Most of us are acutely aware of the effect of criticism. I ask people all the time, “If ten people tell you that you are beautiful and one person tells you that you are ugly, which do you remember?” We all know the answer.
Why is that? Is it because, on some level, we are more apt to believe a criticism than we are a compliment? Does that criticism subconsciously confirm something about ourselves that we already know? Does it simply reinforce our negative self-image?
There is also another side to that coin. I don’t know about you but I was raised by a culture that strongly asserted that self-promotion was vanity. Being ‘humble’ meant never complimenting ourselves. People who bragged were assumed to be arrogant. Then one day I stepped into a Christian church and heard the saying, “God gets all the glory”. I learned that anything good about myself was God, anything bad is me. Once again I learned that I suck, that in and of myself I had little to brag about… not that I was allowed to anyway.
I have written before about the legacy my grandmother gave me. She was a firm believer in the axiom, “children should be seen and not heard”. I cannot remember one compliment from her mouth given to anyone, especially me. Then I grew up and had a relationship with someone who used contempt and disappointment as a means of control and discipline. You probably know people like this.
It is no real surprise when people come to counseling and admit to me that they struggle with self-esteem issues. Poor self-image is such a common mental health issue that I don’t know if I know anyone who doesn’t struggle with it. We are a culture plagued by emotional pain, largely as a result of criticism, contempt, and condemnation.
Enough with the criticism already. Most of us struggle everyday with feeling like we are losers, that we don’t measure up and we never will. I really don’t need you to point out my faults, I am intimately familiar with them. We know we have failed. We are cognizant of our glaring ugliness.
Many people feel that they are trying to help when they are critical. After all, how will you ever learn if I don’t help you? Granted, there are times when I have appreciated the cutting honesty of a friend, but this is only effective when I trust that person and believe they have my best interests at heart. Tearing people a new one simply because you are righteously indignant usually only scars and forces that person into a defensive posture. Real friends love you in spite of how you are, not because of who you are. Real friends love you enough to shut up.
They say you can get more flies with honey than with vinegar. You can also get more flies with shit than with honey. It’s a great deal more helpful to love someone back to health than it is to shoot the wounded.
It’s time for a love revolution.
- The Criticism of Celebrity Rehab (scott-williams.ca)