Inevitably, they hit you.
They can come from every which way -- strangers, friends, family members, co-workers. But they all have an opinion on what it is you are doing with your life and, more specifically, why you should not be doing it.
I go back and forth about answering the critics. In one sense, acknowledging them gives them power. In another sense, it can be a source of strength to defend yourself. Either way, there is a fine line between getting into a useless name-calling game and laying out the reasons why training is so much more than just a "hobby" or "vanity pursuit."
At times, it seems pointless to try to counter the critics because they will always be there. One of the effects of personal change is that it impacts those in our life, from intimate partners to social acquaintances. When you do something positive in your life, it changes the energy around you and hence for anyone that comes in contact with your circle. People who have known you for years often just don't get it. But not only do they not get it (the passive-aggressive critique of "boy, you've changed") but they get uncomfortable with themselves.
There are many of reasons why others in your life can react to your positive changes in a negative way and it usually has absolutely nothing to do with you. It has to deal with them and issues going on in their lives.
Intellectually, that's pretty easy to grasp.
Emotionally, however, it's difficult. In the book "The Four Agreements" one of the principles is to take nothing personally -- good or bad.
That might be the most difficult life principle to practice.
The critics have power because they reflect our own inner critic. They give voice to the doubts we already have about ourselves. Am I doing a good job at work? Am I making a difference? Does my life and my work and my passion have meaning? Is what I'm doing worth it?
Yes, the power of the critic is to feed the self-doubt that already exists in our heads. It's what keeps us from living our best lives, from discovering what it is we truly want and who it is we truly want to be.
For me, and for many I've met, athletics has been both the path of discovery and the identity. It is both journey and destination in many ways. Sure, running or swimming or biking can be your hobby. Fitness can be what you do in your spare time.
But for me, it's not just something I do, it's who I am. Not in a one-dimensional way but in a way that opens up horizons of opportunity, that allows me to expand my experiences, my circle and my life rather than narrow it.
I vented about my recent brush with critics to friend and fellow triathlete Sarah who told me, "You are invested in this. Every day. Your choice. Your time. Your heart. You are invested in this for you."
It was a reminder that I needed. Because this life is mine to lead, not anybody elses.
Do I need to answer the critics? Maybe only so much as to lower the volume on my own inner critic. Because in the end, you don't need to justify your life to anyone. Not even yourself.
You just have to live it.
So why not life it fully and the way you want to.