Being self-critical stems from our core beliefs which, unless corrected, will continue. But how many of us are aware that each time we say something we’re being critical, or even self-critical?  Therefore, we shouldn’t take offence if someone points out that is what we’re doing.

In the early days negativity wasn’t something I was consciously aware of, but the older I got the more I became aware of where my negativity was coming from. Childhood can sometimes be a breeding ground for negativity. But as long as we’re aware, with understanding and practice, there is no reason why we cannot change. It’s all about perception, how we choose to see ourselves and our life. We must embrace new perceptions.

If someone tells us we’re being negative, we should accept that we probably are. This can be the first step in recognising those traits in ourselves. What others say should always be taken as constructive and not personal.

However, some of us will use criticism as a weapon. Those who are critical don’t think about the way they speak, they just speak. They’ll bleat something out, then perhaps think about what they’ve said after they’ve said it, by which time it’s too late to retract their words.

But critical people are critical because of how they feel about themselves. We should remember there is always a bigger picture to someone’s emotions. Someone just doesn’t let off steam at someone because they want to hurt them. They’re not always consciously aware of why they’re not happy, or why they’re feeling angry. Those feelings are usually buried in the subconscious.

I remember attending prize-giving for my daughter, when the headmistress talked to the girls about ‘constructive criticism’. She was trying to impress upon them that the harder they worked in school, the more they would achieve. She was referring to the girls who didn’t work during the academic year, stressing that if they began to work, they could do better next year.

Her point resonated. I believe there is a difference between criticism and constructive criticism, and how easy it is for us to take both personally. If the person we’re talking to, benefits or improves from what is being said, then constructive criticism has to be a good thing.

We need to remember that when we hand out constructive criticism, the person we’re talking to has to receive it as constructive. If we fail to get that across, we’re automatically setting ourselves up for failure even before we’ve begun. Statements like, ‘I need you to…’ or ‘I want you to…’ won’t help us. All they’ll do is make the other person go on the defensive.

Any criticism works better when it’s offered with the right attitude. When there is a negative history between two people, it won’t make a difference: both must change their attitudes. When we take a team approach and use words like, ‘Let us look at…’ the other person is less likely to go on the defensive.

Constructive criticism is used in schools and colleges, by parents and other institutions where learning takes place. It may also be used to manipulate other people into believing what’s being said, instead of as a tool to help.

25 Feb, 2016

12 thoughts on “Criticisms

  1. My parents never really criticized me directly, but they didn’t exactly even acknowledge my behavior, either good or bad!

    They were always arguing and more often than not we would get dragged into it, so I always felt like everything was my fault even though I had no idea what I had done wrong. They used us as pawns against each other, expecting us to choose one parent over the other, which was cruel and unusual punishment!

    I was the youngest so my siblings felt obliged to take care of me, since my parents weren’t and I know they resented me for it. I always felt like such a burden that they would be happy to get rid of, since nothing I could do ever seemed to make them happy.

    My parents didn’t seem to comprehend how much damage they did to us and always blamed the other for what happened. It left emotional scars that have never healed and probably never will. The best I can hope to learn is learn how to bandage them up so it doesn’t feel like salt being poured into the wounds every time I have a memory!

    I have spent most of my life criticising myself for not being perfect, but I am actually only human and have made mistakes. I was buried under mountains of guilt, shame and remorse by my parents, but the fact of it is that 90% of it isn’t mine!

    The hardest part really is letting go of what wasn’t mine to begin with!

    1. Your parents didn’t have to criticise you Randy for you to feel you’d done something wrong. You were constantly aware of the circumstances, you already felt as though you were wrong.

      Unfortunately children will always feel guilt from their parents because that guilt has to go somewhere if the parents don’t admit their faults to their children.

      I’m not even sure you own 10% Randy. If you’d had the most perfect of upbringings, you’d have followed a different path and have had a different life altogether. Your parents were responsible for you up to consenting age. A lot of what you did happened before you got to consenting age and therefore you’re not to blame.

      Had your parents given the life you were supposed to have everything would be different now. That said, as the adult (and I know from my own experiences) there does come a time when we have to finally take responsibility now, even though we can’t change anything from our past.

      Continuing to blame others, doesn’t won’t work because it just reinforces where we are and that means we will change very little.

  2. People often criticize others from false narratives. And some use criticism to chastise others simply to advance their own agendas.

    But criticism is also seen as belligerent; it’s a difficult thing for some people to express. So it matters that we pass our opinions deliberately, but flawlessly from one person to another.

    1. Thanks Tim. I agree with you that criticism is seen as belligerent, but personally I’m not sure whether any of us are entitled or best placed to criticise other people, but in any event I’m not sure we should.

      I also believe we would all get on better if we kept our criticisms and our opinions to ourselves.

  3. Thank you Ilana. Let me add that some people actually feel intellectually and morally entitled to criticize, but that kind of privilege is artificial.

    We will take criticism much easier if we hold the criticizer to the same scrutiny.

    1. You’re absolutely right Tim, but unless that kind of scrutiny comes naturally and is there almost all of the time, I feel it would be very difficult to think like that at a time when we’re being scrutinised.

      From my own experience feeling bruised is feeling bruised. How do you overcome that quickly enough to hand back the same level of scrutiny?

  4. I’ve never been critisized by my parents and if they felt they had to say something harsh for my own good, it always started with “please don’t take this wrong but…”

    The criticism that’s hardest for me to bear is from outside family like aunts and cousins who seem to assume too much and truth is only according to them.

    1. Thanks Bonnie. Any form of criticism is harsh, no matter where the criticism comes from. I’m so pleased you had and still continue to have support from your parents.

      In all fairness to my parents I don’t remember the criticisms, but I haven’t been free of them. They came in through other means.

      Any emotional support from a parent or sibling is important, because our formative years are the years that shape us, our ideals, our personalities and our confidence.

  5. Yes, criticism from people that are supposed to be closest to me with support and love, tends to chip away my self-worth and self-confidence a lot. I’ve tried to ignore it, but the words still repeat in my head.

    1. It’s a hard one Bonnie, but you’re right criticism does tend to happen around those who are supposed to be the closest to us and there is no excuse, it shouldn’t happen. Everyone needs to pull together instead of pulling away.

      I think it’s very easy for any form of criticism to knock away at our self-worth and confidence. As you rightly point out it’s not easy to ignore. All you can do is try not to take it personally and understand why you came in for criticism.

      If it’s something that you might have contributed to accept that you might have been slightly responsible. If it’s nothing to do with what you said, try to work out whether the person delivering the criticism was trying to be constructive in their delivery, but just got it wrong.

      Our emotions have a lot to do with how we deliver our responses. When people are in a good head space they tend to criticise less and support their loved ones more.

      The trick is not to take anything that’s said personally. That way you know it was never about you, but more about them.

  6. I was never criticised as a child as that would have involved some form of parenting!

    I don’t mind criticism now, as long as it’s justified and constructive and that way I see it as positive and I’m open to that sort of learning.

    1. Thank you. Yes, that would have involved some form of parenting, but not being parented has meant you probably unconsciously see yourself as completely untouchable, because you’ve never been accountable to anyone but yourself!

      It’s not your fault of course, but that’s not the real world. If we do something wrong, or something that offends or hurts someone else, we are not only accountable but will come in for some form of criticism, rightly so.

      But as you say, as long as it’s constructive or done in a conciliatory way, then that’s fine. I think on other people’s part they have to be able to say what they want or need to say without feeling what they say will come back on them.

      Not being parented doesn’t help of course, but not minding some criticism now does help, particularly if it’s necessary. Your mum didn’t do you any favours.

      People tend to criticise only if they feel it’s necessary.

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