The Cost Of Criticism

tumblr_mei9y4IsYJ1r90iovMost 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.

14 thoughts on “The Cost Of Criticism

  1. Scott, thanks again for your insight! I’m afraid shit sticks and especially when it’s thrown at you on a daily basis….it’s sometimes hard to rise above it all….but that’s the daily we battle we a face right? I’ve been working on my own inner dialogue and trying to remind myself that my soul is matters…is To Love enough? And if you’ve never learned to properly love yourself because your patents failed to show you this…then how do we do it? Society is so flawed….it’s about exterior beauty…..setting unrealistic expectations on ourselves and on others! Marriage is doomed because we think love is romance and romance is love….I wish everyone peace in their journey and offer encouragement where I can and kidness if I’m able…the reality is it’s hard to see if someone needs love because we’ve all been conditioned to show no emotion…therefore how can one tell if one is in need? I think I can read people well because of history, life experiences and occupation..but how do I impart this to others?

  2. I’m up for a love revolution – YES.

    I so get what you say – children should be seen & not heard, humility being never thinking yourself of value, constant demeaning yourself in the gaps between being demeaned. Excellent article.

    I came by because I like Carrie’s gig, & it was well worth the cyber-stop. EXCELLENT.

    Thank you.

  3. I really don’t suffer from significant self-esteem issues myself, because I was lucky enough to have parents who were supportive of me, and I have a personality type (INTJ) that has a strong sacral chakra built in anyway. But I certainly see the problem often enough in other people.

    Why is it so difficult just to be nice to each other? I think the only really good reason to lie is if it will make someone feel better about themselves. In that case, I’m all for it. If you can’t say something nice, just put a cork in it already. 🙂

  4. Scott, I really think there is a balance with this one. I’d rather hear the ‘truth’ than a lie.

    Dunno. Maybe it’s because I spent the majority of my life being bullshitted. The difference between a constructive criticism and a blatant attacking criticism are obvious to me now. You give me much to ponder!

  5. I go to an evangelical church where people are over the top with “to God the glory” thing. After a while it really gets old and feels insincere, as if it is the “required” lingo. It feels a lot like false modesty to me.

  6. Love the wit, the other day my mother and I visited my grams at her senior home, and during the first 10 minutes or so she elaborately showered me in praises, then we walked out into the hallway with fluorescent lights and she said “What’s wrong with your face, when did it become so blotchy and pale?”

  7. Dear Lors, these are the very words my mother lives by, ” 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”—-drives me bonkers literally especially because she does not do this with my sister who is to weak and fragile to handle my mothers words–gee thanks, MOM.

    great post—-


  8. I second that!! Excellent post Scott!! I will keep my mouth shut for a change because you said it all so eloquently. But this is a topic I usually jump on my soapbox for.
    well done!
    I am going to reblog if that’s ok with you.

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