Changeability Podcast: Manage Your Mind - Change Your Life







December 2023
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“Criticism is something you can easily avoid by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.” ~Aristotle

If you don’t want to be criticised - don’t do anything .Although you’ll probably then be criticised for not doing anything, or for doing nothing - if that’s actually possible.

The meaning behind it is clear - the more you do the more people have to criticise you about. the more you open yourself up to judgement.

We’ve all met people who always seem to be worried about what other people think about them. So much so it’s the determining factor in deciding if they do or don’t do something.

But let’s not let such thinking keep us living small lives and stop us getting out there, making an impact or doing what we want. Because the truth is that whatever you do you’re likely to be criticised.
Whoever we are, we will experience criticism.

Not least because we all do it. We criticise ourselves and and we criticise others - even if it’s only in the privacy of our own minds. But it’s actually a lot more out there than that if we’re honest.

Over the last few weeks we’ve been talking about feelings and being criticised brings up all sorts of feelings in us, so we thought it would be good to think about criticism and why we don’t like it. Starting with what it is, when and how we experience and ending with why we don’t like it.

What is criticism?

There’s many ways to describe criticism and they involve the following elements and concepts:

  • Judgement
  • Feedback
  • Evaluation
  • Analysis
  • Opinion
  • Disapproval
  • Critique

The modern word of criticism comes from the 14th century French expression critique and has roots in Latin ("criticus" - a judger, decider, or critic), and, even earlier, in classical Greek where "kritos" means judge, and "kritikos" means able to make judgements. this conveys the notion of the critic owning a sense of discernment - which isn’t often the first thing we think about when we’re being criticised.

The Oxford Dictionary carries 3 definitions of criticism

  1. The expression of disapproval of someone or something on the basis of perceived faults or mistakes.
  2. The analysis and judgement of the merits and faults of a literary or artistic work.
  3. The scholarly investigation of literary or historical texts to determine their origin or intended form. - For example The Bible - really a subset of the second definition.

We’re talking predominantly about the first definition here.

When do we experience criticism?

We all experience criticism, at least in the sense of feedback, by virtue of growing up. It’s practically impossible to grow up and not be subject to criticism of some sort - and there are key sources of it.

For most of us it begins, and keeps going, in the family. Staring with our parents and our siblings and maybe extended family too like grandparents, uncles and aunties and cousins.

Then we go to school and it really kicks in big time and carries on into college and university - hopefully in a constructive feedback variety,even if it doesn’t always feel like that.

This continues into the workplace - only now it’s called 1:1s and performance reviews or even team meetings. It also happens if you work for yourself or are involved in a creative enterprise.

We’re not immune from criticism from our friends either. In fact the closer or more intense the relationship the more likely we are to experience criticism.

Which leads us to another potential source of criticism - our nearest and dearest - our husbands, wives or partners.

If you have children you will at some point endure their criticism - especially during those teenage years they’re trying to break free, find themselves and put their own stamp on the world, and you get criticised for much of what you do and stand for.

Do we ever welcome criticism?

There are occasions when we welcome criticism. We actively seek out people’s opinions on something, with the expectation they will be critical, by critiquing something we’re working on because we want to improve it or get buy-in.

Or we want to choose between alternatives and look for the discernment of others (like the original definition from ancient Greece) where the criticism is to determine a preference.

Or we know there’s something wrong with a project or creation and want honest guidance or feedback to help us improve it or get a different perspective on it.

When learning a new skill, criticism can be the mechanism to teach us where or how we can improve.

The way it’s delivered determines whether it’s seen as criticism or teaching or guidance. And not just how it’s delivered but how we hear it (more of that next week).

Whilst there may be times when we welcome or seek criticism, although we might not call it that, for most of us most of the time we see criticism as an unwelcome fact of life.

Criticism and why we don't like it

We don’t deny it may be good for us, that we can learn from it and become better at something or improve some aspect of ourselves - but we don’t like criticism. Why is that?

Because we don’t like the way it makes us feel. Isn’t that at the root of it?

In fact we don’t like the way that being criticised makes us feel so much that we almost fear being criticised.

We don’t like criticism because when someone criticises us:

  • It taps into the most basic of our fears - that we’re not good enough.
  • We fear rejection.
  • We fear the feeling of being judged and found wanting.
  • It highlights our insecurities because we all want approval.
  • We worry it might jeopardise our feeling of belonging and we all have a basic need to belong. Like our dog who hates to be told off and sent away, we’re like pack animals who don’t want to be left out because it goes against their basic survival instinct . It makes us feel uncomfortable at our very most basic of instinctual reactions, as if our very survival depended on belonging to a bigger community. We’re not actually thinking of all this but it’s one of the reasons we don’t like criticism.
  • We don’t like it when the criticism goes against our values or our sense of who we are or how we want others to see us, or the characteristics we see ourselves possessing or want to be seen as embodying.
  • For example, if we see ourselves as a hard working or very capable person, someone who always does a good job, and we get criticised for a piece of work or for not producing enough work then we feel totally crushed. It’s as if something we see as being a part of us, isn’t a part of us anymore, or isn’t being recognised as a part of us.
  • And if we consider the criticism invalid or unjust it makes it 10 times worse. We think the person is not recognising the work we’ve put in, or that we are the sort of person who delivers good work.
  • It could be the same with any aspect of your character or behaviour. if you see yourself as having integrity or being honest or straightforward to deal with and someone accuses you of going behind their back or criticises you for talking about them or not supporting them, you feel really bad because you don’t want to be seen like that because that’s not the sort of person you want to be or how you see yourself.
  • This is also true when we think of ourselves in relation to people. If we get criticised by the people we’re close to, it doesn’t sit well with how we think of ourselves in relation to them, if we think they’re calling into question the fact we’re a good son or daughter or brother or sister or friend or colleague.
  • We don’t like criticism because it can be hurtful.
  • Sometimes we don’t like how it makes us feel and how we then react to it - like feeling stressed - especially if we see it as unfair criticism or just something that’s difficult to deal with or rectify.
  • It can leave us feeling misunderstood, or downright angry or outraged, generally an unhelpful response.
  • Or it makes us feel guilty. This is when we’re made to feel like we haven’t lived up to expectations - those of others or our own.
  • Talking of horrible feelings if the criticism is stinging, it can dent our pride and leave us feeling humiliated.

If you have a high level or strong sense of self-esteem you might still feel these things we’ve talked about today - hurt, humiliated, outraged, rejected, guilty, uncomfortable, and also unappreciated - but it will be short-lived and you’ll bounce back quicker. You’ll have more resilience and your sense of worth isn’t dependent on what others think of you so much. You can’t avoid criticism but you can deal with it better - whether it’s justified or not.

But there are things we can do to help ourselves change the way we deal with criticism and that’s what we’’’ going to talk about next week in episode 71. So if you have any ideas or ways you do this we’d love to hear them.

Episode 70 of the Changeability Podcast

Listen to episode 70 of the Changeability Podcast to hear us talking about criticism and why we don’t like it.

We’d like to hear what you think

We’ve been thinking about what we might do with the podcast next year. There’s two things we’d love your feedback on:

  • We’ve thought about going to a fortnightly format - to free up our time to do other projects - and want to know what the impact will be what do you think? Would it stop you listening or would you listen more or the same.
  • What would you like us to cover in the podcast next year? What questions would like us to think about or get someone to talk about.

Please let us know - you can get in touch with us by:

Thank you for listening and reading - we look forward to hearing from you.

Direct download: CA070.mp3
Category:podcast -- posted at: 6:23pm UTC