Don't Let Criticism Stop You

Ultrarunning mindset coach Susan Donnelly celebrates being a female badass no matter what her critics say

Something interesting happened when I started owning my badass-ness.

I got more suggestions that I should do less.

I got more criticism about my lifestyle.

I got more judgment about how big I was allowed to be in the world.

It was often oblique, like “You’re going to take a break now, right?” or, “Oh for crumbs sake…I don’t know how to word a proper response to my thoughts about your willingness to get involved with so many races.”

And then there were direct messages, like the 2-part, 13-paragraph diatribe from a well-known, regional male runner that included gems like:

“Before I say my final good bye to you, maybe I should also say that I find your lifestyle of pursuing multiple and frequent 100 mile finishes and belt buckles and tooting your horn to be remarkably pathetic. What are you going to do with all those worthless belt buckles? Soon have them buried in the casket with you?”

Now, let’s be clear. The only difference here is that I owned what I was already doing. I entered a few different races and distances than before, but I didn’t enter more - I entered fewer.

Let’s also be crystal clear about another thing - this was all unsolicited. I didn’t ask a single one of these people for their opinion of my race schedule, lifestyle, or who I'm allowed to be. Yet they felt perfectly free to give it to me anyway. 

Why? In large part, because I’m a woman.

  • Critical Guy who questioned my “willingness to get involved with so many races” has never questioned the lifestyle of a mutual male friend who’s done as many 100-milers I have.

  • In fact, 100-Miler Friend says no one’s ever questioned his lifestyle and was shocked that anyone would.

  • I’d bet my bottom dollar Casket Guy has never offered the same opinions to a mutual male friend (ex-boyfriend) who’s spent his adult life running as many ultras as possible (over 700 now, I believe), often two 50ks in a weekend.

  • Casket Guy started running ultras a year before me and has almost the same number of “races”in Ultrasignup as I do (251 to my 273) so he's apparently been running “multiple and frequent races” himself, just shorter distances.

Why are we more likely to get this type of feedback? Societal expectations about what women are “supposed to” be, and social norms that say everyone’s entitled to pick apart a women’s life, choices, ambitions, dreams, appearance, weight, clothes, diet, choice of races, yada, yada…in a way they wouldn’t with men.

If you’re a woman, you already face this. If you’re a woman who dares to declare her ambitions and take pride in her accomplishments, you face it more.

But I refuse to be intimidated.

They do not get to stop me or slow me down. 

They do not get to make me shut up.

They do not get to make me disappear.

And they are not owed a justification.

There are people who value me and what I do. Those are my people. These simply are not, and they don’t get to dictate what I think or do.

What about you?  Do you let criticism stop you? Let disapproval keep you quiet? Let judgement make you hide?

You have every right to stand up for yourself, your ambitions, your achievements, and your voice in the world. It’s okay to be openly proud of yourself. You deserve that as much as any other human on this planet.

If you’re worried about a negative reaction, you can handle it. There’s going to be some no matter what, so you might as well go big. And you'll discover that it's really about them, not you after all. The fear of criticism, judgment and what people think is far worse than the reality.

Standing up for yourself just takes the determination to choose your own life, despite the critical noise.

And if I can, you can.

Until next week,

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