To be criticised is never a pleasant feeling. It is rarely a good day when we have to listen or read an unflattering social media post about our criticism or hear that we are being gossiped about by others.
However, the question of how much criticism needs to hurt depends on something which has nothing to do with the specific attack we happen to face: how much we happen to like ourselves.
The degree to which we buckle in the wake of negative comments reflects how we, deep down, feel about ourselves. When we carry within us a sufficient ballast of love, criticism need never be very much more than niggling. We can overcome it by dinner time or at least the end of the week. We can easily intellectualise our thoughts by saying that :-
- we are not necessarily loved by everyone.
- That not everything we do is perfect, or
- That there maybe one or two outright enemies, who would prefer us dead even while most people tolerate us easily enough.
- There need be nothing surprising or terrifying in being doubted by a few others.
But for the more vulnerable ones keep no option and experience criticism as an assault on our very right to exist. They at once feel that they are being told to disappear. They think that, it isn’t just one or two people who are mocking us, the whole world is apparently thinking only of how ridiculous they are.
If criticism from outside proves devastating, it is because it so readily joins forces with an infinitely more strident and more aggressive form of criticism that has long existed inside of us. It is possible that once upon a time, we might have been humiliated and shamed without being soothed, held or reassured, and this is why we now take current criticism so much to heart. We don’t know how to defend ourselves against those who do this to us, because we have never been deeply appreciated. A part of us is responding to adult challenges with the vulnerability of a child who faced unworthy feelings.
We may not easily be able to stop feeling unhappy about criticism, but at least we can certainly change that way we think of the critcism. Identifying our vulnerability is the key factor to remain more steadily and generously on our own side at moments of difficulty.
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