Just back from cyberland where I came across an eloquent Instagram post by a Russian writer. He was talking about criticism and how we have choices of whether to accept it and conform, or to ignore it and carry on with whatever we are doing. Living happily, or miserably, ever after.
I agree that we can choose to take or leave criticism. Pick them up and take them to heart, or leave them where they lie and walk away. And we can make this choice without emotion, because that is another choice.
In fact, we are in control of the whole criticism gig, though we may not always realize it. We have control of not only what we do with the negative input handed to us, but also our internal reactions as well as external behaviors.
Before we make a decision to accept or reject the criticism given, or gossiped, we first have to decide if it holds any weight.
Ask yourself three questions:
Is it valid? (For example: Do you suck at needlepoint?)
Does it matter? (Are you injuring someone with your needlepoint?)
Do you care? (If you’re only sticking yourself with needles, and nobody else, maybe that’s fine, if you are having fun.)
Not one person among us will escape being criticized or talked about by someone at some point in our life. More likely we will be bombarded with critics and negativity most of the time. It’s just the way things are, and the way people are.
A good amount of criticism we receive is well intentioned or even important. But another portion is not. In fact, it is not meant to help as much as it is meant to hurt us, stop us, or plant seeds of doubt.
It is important to recognize this negative, opinion-based, brain bug as soon as possible – isolate and exterminate. If not, it will build a nest, set up the house of doubts in your head and eat up all your confidence.
People who set off these brain bugs can be anyone – someone you may even like. Why do they do it? Most likely, they feel superior, jealous, selfish, or vindictive.
Whatever the reason, it is not worth too much of your time in psychoanalysis. Indentify the value of the negative input – and if it’s a brain bug, begin the purge!
Sometimes, we are also guilty of giving negative and unnecessary criticism. Not just to others, but to ourselves, as well. But, once again we are in control. We can learn to think more consciously about our input and motives. Only giving hard advice when it is crucial, and walk away from conversations fueled by negative gossip. Including the self talk inside our heads.
It seems our goal in life – perhaps life’s purpose – is to help each other in the most generous way we can. Not by planting brain bugs or even serving up patronizing indulgence, but with honesty and kindness.
I can imagine a world changed if we could universally retrain our minds to check motive and value before giving or taking criticism.
After all, bad needling leads to pricks.