The other day I was flipping through Women’s Health Magazine and came across an article that mentioned world-class ballerina Misty Copeland. Under Armor made her the star of their campaign, “I Will I Want”. In the video, as Copeland dances, a child’s voiceover recites a host of hurtful rejections (“You have the wrong body for ballet, you’re 13 years old—you’re too old to become a ballerina.”)
I Googled her video and it’s incredibly powerful (here’s the link if you’d like to watch Misty Copeland.) As this beautifully strong ballerina danced, it made me think about all the critics I’ve had in my life. We all have them – they are the people who have an amazing ability to find and then prey on our insecurities. These critics – our haters – love to tell us what we can’t be or shouldn’t do. Not because we don’t have the ability, talent or tenacity, it’s because they thrive on wanting others to not succeed.
Ironically, last summer I was having breakfast with someone and we were dreaming about the future. All of a sudden this person sat back, crossed their arms and with a smug look on their face decided to tell me, “You could never run a business on your own.” Shocked at the intensity of their rancor I asked, “why” and their response was like so many haters, ”You just couldn’t”. No facts, no data, no real evidence – just a subjective opinion that really shouldn’t have meant much to me. However, because I cared about this individual, it shook me to the core.
As if eerily foreshadowing to the future, in a little over one month’s time, I found myself in the exact situation this hater told me I’d never be able to do – running our new business, Aegis Performance Group.
But let me tell you, I LOVE haters – yes, you read that correctly I LOVE HATERS! Ever since I was a little girl whenever someone told me I couldn’t it was like throwing gasoline on a fire. Blame it on being a perfectionist, middle child or just plain stubborn, I used their doubt to drive me – to show them that I couldn’t wasn’t in my vocabulary.
Now I would be lying to you if I told you that this was easy to do. It’s still tough when someone, sometimes even in good faith, tells you that you don’t have what it takes to do something or to try something new. But like I tell my kids, what’s the worst thing that could happen if you take a leap or try something new – you may fail, but what if you succeed?
But do you know what I realized was an even more powerful force than my haters during this past year – my believers. Through this experience I have been incredibly blessed to grasp just how many incredible people I have in my life. From my amazing family who allow me to be me, who love me unconditionally and follow me even when they’re not sure where we are headed. To my incredible friends who know I’m a bit quirky but are always there to cheer me on, encourage my dreams and celebrate when I’ve reached a new goal. And my colleagues who are always so willing to share their wisdom, perspective and experience when I don’t know where to turn next.
All my believers were there this year to lend an ear to listen to a new idea, held out a hand so I could use their strength for support, and when necessary, gave me that kick in the pants when I was wallowing in a bit a self-pity.
So, what did I learn this year? We need our haters. They light a fire under us and when used properly, give us that push to keep persevering. It is, however, our believers that are our rocket fuel.
Next time you come across a hater thank them for their opinion and remember it’s just an opinion. Use it to drive yourself forward, not hold you back.
Then reach out and hold on tight to your believers. Our believers tell us the truth, support our dreams and want to see us succeed. They often see more in us then we see in ourselves. These are the people who matter and make life such an incredible journey.
So as I look back at that breakfast a year ago – well my hater was right. I couldn’t run this business, but with my believers by my side WE can.
So to my believers – thank you for seeing the gifts and talents I sometimes don’t see in myself and for never letting me give into the haters.
Stacey C. Cunningham
CEO & Co-Owner, Aegis Performance Group