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The Value of Criticism
Posted: 8/20/2013 | Personal Development Comments
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It’s no fun to feel criticized, and many of us have that experience from time to time. Much of how we handle criticism stems from our perception of what is happening around us. If from our own historical programming we take these events or the information we are receiving as an attack, we probably won’t be capable of appreciating any understanding or communication that could be a transformational moment for us.

Conversely, if we are able to view any information or evaluations as potential gifts, we can use them to further our growth and development. We can take whatever shows up in our environment as data and learn what we can from it.

Even better, if we can recognize our intrinsic value in the face of “criticism,” all the while holding ourselves accountable, we have a great way to value ourselves and continue evolving.

So how do we do this? There are several ways to examine criticism and our role within it. Here are a few questions you can ask yourself to begin the process:

1. What’s my trigger?

When we feel upset, angry or hurt we’re often responding to a deeper historical wound in ourselves. We can view our emotional trigger as an internal signal, an opportunity to heal this wound and begin to let go of long held pain. Are you hearing criticism when it’s not really there? Are you defensive? What do you feel when you hear those words or receive that information from another– anger, sadness, guilt, shame, confusion? Are you afraid that it’s true about you? What experience or message from the past does this “criticism” or feedback remind you of? When you see clearly that you’re responding to an event from your past, and then do the work to unravel it, regardless of the other person’s words or actions, you create a powerful opening for real peace and freedom.

2. How am I interpreting this criticism?

Sometimes we feel unfairly “criticized” when someone is sincerely offering feedback. When we feel constantly criticized by others, or when we have difficulty knowing the difference between information and harsh criticism, our interpretation may be a big part of the problem. Ask yourself, is this a reflection of my own self criticism? Does it reflect my worst fears about myself, and am I using this to perpetuate self judgment? Do these words mimic my inner critic?

You might also see that you’re reacting to the other person with harsh judgment of your own. It’s easy to project our own shame onto other people. With a little perspective and a few deep breaths, this could be an amazing opportunity to bring a deeper awareness and compassion to ourselves and others.

3. Is there anything of value here?

If you can step back, just for a moment, and examine the content of the criticism you might find something that can help you improve yourself or your life. For example, if someone tells you you’re late “all the time,” can you take a breath and ask yourself if it’s true? Even if this person is clearly annoyed, and you’re not late “all the time,” is there something here that can help you? Maybe you could take it as a reminder to be more conscious of time or schedule your day more efficiently. Maybe this reminder can help you relax as you’re driving to your next appointment because you left in plenty of time. Maybe this is all about them and their history and you have an opportunity to open your heart to them and their struggle.

4. Where am I responsible?

We can also take the opportunity to examine our accountability. Sometimes we might unconsciously choose to feel hurt or guilty as a way of avoiding responsibility. It’s a tricky process, but if we can allow ourselves to receive the information, letting go of judgment and condemnation, we can see the areas we need to strengthen and grow. Taking responsibility for ourselves and our lives is actually empowering and inspiring. Feeling guilty or ashamed is not.

5. Am I considering the source?

Sometimes you won’t find value in the criticism, and it’s important to remember that everyone has an opinion. You probably know the old saying about opinions; it’s like a part of our anatomy. Everyone has one. Do you respect this person’s opinion on the matter? For example, I’m not going to ask my mother for advice on my laptop, and she won’t ask me how to bake a flakey pie crust. After careful questioning, if the opinion doesn’t feel true for you, let it go. Keep only the ones that serve you.

If it’s a close friendship, talk to them about your feelings. You might find they meant no harm and were trying to be helpful. Their delivery might need work but their intentions were good. If it’s someone you’re not close to, take what’s helpful from the criticism and leave the rest. Of course sometimes it’s best to let the relationship go. If you’ve looked for the value and examined your role, and you still feel bullied or powerless, move on. It’s important to spend time with people who support your growth and celebrate your amazingness!

As you grow in this process you’ll find it easier to deal with criticism. You’ll see it happens less often as your perspective changes and expands. Take the feedback, sift out the truth and let go of the sting. Keep what works and dismiss the rest. It can be an essential piece of your spiritual practice, helping you grow in strength and awareness.

How have you dealt with criticism in the past? What have you learned? Please share. Your comments make a difference for us all.
 




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