It takes a lot of soul searching to stop taking what others say and do personally. Major self-awareness and understanding of the human condition are essential. Of course we are well-meaning and do care about others. However, most of our perspectives, comments, ideas, thoughts, criticisms about others are reflections of ourselves, not necessarily accuracies about another.
Hugh Prather’s brief essay in his book from the early 1970s, Notes to Myself, left a big impact on my memory. He wrote something along the lines of this: When we are criticized by another, we don’t suddenly become less than we were prior to the critique. Rather, we’ve just receive information for us to consider.
A criticism—whether we are the critic or receiving information from another— is nothing more than insight into someone’s critical thinking.
If the critique was expressed about a situation or problem versus our being, we are more likely to debate it and decide if we agreed or not. However, when criticism is directed at us from another— reasoning tends to halt as emotions rise.
But we do need to step back and be reasonable when we are on the receiving end of a criticism. Is there merit in the criticism? In other words, do we agree that maybe the comment reflects some work we need to do? Maybe or maybe not. Either way, criticisms do not reflect our value or worth. As criticisms reflect the thoughts of another, it’s up to us to decide their relevancy, or not, regarding our behavior.
And regarding sharing our criticism with others: It pays to remember that there is a big difference between constructive and destructive criticism. Think long and hard before sharing either.
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