I was approached recently by one of my peers who expressed a humbling amount of appreciation for my habitual positivity and optimistic outlook not only on my own life, but through and despite of various difficulties. They asked me if I could maybe break down some of the lessons I’ve learned that have allowed me adopt the attitude I have – so I will attempt to do that in this article, the goal being that you, the reader, can use these modes of thinking to help you grow past criticism.
I’ll start by saying that nobody likes to hear negative feedback. Even people like myself, who are adamant about seeing positivity in every situation, have an immediate instinctual response to negative feedback that is not pleasant. Whether a comment from an instructor, a supervisor, a colleague or even an employee, there is an understanding that we don’t like to be criticized. Having said that, I will not attempt to change your mind about this fact, rather, I will share some methods of interpretation of criticism that can allow you to detach yourself from the moment, and view the situation through a lens of longevity.
The first point I’d like to make is that the process of growth is an upward trend. Nobody grows downward, or “loses growth”. Growth happens in a positive way – always. What many people interpret as ‘negative’ or ‘failing’ are merely steps along the way. I use the word “steps” deliberately, as anybody knows that the more steps you climb, the more your legs hurt, but the better they will be for it. A failure is not negative progress in your journey, but rather a test of character and a challenge of the mind. As soon as you contextualize criticism through such a lens, you begin to understand its value in the “staircase” of your life.
Criticism is not absolute. Yes, there are times when a right answer is needed, or when an action you do is wrong, but why is it a bad thing to be told that it is wrong? Is that not how you learned everything you know? The process you must go through in such a scenario is reflection. Understand the situation in its broader context and interrogate your opinion in relation to that of the person from which you are receiving criticism. If you can identify the intention with which a negative comment is made, you can interpret it in a way that is not only positive for you, but for the person with whom you are speaking with as well. Maybe they don’t know the full story. Perhaps you did not fully explain your idea or point of view. Maybe they are actually ignorant on the subject, and in some cases, maybe you are! In all these scenarios, there is an opportunity for growth. In your case, an opportunity to learn how to clarify your argument. In theirs, an opportunity to learn about something they may not fully be aware of. The key element is that from the situation both parties have the potential to learn, even though what triggered the interaction was a negative response.
Understanding that the development of your own ideas may come with a subconscious rebellion to the ones of those around you is critical to the development of a habitual form of growing past criticism. In life, not everyone will agree with you. And truthfully, they don’t have to. A belief in your own opinions comes from a desire to grow. To become intellectually independent – which is a remarkable thing.
Lastly, I’d like to highlight one last strategy that allows me to determine where my life’s energy should be spent. In a case where criticism is being given for no apparent reason other than the inflation of an ego, do yourself a favor and let it go. Understanding the value of your time and energy in this world will allow you to spend them on things that matter. Things that help you grow, and things that help you learn.
I am sure that I have oversimplified many of these concepts and that they will change on a case by case basis, so if anyone is struggling to contextualize these strategies in relation to their own life, please reach out with a comment or via the CONTACT page and I would be more than happy to help.
As always, please share this article with somebody to help us all learn and grow together.
2 Comments Add yours
ZULUECHO, your voice reverberates many times around the mountain and returns with “mantras” for us all and for all ages. I’ve often thought what if criticism didn’t have such a bad rep (and rap!). Suppose criticism was sought after and all the graffiti on city walls sang of its treasure and benefits. In a way, your reflective essay has done just that!
You speak of human energy and the effort to store it, don’t give it away recklessly to all criticism everywhere , make a boundary for yourself (don’t confuse that with a barrier) so that the intellectual truths you aspire to are conserved not harmed. And, of course, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for other perspectives; it’s meant to allow some comfort in knowing you had an impulse, checked it out like a good scientist or journalist, and now that impulse is a part of your life, your doing and thinking. Thank you for sharing that excellent state of unshakable confidence.
And then there are those moments to let go criticism derived from ill-will. What a teaching you have given! Continue.
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Thank you Ms. B for your response and feedback!
You elaborate on many of the motivations and ideas behind this post. Thank you for sharing very important concepts with us!