Toppling the Reign of Criticism
January 8, 2013 by
Categories: Miscellaneous

I’ve noticed something a bit obvious (yet forgotten) about myself lately.  I’ll say it quietly… I do not respond well to persistent criticism.

I’m referring to something more than just the normal defensive reaction – where you argue your position, try to defend yourself, or walk away because you refuse to hear another word. (Although to be honest, it took a lot of practice to stop those habitual defensive reactions, and it takes a lot of mindfulness to prevent that type of reaction still.)

I can remain pretty resilient when experiencing a critique. I’m eager to improve in most areas of my life (addiction to chocolate aside), and learning about personal growth areas are an essential part of self-improvement. Actually, I usually find criticism to be motivating – I want to prove that I’m better than that. I can prove you wrong, I can be more than that grade or review says I am, I know I can do better.

But that motivation weakens when I’m facing repetitive criticism, especially when it is partnered with the absence of positive feedback. My inner monologue begins to chant, “What’s the point? … I’m making no progress … I’m exactly what that criticism says I am.”

Hearing persistent negative feedback with no acknowledgement of improvement is hard to hear. Though as an adult, I can recognize my tendency to shut down, and I can acknowledge that there are more productive ways to respond.

Unfortunately, I often hear this same pattern of feedback with parents towards their children. Parents are continually pushing their children in order to  mold them into responsible, compassionate beings (and bravo to them!) But many are pushing so much that they often forget to see the ways in which their children are already excelling. This onslaught of negative feedback begins to break kids down – they accept the negative view of themselves and stop believing that they can behave any other way, which in turn reinforces the parents’ belief in the need to criticize.

I’m not saying to stop giving constructive feedback altogether – simply slide in a compliment once in a while. More often than not, children want to behave (as do students!). We all just get lost in the feedback sometimes.

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