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.
As James Thurber, the American author and cartoonist who lived from 1894 until 1961, quipped, “I hate women because they always know where things are.”
It’s true, isn’t it? Otherwise, explain why so many of us males can look in a cupboard or drawer and not see a sock, whereas a woman puts her hand on it instantly. (Yes, it’s a generalization; but you get the point.)
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.
When there’s no emotional wash, we thank the individual for caring for us enough to say what they are feeling, which takes guts. We appreciate this courage.
It’s important we thank them even if what they are saying about us isn’t at all true of us and is just their own projection of their internal issues onto us.
As long as there is an emotional wash, the person’s criticism is on the mark at least a few percentage points.
So the wise person hears what’s being said, doesn’t react, and takes what’s valuable using it to grow. Even if 99% of the criticism is mistaken or misdirected, we value the 1% that’s accurate.
We love to learn about those areas in which we have yet to become more fully who we truly are in our essence, no matter who the insight comes from.
*Editor's Note: To go deeper into topics like this, we invite you to read the daily blog Consciousness Rising. Also, join us in the weekly (every Monday) joint venture, Journey to Higher Consciousness. You can start the journey at any time. It's accessed on the home page of this website.