Monday, May 30, 2011


I've been trying to pinpoint this mild sense of general malaise I've been waking up with lately (or GM as we refer to it in our household) and I think it comes down to sensitivity to criticism. I'm tired of being wary and on guard. I went from doing everything I could to be liked by everyone to the intense growing stage of finding out who I really am and accessing the courage to be that person in all situations.

The result of this process was understanding and accepting that not everyone likes me. I've had to make some difficult decisions about a few relationships, and the fall-out has been painful and caused me to do a lot of soul-searching. Intellectually I have been clear about what I was doing and why, and I stand behind those decisions and believe they will bear fruit in the long term. Emotionally, it is a different story.

Sometimes these hurts have a cumulative effect. We can manage them for a period of time, and then we realize we are tired of coming up against a brick wall. New growth in a person is delicate and needs to be sheltered from storms as much as possible, because it's so easy to slide backwards into the more comfortable ways we had of doing things.

I don't want to go backwards. Forward is the only direction I'm interested in moving now. But criticism hurts, there is no way around it, and not being liked for who you really are is a harsh form of criticism. Putting yourself out there in the world and being involved in committees and volunteer work is another avenue where you open yourself up for people to tell you all of the ways you can improve what you are doing.

I know this because I'm guilty of doing it myself. I'm trying to be more supportive and less critical as I go forward, but it's much easier to spot what could be better than it is to recognize the good things in any given situation. Some people are exceptional at offering praise, but they tend to be few and far between. The more time I spend with these people, the more I want to be around them. They buoy the spirit, bandaging what has been sliced open and wounded, and they inspire me to keep going.

I would like to be that kind of a person. It's a work in progress, like anything, but saying "Thank you" and "You did a great job" more often than sniping behind a person's back (or even to their face) really does pay positive dividends in your relationships. I want to be the change I would like to see in the world. It does no good hoping someone else will do it. We all have to do our part.

The best cure I know for getting over criticism is to support others, and seek out those who will support me. In the company of these kind people, I can recover, and give something back to those who are hurting and in need of an encouraging word. Criticism can defeat us, in many subtle ways, but encouragement can give us what we need to stand up, dust ourselves off, and never give up.

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