Criticism Kills Off Our Desire
In a recent article about the creative process of setting up in practice, I wrote about how we can interrupt our desire by judging it. Criticism is toxic to creativity, whether it comes from others or from ourselves.
I have a big inner critic.
Some years ago, I worked with a coach who gave me a task, to ask people who knew me what they thought of me. When I read their feedback, at some level, I didn’t believe what was being said. I read it through distorted lenses, emphasising the negatives and diminishing the positives.
I reread the feedback recently, and was touched and humbled by the regard in which my friends and family hold me. I’m still reading it through those distorted lenses, but now I can allow in more of the truth of the positives, as well as seeing the negatives in a less exaggerated way.
We all see ourselves in a distorted way. We look at ourselves as if looking in one of those silly mirrors you used to get at fairgrounds when I was growing up, where our heads look enormous, we look twice as tall, or we look shorter and rounder. Or one of those apps that allow us to make silly pictures. We have these distortions in how we see others, and the world we live in too.
The distortions shape how we interact with the world. For example, in large part, my distortion comes from my fear of being criticised. When we see through a lens of criticism, we see criticism everywhere, and sometimes we anticipate or even imagine it. We hear criticism where none was intended. Our choices and actions are influenced by the criticism we anticipate. And when we do take the risk, but get it wrong, we criticise ourselves both for getting it wrong and for taking the risk. It’s a lose/lose situation.
But I have found that the biggest danger of criticism comes, not from other people, but from myself. I always criticise myself more than others criticise me and I have always been harder on myself than on anyone else. As is usually the case, the answer comes from within.
In her book “Flourishing,” Maureen Gaffney proposes a proportion of positive experiences we need to counteract our negative bias, as five positives to one negative to maintain neutrality, or seven positives to one negative to flourish. We can take the radical step of positively supporting ourselves five times for every time we criticise. This takes practice and commitment, especially for those who are currently committed to an “objective” point of view, which is often a euphemism for cynicism and resentment.
By actively seeking out positive things to see in ourselves, in others and in the world about us, over time we can re-orient our perspective in a more positive way. We can appreciate rather than criticise, acknowledging and supporting rather than challenging. And then when a challenge is needed, there is plenty of ground to support it on.
When we criticise ourselves or others, we close our hearts. Like a door, a closed heart works two ways. We keep the people or experiences we don’t want out, and we also keep out some of the good stuff too, like magical experiences, or abundance, money or more clients. Any restriction takes energy to hold, and that is energy that could be used in other ways. Other ways that might serve us and our practices better.