Here are the key takeaways from my interview with Communication Coach, Award-winning Author, and Speaker Dorie Clark. We discuss what it means to be visible, fears that hold us back such as the fear of criticism, and ideas for embracing visibility. 

Visibility Starts with Confidence

Visibility feels vulnerable and can open you to external feedback. The transition to visibility requires boundaries and confidence. Treat things about your life as non-issues, like they are not up for debate. Act as if your personal choices, ideas, work, etc. are as matter-of-fact as eating pizza for dinner. Then, it becomes more awkward for people to question you.

“Be chill and confident in your visibility; don’t ask for permission.” – Dorie Clark

If you are chill and confident and someone responds negatively or creates an issue, then it becomes clear that the issue lies with them.

How to Reinvent Yourself and Diffuse Self-Doubt

Do you feel a sense of self-doubt about being visible? You can diffuse self-doubt by healing your fear of not being good enough. People often have different and higher standards for other people compared to themselves. 

“Make your mission more important than your (or anyone else’s) feelings.” – Bethany Webster

Dorie points out that journalism is a powerful metaphor for life: whether you’re ready or not, the paper goes to press. Is it perfect? No. Is it good enough? That is the question. And, have I educated myself to the point where I am capable of discerning if it is good enough? As we do more, our “good enough” keeps getting better. We improve with time and experience. The only way we can learn and progress is by doing.

How to Move Beyond Fear of Criticism and Embrace Visibility

Visibility can be coupled with a fear of criticism. Fear of criticism is a form of giving away our power. We cannot control what other people think of us: we can only focus on how good it feels to share our message. 

“Good work makes people think and question their assumptions. This could mean pissing someone off. If people are pissed off, you can consider that a good thing, then you are creating discussion and change. – Bethany Webster

Solicited feedback is great but only from experts and people you trust. It is deleterious to take unsolicited criticism to heart. Remember that people are not responding to you, they are responding to themselves. Doers and creators in the world don’t have the time to write hate notes. 

Confront Unsolicited Feedback

When unsolicited feedback arises, confront people and draw boundaries. If someone thinks their advice is helpful, ask, “why do you think that is appropriate to share?” Doing this for yourself is important for changing this pattern on a bigger scale for others. 

“Rule of thumb on feedback: did you ask for it? If you didn’t ask for it, then they don’t have a right to give it.” – Dorie Clark

If you need a new lens to help you in this process, consider how you would respond if someone gave toxic feedback to your kitten (or your inner child). Cultivate a sense of inner mothering and fierce, mama bear energy. Learn to discern what is useful feedback and what is toxic. Fear of criticism often wanes when you put real criticism in its proper place or honestly look at your critic. 

Redefine Success/Failure 

In the most elastic and useful sense, success is self-actualization: whatever the person’s goal is, if they are able to meet that, then they are successful. To diffuse failure, take small bets to test and iterate your plan so that if something doesn’t work out then it isn’t a failure, just data that can inform how you move forward.

Advocate for Yourself (and Your Pay)

When grappling with pay negotiations, arm ourselves with useful knowledge. The best way to understand what we are asking for is if we know the market. If it’s a gig you really want, anchor yourself in early discussions (i.e., “My typical rate is XX. I don’t know what your budget is. I’d like to make this work.”) And, If its a gig you arent’ as passionate about, then you can be bold and test your negotiation skills!

Fear of Criticism: Integration Questions + Practices

  1. To recover from perfectionism and prepare for visibility, use the mantra ça ç’est fi, which is French for “that’s it” and translate roughly to “it will suffice.” Write on your bathroom mirror or a sticky note placed on your computer. Practice saying it aloud
  2. When you share ideas or new endeavors with friends and family, adopt a practice of saying “Here’s what I’m working on. I’m not looking for feedback.”
  3. Spend 30 minutes and list scenarios in which you have or might receive unsolicited feedback. Now, draft responses to each scenario. From these responses, memorize one standard response that you can use on the fly
  4. It is sometimes easier to advocate for someone or something other than ourselves (like a kitten or a loved one). Pick an avatar to help you adjust how you respond to feedback, such as a pet (kitten!), your inner child, or a loved one. When you find yourself feeling criticized, unsafe, or uncomfortable, respond as you would on behalf of your avatar
  5. Journal about visibility. What is “good enough”? Do you expect perfection from yourself but not others? In what areas of your work and life do you experience self-doubt? What are your fears about becoming more visible in your work? Give yourself a few challenges to diffuse or move beyond these fears. For example, if you are working on a product or launch, such as an online course, try selling it before you’ve created it.
  6. When fear arises, how can you focus your energy on your work? Reread or rewrite your mission, purpose, and values. Remind yourself why you are doing what you’re doing. Make your message more important than your feelings.
  7. How can you apply LEAN startup methodology to your ideas and life? In other words, how can you be nimble, test in small doses, and gather information about how to improve? What small bets can you take that will give you useful data to inform how you move forward? Through this process, can you redefine failure as valuable data?
  8. Are you grappling with pay negotiations in the near future? Check out “Courage to Monetize” in Entrepreneurial You
Dorie Clark on Fear of Criticism: Bethany Webster

About Dorie Clark

Dorie Clark is a professor at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and the author of Entrepreneurial You, Reinventing You, and Stand Out. Clark has been described by the New York Times as an “expert at self-reinvention and helping others make changes in their lives.” Find over 500 free articles, a self-assessment tool, and courses at