Why Does Criticism Bother Us?

!!~~!! morning-fogBenjamin Disraeli once wrote, “How much easier it is to be critical than to be correct.” That thought was illustrated clearly to me a few days ago. Someone I know, but not particularly well, jokingly said something like “you drive me crazy with all your stuff about optimism, gratitude and hope for the future. I think you make a lot of it up.”

He saw the look on my face and think that’s why he followed up “Don’t worry about it. I’m just kidding.” It had never occurred to me that it was even possible to fake happiness successfully and I was a bit put off by the comment. My reply was along the lines “think whatever you want. Its your loss if you don’t believe in such things”.

The comment continued to take up more space in my thoughts than it should have for a couple of days. I found myself randomly quizzing my psyche asking if I was pretending or imagining the lightness of being that I feel most of the time. The response has been the same each time the questioning surfaced. What echoed back was, “you know it’s all true. You feel it too strongly deep down for it not to be the real.”

It’s idiotic how a random casual comment by another person can sporadically occupy a lot of room in a another person’s internal space. Now being past giving any credence to the comment, still I find a curiosity about why it bothered me at all.

On her website ( http://www.namastepublishing.com ) Constance Kellough shared her perspective.

Why does criticism bother us? And, the flip side of the coin—and possibly the most important question of all—why do we let what others say bother us to the point that we in turn criticize them? Have you ever considered that the two might actually be proportional? In other words, we are upset by criticism to the degree we ourselves are critical of ourselves, and often in turn of others.

Some years ago an Ohio State University study found that those who make disparaging comments about others often are tarred with the same brush. It’s the old adage that when we point the finger, there are three fingers pointing back at us. What this means is that a person who accuses another of being controlling is either controlling in themselves or, which is often the case, lacks self-control.

It’s our insecurity that causes us to resent others, criticize them, put them down. Sarah Grand put her finger on what criticism is all about: Our opinion of people depends less on what we see in them than on what they make us see in ourselves. When someone can criticize us and we can “let it in,” we are finally becoming mature. If the criticism is baseless, we can hear it, feel its intent, and evaluate it as nothing to do with us. There’s no emotional wash from it.

What do we mean by “no emotional wash?” Well, for a start it doesn’t make us feel attacked. We don’t become defensive, compelled to argue against what’s being said. We have no inclination to respond in any kind of protective way, just to appreciate the person and their concern.

Ms. Kellough’s comments ring true to me. What echoes in my thoughts is 1) what others say is frequently much more of a reflection of their state of being than the person they are criticizing and 2) Past pain and self-doubt can make a person more susceptible to swallowing anothers criticism.

Reflecting on what was said to me I concluded: the speaker lacks what they accused me of having too much of (optimism, gratitude and hope) and my old hurts, while healed, remain sensitive to being criticized. While the latter is much improved, I am grateful for the reminder. In spite of how much I have grown, I am still vulnerable and can give in to other’s false thinking about me, even if only for a short while.

Don’t criticize
what you can’t understand.
Bob Dylan


About James Browning

A seeker working to grow each day and be a better version of my self. Through sharing I commit myself deeper to my ideals and beliefs.
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