Shine On, You Crazy Diamond (or How to Ignore Negative Criticism)

DenaMarch 24, 2011

I have no patience for anybody that doubts me, none at all.” —Tupac Shakur

About a year ago, I decided that I wanted to be a motivational speaker. At the time, I had a cozy office job, a good salary, and I received increases & promotions regularly. I was praised for my talents. It was incredibly secure and my future was “bright.” Yet, in my heart I knew that something was very wrong.

It felt like the life was being sucked out of me. Every day I had to get up and fight with myself to get out of bed. I was not passionate about that desk job. What I am passionate about is helping people to transform their lives. I am passionate about telling my story (overcoming depression & anxiety; becoming healthy; creating the life of my dreams) and teaching people how to do the same.

And so even though I had a really good, really secure, really comfortable thing going on—I had to leave. I had to take a risk and set out on a new journey to become a motivational speaker. It was time for me to take my own advice. Don’t settle for misery because you are afraid of change.

So I started out on my new adventure, but first I had to tie up loose ends. And this is where this post truly begins. As I set out on my journey to become a motivational speaker, I hit some major bumps in the road. Yes, when you truly want something the whole universe conspires to make it happen; but, first it throws a shit storm of resistance in your path to test your resolve.

My resistance came in the form of doubt from others. Here’s the thing, when you are a twenty-six year old woman, sometimes people will use your age and your gender against you. It might not be intentionally discriminatory and people won’t come out and say it outright, but it’s there. They’ll slip it in slyly, coyly, guised as a compliment or helpful advice— “You know, Dena, you should really consider getting some more professional experience under your belt. Speaking is a really competitive market.”

As I set out on my journey, these veiled comments cut me down to my core. I had started my journey with such passion & conviction. My heart & soul screamed— Yes! This is right. This is what you were meant to do! But the naysayers, the hurtful comments, and the raised eyebrows started to get to me. I sank, crushed. Maybe they were right? Maybe I am too young? Too female? Maybe I need “more experience under my belt.” Their doubt became my doubt; but then I remembered…


Pardon my French, but just as I was about to give up, I said: You know what? Fuck that. Fuck them. Fuck anybody who doubts me! I believe in myself and I don’t need anybody else’s approval to shine on like the crazy diamond that I am. Yea. That felt a lot better. That felt right.

So I gathered all of the courage in my heart and booked a flight to Paris. That left me with no choice but to submit my resignation. I was getting on a Europe-bound plane two weeks later one way or the other! Walking into my boss’s office that morning was one of the most terrifying things that I’ve ever done, but I did it.

If you are looking to make a similar change, I’ve got a few tips to help you along your path.

1. Confidence. Remember, above all things, that you are a bright light in this world. Your glow is endless. The love within your heart is infinite. You have no boundaries and no limits. The only cage around you is the one that you create in your head. You are amazing. You are the best their ever was, the best there ever will be. There is no one in this world exactly like you; no one in this world capable of exactly what you are capable of.

When you find that light in your heart, that spark of confidence, flame it. Give it oxygen. Let it breathe. Let it spread. Don’t worry about what anybody else does. Don’t worry about what anyone else thinks. It is none of your business what people think of you anyway. Let that confidence fire roar and shove the sparks into the pockets of your spirit. Pull them out whenever you need them.

2. Embrace constructive criticism. Know the difference between constructive criticism and negativity. I am an enormous lover of constructive criticism. I can’t stand people who say that they appreciate constructive criticism; but as soon as you make a suggestion, they get defensive, jump down your throat, or say they’ve already tried that. That is a despicable way to be.

For every critic, cynic, and negative person in the world, there is another person who genuinely cares about your journey and wants you to succeed. They will be the ones cheering you on when you’re ahead and picking you up when you fall down. Listen to what they have to say—even when it stings.

A couple of weeks ago, I gave a talk in Pennsylvania. A friend reviewed the tape and commented, “I loved the story you told at the start, but you took too long to get to the point.” Now that is the kind of constructive criticism that I love! I know that she wants me to succeed and she wasn’t afraid to tell me how to make it better. I didn’t try to defend myself. Instead I just thanked her and made a note to shorten that bit next time around.

Accept constructive criticism with grace. It is the best way to improve yourself. If you reject it, you’ll end up in a delusional fantasy of your own perfection. And believe me, I’ve known people like that. It’s an ugly way to be.

3. Know your limitations & then defy them. Tim Ferriss said that 99% of people are convinced they are incapable of achieving great things, so they aim for mediocre. Understand that you are the exception. Don’t be a part of the 99%. Be a part of the 1% of the population that knows that you are entirely capable of unimaginable greatness.

Figure out what your weaknesses are and then bust your ass until they become your strengths. It doesn’t matter if you fall down 499 times. Just make sure that you get back up 500 times.

4. Remember, if it’s not okay it’s not the end. I took a giant leap of faith when I left my job last September to pursue a career as a motivational speaker. But the faith that I had, I had in myself. When you have faith in yourself, you can never be wrong. The path may not be easy, it sure as hell hasn’t been easy for me. It’s a struggle. Some days you cruise and some days it’s an uphill battle; but when you’re going through hell, keep on going.

Never forget that if it’s not okay, it’s not the end. It is the journey that matters. You are a star and no one can take that away from you.

Good luck, lover. Keep going and don’t look back. I am rooting for you!

Comments (23)

  • Dawn

    March 24, 2011 at 12:47 pm

    I truly wish I had been given this kind of advice when I was younger. Dispite the fact that I am grateful for my children, and know that I journed the path I was inteneded…This advice would have been so very helpful to me.

    I hope to pass it on to many many more. When people ask what my dream is…I tell them I want a ranch on a hillside in California…Well of course they all scoff and say ‘it’s so expensive’…I just laugh, well, it’s my dream, and what the point of dreaming if you need to keep it practicle.

    I am inspired by you every time I read your messages. Thank you for reminding me that I am capable of great things…
    xoxox Cause we all know, you can never hear that often enough!

  • Dena

    March 24, 2011 at 12:51 pm

    @ Dawn – Thank you so much for your kind words & for sharing your dream. I firmly believe that in order to accomplish our dreams, we must state them out loud & share them with whoever is willing to listen! We must let the Universe know what we want.

    I love your dream to live on a ranch. I have a similar dream. Of course I want to be a motivational speaker, but I also want a simple, quite “home” life, a few animals, and a family.

    I think that “unrealistic” goals are the best kind! They allow us to prove that we are capable of greatness. Let’s make it happen together. 🙂

  • Lou Mello

    March 25, 2011 at 8:38 am

    Excellent post and lots of good thoughts to ponder. I am really impressed with your willingness to “GO” for it and am contiuing to root for you. I have been reading your posts for a little while and seldom comment, but, really wanted to congratulate you on this one.
    Your points about friends, constructive criticism and negativity are right on the mark. Knowing how to tell the difference and using the results positively is the trick. I used to try to please everyone and really didn’t “take a chance” on ideas, actions, whatever. In the last 10 years or so, I have finally figured most of it out; the important things in life are friends, family and doing good in the world. I keep those in mind whenever I try something different and let the negativity just bounce off me.
    Keep on doing what you do, I am inspired just reading your posts.

    1. Dena

      March 29, 2011 at 9:55 am

      @ Lou – Thank you so much! It is inspiring to hear that you have made such a vast transition — from being a “people pleaser” to focusing on your core values (family, friends, and doing good). That is the type of lifestyle change that blows me away & that is what I am aspiring to myself. I am really glad that you’ve stuck around. Your presence is always positive. You keep reading, I’ll keep writing! 🙂 Thanks again.

      @ James – Really glad you liked the post! You’ve hit the nail on the head — no time or energy for the negative people in life. There are way too many positive souls & bright lights to keep focused on. I truly hope that you are right. If the post gives just one person motivation or courage, I will be infinitely grateful. Thank you!

      @ Kristin – remember: almost nothing worth having comes easy… Yes, yes, yes! It is important to remind ourselves of this regularly. In my life, I try to overcome the “overwhelm” by focusing on the journey rather than the end goal. It’s definitely a new experience for me as I am a naturally goal-oriented person. But it’s been really good so far. It’s like I am finally taking time to smell the roses. 🙂

  • James Moffitt

    March 25, 2011 at 12:29 pm

    Wow, this is an excellent article. I like what you had to say. I agree with you about negative people and naysayers. Life is too precious and short to let those kind of people drag you down. Thanks for writing this. I know that it will motivate a lot of people and give them courage to shine.

  • Kristin

    March 27, 2011 at 8:23 am

    “These are the days that must happen to you”

    &remember: almost nothing worth having comes easy… which needs to be balanced with, if you are trying too hard to force something, perhaps a different path is available that will be more rewarding, but you’ll only see it if you open your eyes a little wider.

    I have to remind myself of these things periodically… and we all get through, don’t we?

  • Dana

    March 29, 2011 at 1:19 pm

    Thank you for this post Dena. Awesome words of wisdom – and a great reminder for me to read today. Just what I needed to keep my chin up & keep going no matter what!

    1. Dena

      March 29, 2011 at 1:23 pm

      @ Dana – Thank you so much for your comment. It is awesome to see you here. You are such a huge inspiration to me! By the way, I absolutely love your !! I am going to be running a SPRING FITNESS CHALLENGE here at the blog (post going up today) & will be sharing RealFit with all of my lovely readers.

      Keep up that positive energy, Dana & come visit again soon. 😉

  • Dana

    March 29, 2011 at 4:15 pm

    Dena, That’s awesome! I’m so happy you checked the site out – I am excited to be recording new videos – I did a 30-minute spin & a kickboxing “essentials” class last week. Both will be posted soon. I have sooo many ideas on workout videos, I can wait to get them recorded & posted on a regular basis so I can help more people reach their fitness & health goals from the comfort of their own home. I love what you are doing with the spring challenge. I shared it on my FB wall – maybe I’ll sign up & help contribute? I’d be happy to give some free professional fitness advice to those who need some help if you are interested in having me? 😉

    1. Dena

      March 29, 2011 at 4:21 pm

      @ Dana – I can not wait to check out the new videos. They are absolutely amazing. You have so much energy & spirit, I can not help but to fall in love with everything you share.

      I would be SO honored to have you join in on the SPRING FITNESS CHALLENGE. Actually, if you would be willing I would love to have you do a guest post! That way we can share your expertise with the SPRING FITNESS participants and the rest of my readers. I’ll send you a message on FB.

      And finally, THANK YOU so much for sharing the challenge with your FB friends. It means so much to me. 🙂

  • Sarah (Saturday Sequins)

    September 20, 2011 at 11:20 pm

    I’m here via Gala Darling, and I just have to say, thank you so much for this. It’s exactly what I needed.

    After years of telling myself I can’t do what I love and that I should settle for something boring and practical, I decided to pursue a career as a writer and artist. Even though it’s only been a few months, I’m learning so much and prouder of myself than I was all those years of earning a steady income at a boring job. I call it an emotional growth spurt.

    But I still have those moments. Those moments where I wonder if I’m crazy and whether I have the right to be doing what I’m doing. So I’m going to bookmark your post, and maybe print it out and hang it on my wall.

    — Sarah

    1. Dena

      September 21, 2011 at 12:26 pm

      Hi Sarah! It is so wonderful to meet you. Glad that you found me. Isn’t Gala incredible? <3 She's introduced me to so many beautiful new friends.

      I am so excited to hear about your journey and about the huge leap of faith that you took to pursue your passion. Good for you–you are an inspiration! I'm going to check out your blog now to learn more about your journey. XO

      1. Sarah (Saturday Sequins)

        September 21, 2011 at 6:12 pm

        Aww! Thanks for checking out my blog! You’re a sweetie. 🙂

        And Gala really is the best. She’s helped me so much already! I love to see people doing what they’re passionate about and what makes them happy. The more people I meet, the more I find strength.

  • Alex

    September 23, 2011 at 11:55 am

    This is an absolutely AMAZING blog post. Thank you so much, it has made my day!

    1. Dena

      September 23, 2011 at 12:02 pm

      Thank you, Alex! I am so glad that you enjoyed it. <3 I hope you'll come by and visit again.

  • Amanda

    September 23, 2011 at 4:37 pm

    I could not have read this at a better time in my life. Those first two paragraphs ARE me right now. I am grappling with pursuing soul feeding dreams or continuing on the “safe” route – plugging meaningless holes at someone else’s company. Thank you so much for writing this.

    1. Dena

      September 23, 2011 at 4:41 pm

      Hey Amanda! Thanks so much for the great comment. I love hearing that this came at the perfect time for you. That’s my biggest hope when I share my writing. You made my day. XO

  • whatiwore

    September 28, 2011 at 6:15 pm

    Awesome post! Found you via Gala Darling and this made me grin from ear to ear. Thank you for reminding everyone – YES! YOU ARE AWESOME! 

    1. Anonymous

      September 29, 2011 at 8:16 pm

      thank you for stopping by! <3  i just checked out your site.  your wedding dress was gorgeous!  hope you'll visit again soon.  xo

  • Riverplate09

    September 29, 2011 at 11:57 pm

    Very nice post, used it my current class! Good Luck!!!

  • Kanikadalmia29

    January 13, 2012 at 12:27 am

    Very inspirational post !
    What does a person do if luck doesnt favour you and people around you are negatively pulling you down ..?? How does a person then hold her own ?

    1. Dena Botbyl

      January 17, 2012 at 9:35 am

      I don’t believe much in luck. We choose the people & things that we are surrounded by. If you are surrounded by negativity, then Cut it Out (see here: xo

  • Sweetblue_baby

    May 29, 2012 at 4:47 pm

    i learn a lot of information from this post and bookmark it. i love how you use those interesting words. i had to google but then im learning at the same time. Inspring post like a friend advising.

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