If criticism comes with positive motivations from the other it is actually a sign that they care enough about you to want you to grow - though there are caveats, of course. Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at freedigitalphotos.net
Personal criticism is never easy to take. It is natural that we prefer to be told uplifting and positive attributes we possess rather than weaknesses or deficiencies or unlikeable traits.
However, the very first factor we need to consider is is this coming from A. A friend? Or B. An acquaintance? Or C. A complete stranger. To simplify matters immediately, if it is coming from a complete stranger, “Chuck it in the bucket” as my friend and I like to refer to cognitions that aren’t even worth your time. Why? Because they don’t know you. Here’s a caveat, though. The other day I was on the bus and I didn’t have my go-card handy. The bus driver said pragmatically and with minor annoyance that it would be preferable if I had it at hand. Fair enough.
If it’s an acquaintance, this is when it’s best to take a hard look at yourself, and consider
-how well do they know you
-was there any truth in what they said?
However, the most important is when friends suggest improvements you could make or sometimes can downright tell you off. There has not been one instance of this occurring where is has been stressed that the only reason they were telling me was because they cared and really thought it was for my own good, or that they were worried about me.
Also, we all have bad days, and sometimes it might just come across a little harsher and evoke a few pity-me tears more than usual! However, when it comes down to it, we all are cranky at times and just as human as each other, though it hugely various ways.
I was told something that was the honest truth in the eyes of someone I’d call my best friend. I did not realise something I was doing annoyed her, but now that she has told me I am glad because :
1. I feel glad that she feels our friendship is strong enough to do that. And it is! We are going away on a holiday to Noosa soon.
2. She explained why (the positive motives I mentioned above).
3. I could see why it could be annoying when she explained her situation to me.
4. I know not to make the same mistake with others.
5. It’s given me food for thought for how to improve. How I can grow as a person.
There’s a high degree of emphasis in our society for ‘high self-esteem’ and ‘self-love’. I prefer ‘self-acceptance’ because I see it as being more useful. It’s like being in a position of high self esteem is like being high up on a ladder where all these goodies are. If you fall, however, you crash, and where does that lead you? Low-self esteem is sometimes encouraged by parents and the older generations. Humility especially then and sometimes today is considered fitting, not boastful and socially acceptable.
However, I don’t know about others, but I feel self-acceptance is a more level ground to walk upon.
It encompasses the idea that we have strengths and weaknesses and the menu of what these are is entirely different as much as each person is unique. However, we all have them. We need to accept both – us humans are a package deal.
And no, there’s nothing sinful or deserving of reprimand to revel now and then in your strengths. However, don’t forget life is really about growth, development…they say maturity continues as a process until the day we die. Likewise we all can fall into that horrible pit of self-flagellation – those times where nothing we do seems to please anyone. Or we may keep stuck continuing a habit we know is destructive, counterproductive or just unhelpful.
However, at the worst, see criticism as one of those days you didn’t have your go-card on you and that doesn’t make you a bad person. Or something given from a person who truthfully isn’t that qualified. And if from a loved one, isn’t it great they care that much, and feel they can be honest with you? And it’s an opportunity for self-reflection and growth. It doesn’t mean they like you any less. In fact, my friend told me it was because she cared she could tell me.
It’s like getting an assignment back. There’ll be criticisms and praises. Learn from the criticisms and yes, if you want, a little gloating in the praises is good. We do need to learn to buffer ourselves against the unpredictability of life that is dues of all of us!