Dealing with criticism is a tricky affair. The criticism itself tricks you in such a way that you lose ability to deal with it. Any Ad-hoc method used in bouncing back or fighting back often leaves us in further guilt and it starts a non-ending process of either self-pity or hatred.
Criticism indeed never is the problem, had it been the problem then it would have hurt equally bad while criticising others. The problem is the “way we respond” when we receive a critical remark. Behavioural and Management experts talk about constructive criticism and destructive criticism, but I see both of them nothing more than a difference in perspective and response. For example, a joke cracked on you, when you are joyful and the same joke cracked, when you are annoyed within yourself will generate contrasting responses. The subject remains the same it’s the state of mind in which we perceive it, makes it difficult or easy to deal with.
But the fundamental question is that “Why does criticism Hurt?”. The answer to this question is in the answer to another question that “What is fundamentally driving us in society?”. In our social existence there are 3 things that drive us. Firstly, the Survival, secondly our Identity and Thirdly our need to look right or good to others. Many of you may stop reading here thinking that it’s absurd, but hang on and try to reflect it in your life and you will be amazed to see that how much these things effect our ability to respond in life.
Our need for survival is unquestionable. Let’s look at other two aspects. What we identify with in our life is the genesis of Ego and hence intolerance in our life. Say you are (identify as) a Manager and your subordinate someday gives you a feedback about you. Now if you are in a pleasant state of mind you will see it as constructive criticism but if you are already feeling terrible inside then feedback becomes criticism and then may the God save your subordinate. Hang on! I’m not suggesting to lose your identity and not to identify with anything in life. As this may be the saintly way of living but may land you in trouble in real life. But with this awareness you are able to choose your responses more consciously and able to distinct yourself with the criticism, understanding that it’s your Ego that is causing that anger for someone else’s opinion about you.
The other aspect where I mentioned that, it is one of our social need to look good, right or correct in the eyes of other is the major reason for all the troubles. Pick up any situation of your life where you had a difference of opinion with someone. If you detach yourself and enquire in that situation, you will see that you and the other person are only trying to be correct or be right in the situation. We all do it everytime that we always want to look either right or correct or good in the social settings. Perhaps that’s what even I’m doing right now to you, by proving this perspective of mine as correct or right. Though my intent here is only to enable you to see a right perspective about you, like I have discovered. Pick up any conversation in any relationship, be a Father-son, Boss-subordinate, Brother-sister, Friends etc. you can find this need being subliminally present. I’m not ignoring the feelings for the other, but you will still be able to see this pattern. See it for yourself.
Such a need for being right makes you inauthentic and pretentious in life and hence it binds you to an identity that either you want to project to others or an identity that others have given to you and you are just living it. Now anything that is in deviation to this identity will generate a response that will make it difficult to deal with the opinions of other about you.
The permanent solution to this will come when we start living with the awareness of theses distinctions and hence be in a state of mind where neither praise overwhelms us nor criticism puts you down. You will become immune to what others think or say about you, because you will be well grounded within. This will put you in the state of permanent bliss and happiness without a reason or external stimulus. This is called as the state of Sat-Chitt-Aanand. Being blissful in all states.
Sending love, laughter and joy,…. Parth