Dying Daily #279: Mindfulness and Criticism

I haven’t done a good job being consistent with Mindfulness Monday in a while either. All those series threw things off.

I’ve said it often on this blog: you cannot do anything worth doing without experiencing some kind of criticism.

It is just the way things work, it is inevitable. It will not hurt you. It might even help you, if you can approach it mindfully.

I am not immune from criticism. I have this insane notion in my head about needing to be perfect. This makes it easy for criticism to get me down.  I meet a lot of people who experience this. I also meet a lot of people who have an insane notion that they are perfect they way they are and do not need to listen to anything anyone else has to say. Neither of these positions are mindful or useful.

If we watch our mind when have been criticized we will see that it almost instantly goes into a sort of protective frenzy, trying to solve the problem it perceives.

What do they know anyway?

How dare they say that about me?

They need to get their own house in order before criticizing mine.

They were probably having a bad day.

They are just unhappy jerks.

And on and on.

None of these thoughts are helpful.

They are soothing, but that doesn’t mean they are useful.

These are all the same as telling a friend that there are plenty of fish in the sea after a breakup or a parent that God needed another angel when they lose a child. Simple phrases that help us avoid the pain of the situation.

A mindful approach to dealing with criticism allows us to take a moment and experience how we feel about it, and being criticized sucks. It brings up all sorts of difficult emotions like anger and fear, maybe even betrayal.

Approaching it mindfully instead of trying to explain it all away allowed me to learn that I immediately experience guilt whether I agree with the criticism or not. Even when I haven’t met the person, my mind jumps to the thought that I must have done something wrong, and a cycle of emotions starts. Instead of trying to explain this away, being mindful allows me to sit with these things and work them out instead of going into protective mode.

It allows me to learn from the situation, and consider the idea that the criticism may be valid, and see it as an opportunity for growth in my life.

What happens when someone criticizes you?

Do you immediately agree or disagree?

Are you able to be objective about it?

What would it be like to simply experience everything instead of letting the mind rationalize it away?