I found this exchange to a friend who was feeling the sting of criticism to be valuable. I think we have all experienced circumstances where we have a heartfelt need to express disappointment or criticism or we ourselves have been the recipient of honest assessment or critique. Expressing and accepting it in a mature fashion, without significant emotion attached, often leads to personal character development.
Interesting reply to my friend Glennon's blog at her Momastery site. Seems applicable to all of us who choose to live life out loud, fearlessly and boldly.
"But that’s the real world. That’s what’s happening right now. Right now you stumbled across people who have an opinion of you that runs contrary to your own opinion of yourself.
And you’ve got two ways to deal with it:
Either you consider the contrary information/opinion fully and fearlessly and objectively—is this really true?
You simply do anything other than this (and less than this). You can surround yourself with others who will only speak well of you and mirror back what you want to see of yourself or mirror back to you how you see yourself and want yourself to be seen. It may not be true in reality, but it may be true for you, and more importantly it may make you feel better in the short run. (But it may just be another form of addiction / self-numbing).
To my mind, the number one thing to learn how to do in life if you’re going to put yourself out there and live out loud, is to learn how to deal with criticism honestly and legitimately. Learn how to bracket the (incredibly) hurt feelings, learn how to set aside the blow to the ego (no easy feat), learn how to take as much emotion as you can out of the equation, and just look at the information honestly, objectively, fairly, like a good reporter, like an unbiased judge.
In the words of the poet Czeslaw Milosz--
Love means learning to look at yourself
The way one looks at distant things,
For you are only one thing among many.
And whoever sees that way heals his heart,
Without knowing it, from various ills--
A bird and a tree say to him: Friend.
And this is the same advice I would give to anyone who is very sensitive—who was born into life feeling awkward, exposed, naked, unworthy, and as if she was missing some of the armor she needed to have if she was to expose herself to life’s risks—rejection, friendship, tender love.
This is the same way I would raise my own daughter if she were very sensitive to criticism. I would want her to know that it’s okay to feel hurt—and that it’s okay and that she’s safe enough and loved enough to really feel the hurt and to even be angry about the hurt. But I would also advise her that at some point, after the sting has died down some, that she might want to consider the criticism and see if any of it might be true and if there’s anything in there for her that she might learn from and even grow on. I would tell her that criticism and rejection are a part of life—that teachers will sometimes criticize her work, and as a parent I might criticize and correct her behavior, friends may say mean things behind her back or to her face; and that that’s just life, and that’s just how people are. And she will need to develop a strategy for dealing with it (including learning to think critically).
Most people narrow themselves and their circle of life (understandably) in an effort to avoid criticism and rejection, instead of learning how think more critically and deeply themselves. And then they develop strategies that don’t really work—judge the judgers, criticize the critic for being critical; or surrounding themselves with people who will praise and validate and support them and not criticize them.
The bottom line is, if we are leading a truly open-minded and vulnerable life, then it means most of all being willing to look fairly and honestly at ourselves. Otherwise, our vulnerability is just a posturing, for show; a farce—it’s for gaining attention and validation; it’s not based on principle, it’s not because it’s the right or noble or Godly thing to do.
And if we are living life in a way where we are willing to look honestly at ourselves, then how much can another really say to us that is going to sting? Sometimes criticism stings because it’s our own repressed self-criticism; sometimes it stings because we already kind of know that there might be some truth to what is being said, but we’re trying to repress it or deny it; we don’t want to yet deal with it.
“We must always hold truth, as best we can determine it, to be more important, more vital to our self-interest, than our comfort. Conversely, we must always consider our personal discomfort relatively unimportant and, indeed, even welcome it in the service of the search for truth. Mental health is an ongoing process of dedication to reality at all costs.” – M. Scott Peck, “The Road Less Traveled”
“What happens when [a person] is confronted with new information suggesting that their view is wrong and their map needs to largely be redrawn? The painful effort required seems frightening, almost overwhelming. What we do more often than not, and usually unconsciously, is to ignore the new information. Often this act of ignoring is much more than passive. We may denounce the new information as false, dangerous, heretical, the work of the devil. We may actually crusade against it, and even attempt to manipulate the world so as to make it conform to our view of reality. Rather than try to change the map, an individual may try to destroy the new reality. Sadly, such a person may expend much more energy ultimately in defending an outmoded view of the world than would have been required to revise and correct it in the first place.” – M. Scott Peck, “The Road Less Traveled”