the places where we crave praise the most.

Continue to let praise and criticism unseat you when they get out of alignment? Or learn to face the lessons they're trying to teach you and keep their power in check?

The choice is up to you.

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