Excerpted from Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller’s Question and Answer series on Naaleh.com
I feel frozen because of all the critical comments I keep getting from people. What can I do to feel free enough to be myself without worrying about all the people who are watching or judging me?
Don’t delude yourself into thinking that you can be anonymous in this world. You are constantly being observed and evaluated. The one who is watching you is Hashem. Once you internalize this, the fact that other people see you and pass judgment on you becomes insignificant.
I recall the time when I was first asked by students if they could tape my classes. At first I was hesitant, but then when I remembered that I would see and hear all this in the end anyway, I realized it wasn’t all that bad if other people heard it too. Don’t be so overwhelmed. They cannot see what is not there, and you will have to account for anyway in the end for what is there.
Sometimes peoples’ responses may be limited because they see us from a different angle than we see ourselves. For example, if someone comments on your religious level, let your inner life be your guide on that. It is unlikely that people will see you with more scrutiny than the Shulchan Aruch or theMussar masters. You have to grow to be who you want to be. But if you find yourself constantly offending other people, you have to ask yourself, “Am I doing this right?” “Am I being a ba’al machloket (argumentative) or acting insensitively?”
When faced with criticism, be strong and ask yourself, “Is this true?” and if it is, internalize it, fix it, and move on.