The Critique of Criticism
An openness to constructive feedback by removal of the ego and undergoing a process of spiritual exfoliation.
Imagine yourself at a day spa… nothing fancy (Actually, wait, fancy it up all you wish!) You go in for a full-body exfoliation, ridding yourself of the old epidermal layer, leaving your skin feeling smooth, rejuvenated and refreshed. Your body begins to feel full of life as they continue to pamper and massage you; eliminating toxins and encouraging better blood flow, restoring balance and calm to your body and soul; you are served fresh fruits, vegetables, and liquid potion delights tasting of mint and citrus; fresh smells of bergamot and lavender permeate the air, uplifting your energy levels… hmmm… feels good doesn’t it? You feel completely at one with your body and spirit, and have an awakened sense of newness.
Now imagine that was the feeling you could access when someone gives you criticism… wouldn’t be so awful to hear then, would it?
As Winston Churchill once said, “Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.” Much like when you feel too much stress in your life, you check yourself in to remove it, like at a day spa. Instead of having a full-body exfoliation to remove dead skin—in lieu of harsh criticism—I want to advise a spiritual exfoliation by way of removing the ego, because ego is what makes criticism so difficult to hear.
Grab your spiritual loofah…
Criticism. Even the word alone can bring a slight chill to your nerves. Not solely reserved to writers, actors and artists… everyone’s a critic. Everyone has an opinion. Sometimes I think that criticism should come with a cautionary tag line that reads something like, “Criticism: NOT suitable for sensitive or thin skin. Side Effects may include crying, hurling obscenities and/or self-doubt.”
This kind of criticism I refer to is of the deconstructive variety. There’s a healthy balance of constructive criticism – I prefer using the word advisement; I’m aware that when we hear the words “constructive criticism” we think it’s just a friendly, non-hostile way for someone to say something about you or what you do that you don’t really want to hear. But, what it does is call your attention to things – things that perhaps warrant changing (or not).
When you think on it, at the most basic human level we learn best by error; we learn from our wrongness, not rightness, but through mishaps and mistakes. That’s how we steer our way through this world. Why shouldn’t we view criticism as just another way to school ourselves through life? We should welcome the advisement. There is no law that says you have to be upset or offended by criticism. YOU have the choice to thrive on it or discount it!
When you find yourself on the end of someone’s criticism, be it at work, or just in life, try and use it as a useful and instructive means to receive necessary feedback. Just like your visit to the spa. Think of it as an informative critique to make you self-aware, stronger, and more focused (exfoliating is NOT comfortable but it sure does have its benefits!) Liposuction, weight lifting or face lifts aren’t always fun or easy either, but we find value in the process because we believe in, and are sure of the outcome – so too with shedism.
Believe that we all need messages. Believe that anyone can be a channel for it…be open to the words and benefit from feedback by either using it or not. Take it or leave it, and find equal strength in discounting it. Sure, it’s always great to get positive feedback—we need to be assured and feel valued—but positive feedback doesn’t make you grow and transform, or alert you to something you need to work on. It’s the negative feedback that shows us how to advance and do, and BE better.
Don’t get me wrong. In business, love and life it is vital to know what you’re doing is right. Not feeling valued can be highly distressing in any environment – be it in the home, the bedroom or the boardroom. The greatest potential for improvement comes when you understand that you can do things better and more within the realm of who you ultimately want to grow into. There is always room for improvement.
Think about a snake, dry and scaly at a certain point in the month, but once it sheds its skin, the snake looks remarkably shiny and new, once again. The same goes for when our skin looks dry, we want to remove that unsightly layer. Shedism, criticisms or positive feedback (whatever you wish to call it) works the same way for our soul. Shedism is shedding that layer of our nature and our soul that pulls us back, that covers the true beauty of our soul – this layer is known as the ego, and once we shed it, it is like a rebirth.
Professionals recommend that you exfoliate twice a week to encourage healthier, more vibrant skin and wellbeing. So let’s adapt this recommendation when receiving a dose of criticism; see it as your spiritual loofah, helping you shed unwanted excess, eliminating ego and encouraging a fresh and focused mindset to continue working toward your potential. As Frank A. Clark once said, “Criticism, like rain, should be gentle enough to nourish a man’s growth without destroying his roots.” Nothing like a good scrub to cleanse your skin (and soul) to look, feel and BE a more improved version of yourself.
Re-label what you used to call “constructive criticism” – it can be anything you choose as long as you use it – and start to see your entire world as a means to give you feedback, enabling you to live your most brilliant existence. It’s the ultimate gift.
- Think about how you have handled criticism in the past.
- Did it bolster your efforts or did it bring in self-doubt?
- From that experience, think about how you could have let it help you shed the things your ego was holding you back from accomplishing.
* Yes, I created my own word. Use it, don’t use, it’s up to you. Just practice it.