Criticism is something I’ve struggled with quite a bit throughout my life, I do take criticism to heart and I think a lot of us do. It’s built into our DNA to want acceptance because back when we lived in tribes if we weren’t liked by our community and we were rejected or cast out, we would have to fend for ourselves and that would largely mean death! So it’s no wonder that we crave acceptance and fear judgement.
Having said that, it is easier not to care what people who we don’t really know, or who don’t have much of any impact on our lives, think about us. It can still sting when they criticise but it’s easier to brush it off and just think of them as just being a bit of a dick.
However, when the criticism is coming from someone you know, or care about, or respect and admire, it’s way harder to brush it off and it can really affect our feelings of self-worth. It’s harder to detach from their words even if it’s constructive criticism and coming from a place of love.
Up until about a year ago…maybe two, I had always been a people pleaser. I hated confrontation and often felt overwhelmed by intense personalities. So I chose my words and actions very carefully and overall I just wanted to keep the peace. Part of being a people pleaser meant that I’ve always been pretty easy to get along with, I think I’m pretty easy to get along with anyway but the people pleasing meant that I was never very outspoken or controversial because I feared that it would invite judgement or possibly some form of attack that I wouldn’t know how to deal with.
The people pleasing meant that I had created a space of non-judgement for people to be themselves, even if they were being a chump. I would just try and ignore it or take myself out of the situation because I feared that if I pulled them up on it I would get shouted at or they’d think I was a bitch or something. As a result I created an image in peoples minds of being ‘nice’ and ‘non-confrontational’.
*By the way, I still hold a non-judgemental space for people and I always try to look at things from all angles when someone is being a chump. The only difference now is that I might question it or offer a new perspective on the situation rather than just try to avoid it all costs.
So this image that people had of me felt safe and whenever I felt criticised this image felt threatened. It felt like a lofty height to fall from and brought up the fear of being cast out, or of people thinking I was no longer a nice person. That scared me and I either put my defences up and/or questioned my own self-worth.
I’m writing this now because I had an experience quite recently where I felt criticised by someone close to me and it made me feel kinda shitty and disempowered, so I decided to journal on it to work out how I was feeling and try to find a new and empowered perspective on it.
I want to share a little excerpt from my journaling so you can see how I worked through it. Journaling is great! :) …
“I think that criticism stings the most when your internal world is harsh, that’s why it’s important to love yourself loads. If someone says something negative about me or my character and it tarnishes the view I have of myself or the person I want to be, it hurts.
I want to present that version of me to the world and it especially sucks when those I love see something different from that. It makes me question if I’m actually good enough.
I always want to be my best self but does that mean perfection? Maybe, but perfection is bullshit…maybe it’s time for a reframe where I find a way in which this type of criticism is positive.
I guess it’s none of my business what people think of me, but then what if they decide to tell me? What then?
I suppose it really can only come down to being/doing/having what feels good and authentic to me. Ultimately we’re all on a journey and that might take us to some places along the way that other people feel weird about, but it’s not their journey, it’s mine!
So when they say stuff I guess the first thing to do is check in with 1. Do I agree with/believe it? 2. If no, leave it and don’t own it, that’s their issue. 3. If yes, kindness and compassion!! And also, was it just part of my journey? And does that make me wrong or bad? No, it’s just part of growing and that’s fine. Of course if I’ve done something that needs apologising for then I’ll do it but regardless, kindness and compassion all the way!! We’re human and perfectionism doesn’t exist. 4. If I don’t want to hear it, tell them with love. Ask them why they’re sharing this insight and politely inform them that I’m on a journey, I’m learning and growing and there may be times where that doesn’t make sense to them but unless it’s genuinely affecting them, or if I ask for it, could they keep their opinions to themselves because I need to base my thoughts, feelings and actions off of what is authentic to me and not off of other people’s thoughts, opinions and expectations.”
Not to brag (…well kind of) but I was really impressed with number four. Other people’s expectations and judgements form such a huge part of our insecurities and those insecurities massively impact how we show up in our lives. If we filter everything through other people’s expectations and opinions, all we’re doing is living their version of our lives, not our own. If we’re too scared to put ourselves out there and be truly ourselves then our unique, authentic awesomeness may never see the light of day!
Our journey is important, it’s where we have the opportunity to realise the best version of ourselves and achieve a life that is fun, fulfilling, authentic and successful. And it’s totally ok if some people don’t get it, find it weird or it triggers them in some way. That doesn’t mean you have to be bring their issues with you on your journey, and if I didn’t say it enough with enough exclamation marks, kindness and compassion for the win!! Seriously, it’s so vital to create an internal world for yourself that’s non-judgmental, loving and safe.