Criticism and Me

"Pointing American Man"  courtesy of imagerymajestic/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

“Pointing American Man” courtesy of imagerymajestic/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I got my socks knocked off twice in one day, and both times I had something to learn about criticism.

Lesson #1: If you are prepared to share your criticism in a non-complaining, open-minded way, also be prepared to discover that you may actually be the problem.

Explanation: I like to kiss.  I’m overall an affectionate person; I like to hug and kiss friends and family, but I really love romantic kissing.   I have many fond memories of just that — just kissing!  And so, naturally I’ve been after Brian to create some more memories.  🙂 But I kiss by feel, and when I kiss, I try to recreate previous pleasant experiences (same sensation, length, pressure, etc).  Lately something just wasn’t feeling right.  So, I decided that I would confront Brian about it.  And that’s when I found out that I kiss weird. I recoiled when he demonstrated my own kissing style back to me.  “How long has it been this way?” I asked incredulously.  And then when he said since always, I exclaimed: “Why didn’t you tell me?” We both agreed that probably wouldn’t have ended well if he had.  What an eye-opener.  I was worried about offending him, and I ended up tucking my own tail!  However, as embarrassing as this whole thing was, I can content myself with knowing I still win out in the end — because this means we need more kissing practice!

Lesson #2: If you are self-critical, you probably need it.

Explanation: This is something my metaphysics teacher shared with the class yesterday, and I felt like I’d been kicked in the stomach.  What?? You mean I deserve all of this suffering?  I deserve this self-abuse?  No. That’s not what she meant.  And she went on to explain something like this: The critical voice you are hearing in your head is directing you on how you can change.  For example: it is true that I shouldn’t sleep in too late.  It’s true that I need to slow down and read things carefully, so that I don’t miss important information.  And it’s true that I need to stop procrastinating and get working on that writing, homework, art, phonecall, e-mail, paperwork, exercise, etc.

The part that I don’t need is the beating myself up over it.  Forgive, learn, and do better the next time.  And if I didn’t do better?  Forgive, learn, and do better the next time.  One of the insights from this week’s metaphysics lesson/reading was that people don’t want to forgive because it takes away their ability to exact revenge.  Something negative happened, and you want to balance it with a negative reaction.  Forgiveness can seem like robbing you of that opportunity to punish yourself or others.  But my teacher explained that verbally abusing yourself can turn into a crutch, an excuse for you to be stuck in the same problem, not allowing yourself to learn from the situation and evolve.  I wake up late; the record begins to play:  I’m so lazy; I can’t get myself out of bed; There I go again; I’m so unmotivated; I’m a procrastinator; I never get out of bed; There I go again because I’m such a lazy, procrastinator, etc.   Instead of being an impetus for change, my inner critic has become a crutch, a repetitious reminder of my limitations that I can use as excuses, instead of moving forward.

Instead of continuing this self-fulfilling prophecy, I can start by replacing the old record with a new one. I can forgive myself for not getting up: I didn’t get out of bed when I wanted to, and I forgive you for that.

Then, I can look at the situation and find something to learn from it. What happens when I don’t get out of bed when I planned to?  I break a commitment to myself and take a blow to my trust in myself.  I also miss out on some things I planned to do that day, like writing, exercising, and catching up on work.  I want to trust myself.  I want to do those things.

Or. . .  Maybe I don’t want those things.  Why not?  What’s holding me back from getting those things done and keeping me in bed? Why don’t I want to exercise, get that work done, write, etc?” I need to reevaluate my purpose in those things.  Either they are not something I really want and need to do, and I should replace them with things that will help me want to get out of bed. Or, I need to reaffirm my purpose in wanting to do those things, so that I have a stronger reason to get out of bed; i.e. “I feel rejuvenated when I exercise and my skin is clearer.  So, I want to exercise.  Or I feel alive when I write, and I know in my heart I want to be a writer.  I’m going to put in the time, even if I’m resistant at first. Or even: I need to get this work done to make a living.  I want to feel secure and ensure my survival.  I will make this a priority.

What about that important piece of the e-mail that I skimmed over, affecting my schedule, as well as those of 3 other people? I can forgive myself, make amends, and learn from this lesson, setting a purpose for next similar experience.  Step 1) Forgive myself.  Step 2) Make it right: go back over the e-mail, contact the necessary people and make the apologies and adjustments Step 3) Set the purpose of slowing down and reading everything more carefully in the future.

Of course, I can also let myself do nothing and face the inevitable consequences later.  Or I can correct it but also beat myself up without forgiveness.   I can make either of these choices, now aware that I am choosing not to experience the lesson I have the opportunity to learn. And inevitably the universe will provide me with this same situation and this same decision again!  (And this is also ok! The universe is a very patient teacher!)  Life is about learning.  As my metaphysics lesson says: No event in your life is a failure.  The only thing resembling “failure” would be not learning from the experience.

So, what happens if I don’t get up early the next day?  Or I forget to slow down, and I misread another e-mail?  I know what to do.  Start again.  I forgive you for that.  I forgive you for that.  Rinse and repeat!

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