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When I Learn To Embrace Criticism, These 10 Amazing Things Happened

When I Learn To Embrace Criticism, These 10 Amazing Things Happened

“To avoid criticism, do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.” ~ Elbert Hubbard

There was a time in my life when I hated, and even feared, being appraised or evaluated. I didn’t like being told I was wrong. In fact, I tried to live a ‘careful’ life or lied to avoid these horrible encounters.

Do you find yourself bending over backward to try to win someone’s approval? Or try to hide something you feel won’t get approval?

Do you pull yourself in and try to make yourself physically small when you are criticized?

When someone makes a comment about you, do you become defensive, or go take the other route of going quiet, while at the same time as your mind races around attaching all sorts of meaning to the comments?

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Critics abound! None of us are immune to them.

You cannot control what others say to you but, when you learn to embrace criticism amazing things can happen.

New horizons open

Criticism can open you up to new ideas and new ways of looking at things. When you pay attention to the words being spoken and not the criticism itself, you just might get a glimpse of a brilliant idea that you can use or expand upon. Listening to criticism had lead me to make some positive moves that I hadn’t thought of.

Listening skills become sharper

When you realize there is value in listening to what is being said, you become an active listener. The typical reaction would be to mentally begin preparing your defense as you partially listened. When you stop doing this, you begin to listen attentively to the whole comment. Separating the gems from the rubbish and then use them to make adjustments and gain success.

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Have more win-win scenarios

When you dig in your heels and defend your position at all cost, you could be doing so at the expense of losing friends, family or a job. Sometimes when you know there is no way to reach an agreement, the best thing to do is to agree to disagree. It is surprising how fast the tension eases and the conversation changes. An adversary could become a friend.

Improve relationships

Criticism gives you the opportunity to explore your people-pleasing tendencies. Relationships based on the need for constant approval can be draining for all parties. You cannot control what other people think and it is an energy drainer to try. When you stop pleasing others it is very liberating and your relationships often strengthen.

Saves time and energy

After receiving criticism, if you spend hours stewing on what he/she meant, what you should have said, or engaging in mental arguments, you are wasting time and energy. You lose focus and become less productive. However, if you can refrain from reacting and quickly appraise the criticism for it’s worth then move on, you save time and energy. For me, this is one of the great benefits of embracing criticism.

Become less stressed

When you acquire the ability to let go of your feelings and thoughts around being criticized you naturally become less stressed. Letting go of worries and fears releases the stress that you hold when you are in a defensive mode. When you no longer make yourself small and start to curl inward like you want to hide, you know you have let go. You can stand tall, be open, and listen for what you can use.

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Instills motivation

Many times criticism magnifies you inner insecurities. You may have doubts or insecurities around something, but the moment someone points it out you are off to prove them wrong. I was great at coming back in attack mode. The beauty of it is that once you get beyond that which is holding you back you realize it wasn’t so bad after all. You might even be motivated to take on something completely new.

Recognize genuine vs false criticism

Some critics give you useful comments while others have no constructive value whatsoever. It is important to differentiate between what is useful and what isn’t. This is very valuable as you strive to do bigger and greater things in life. The greater your success the more criticism you will receive. Know what to ignore and what to heed can be invaluable.

Create clear boundaries

There are times when critics deliver their message in less than tolerable ways. When this happens you might reply with, “You are making some valuable points but, I think I would be more willing to accept them if you didn’t raise your voice.” It is one thing to give criticism, it is another to be rude or arrogant. Letting others know how you feel establishes a boundary of what is acceptable and what isn’t.

Accept imperfection

Receiving criticism well reminds you that it is okay to have imperfections – in yourself and others. If you can admit you aren’t perfect and strive to make improvements in these areas, you’ll experience more happiness, peace, joy and success.

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Accepting that you, and everyone else, is perfectly imperfect makes life so much easier and happier. This is was a great relief in my life and I am lighter for it.

In what ways has embracing criticism enhanced your life?

Featured photo credit: Full Speed Engines on the Disney Cruise/TreyRatcliff via flickr.com

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Last Updated on July 17, 2019

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

What happens in our heads when we set goals?

Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

The Neurology of Ownership

Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

The Upshot for Goal-Setters

So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

Reference

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