I fear criticism. I don't have nightmares about it, and I'm not (too) crippled by a desire to avoid it, but I absolutely don't like criticism, or being disappointing, or any of those things. If my ego were making all decisions, I would move even slower than I do today into "new" territory. I probably wouldn't read much, or try new things, or meet people. I'd play a lot of video games. (Actually... it's embarrassing to be pwnd by 13 year old boys when playing online - maybe I've left video games to protect my ego.)
I go to great, sneaky lengths to avoid criticism. I'll even do things like this (talk about fearing criticism) to avoid doing other things that will expose me to criticism and rejection. Seriously. I'm avoiding criticism right now by writing this.
If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you've launched too late.
Reid Hoffman said that. He built LinkedIn. Regardless of how much you dislike LinkedIn, it's an impressive accomplishment.
To this end, I'm working on a small project over at www.belaybetter.com. The task I am avoiding right now is reaching out through my network to get in touch with people I've never met, to talk to them about lead climbing, falling, and fear. This would be my second "pilot group" to discuss the material with. This will also be the first group that I don't personally know.
My biggest fear is that I'll reach out and no one will write back. I fear rejection. It's easier to "work" on this project in isolation. It's not scary to do that. But I know getting feedback from real people (silence is feedback) is far, far more helpful to me right now than additional isolated work. (If you lead climb, I'd love to talk to you - shoot me an email (thompsonjoshd,gmail) or tweet at me or something.)
Every time I've ever reached out to anyone to get help on a given project, it's been intimidating, scary, and 100x more helpful than any other single action I could have taken. (Side note - the best money you can ever spend is to treat a wise old(er) person to coffee/lunch/dinner to pick their brain about what they've done. Do they have a good marriage? Ask about it. Are they accomplished at work? Ask why. Do they have skills? Ask how they built them. Do they seem to enjoy life? Ask about it.)
I guess I should stop avoiding criticism now...