If I gave you ninety-nine compliments, and one criticism, would you focus on the criticism? Many of us would (I know I would).
I always hold off on reading my teaching evaluations each semester, because I know those negative comments will crush me, no matter how many positive comments I get. You’d think they’d offset each other, but no.
So the next question is, why do we make the negative stuff bigger than it is?
I think it boils down to two main reasons:
One: As humans, we’re hard-wired this way. We live in community with others, and the approval of the community is essential to our survival – at some base, animal level, we fear being abandoned by our tribe. Negativity feels like attack, and triggers a mental and physical reaction. We won’t overcome it unless we learn to recognize it and realize this is what’s happening.
And two: Criticism can make us hearken back to childhood insecurities, and the child inside us reacts with hurt. If we were told we weren’t good enough, or would never amount to anything, critics can take us back there and make us wonder if those things were really true after all. Again, I think the key to breaking this cycle is to recognize when this is happening to us.
Our tendency to notice the negative is part of the self-protective instinct, but many of us allow it to overtake us. Let’s strive to notice it without feeling defeated, to realize we’re not going to succeed 100% of the time – and that’s okay. Let’s remember there are 7.5 billion people on planet earth, and they’re not all going to like or appreciate us.
Let’s value ourselves enough to take criticism for what it’s worth, and not a penny more.