Dear Kelly,

I have spent the last four years in school committed to changing my future for the better. Now that I am at the end of my journey, things that have been said to me in the past are starting to infuse doubt into what I believe I’ll be able to accomplish. How do I move past the negative things people have said to me and begin to see my true potential?

The first thing I want you to ask yourself is, “Who am I as a person?” Are you who you are based on what people say, or are you who you are based on what you do and offer to the world?

The truth of the matter is, we get to decide for ourselves what we allow to stick in our heads and affect our futures and what we don’t. We get to choose whether or not to give headspace to the negative things that have been said to us or use it as fuel to propel us further than we ever dreamed.

Unfortunately, words of negativity and demoralization seem to resonate in our heads more frequently than words of praise. Thousands of articles can be found by performing a simple Google search on the subject of criticism vs. praise. To prepare for answering this question, I read through a number of studies, and the findings corroborated my initial assumptions: criticism affects us more significantly than we allow praise to. We have a tendency to hold on to criticism while ignoring praise.

Why is that? Furthermore, why do we allow that? After all, and I want you to really allow this to resonate within your soul, you did not just luck yourself into being accepted into a top-ranked university. You earned your place here. You took a step forward, advocated for your future, and then dedicated the last few years to ensuring your chances of success. No one gets to take that away from you; it’s yours. Throughout the sacrifices you have made over the past four years, you have proven to yourself that you have the power to choose what course your life takes and the ability to make it happen.

Realize your worth, and stop letting the criticisms of people that are, unfortunately, unable to see your value steal your purpose. Shift your frame of mind and take the time to concentrate on what truly makes you spectacular. Allow yourself to acknowledge what you have accomplished, things that maybe, even just a few years ago, you never thought you could do, but you did! How many assignments have you aced that when they were assigned you thought, “How am I ever going to be able to do this?” How many times have you received praise from your professors, telling you what an outstanding job you did on a discussion, quiz or essay? Remember, it was your ability, your effort, your talents and your tenacity that earned you that praise.

My best advice is to begin to analyze critiques and apply them only if they are constructive and come from a good place. This takes a lot of practice because, simply speaking, negativity permeates our psyche. Things that have been said to you in the past that were meant to tear you down and don’t offer any constructive advice to help build you up, aren’t worthy of giving a second thought. Instead, sift through those kinds of remarks, and ask yourself, “Why would that person have said that?” “Are they committed to helping me become a better version of myself?” “Do they truly care about me or my future?” If the answer to these questions is “no,” then understand that their criticisms have more to do with their own insecurities than they have to do with you.

Begin to store up the positive things people say to you and the accomplishments that you have made. If it would help, write them down and place them in prominent spots where you can reflect on them every day. Record every morsel of positivity, and remind yourself often of just how incredible you are and the value you bring to the world. Allow yourself to believe those positive affirmations, and let them envelop you with a new understanding of who you truly are and what you are fully capable of achieving.

Use the constructive criticism and positive declarations to catapult you into a transformation that you recognize reflects the diligence and tenacity you have exerted throughout your journey.

By doing this, you will soon truly understand your potential and ability to be successful. After all, you are a MERCERIAN! As a BEAR, you have greatness inside of you … now, let it ROAR!

As always, I wish you health, happiness and continued success throughout your journey.

Kelly Browning, a master’s student and student ambassador at the Henry County Regional Academic Center, answers questions from the Mercer community. Email her at or fill out our online form to submit your question anonymously.


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