I’ve talked about avoiding negativity -more specifically, ‘black holes’– before, in several ways. Unbridled negativity is paralyzing. Deprecating yourself (or getting bashed on repeatedly by someone else) can set up a barrier between what you are and what you can be: a better, happier, stronger version of yourself. This train of thought has led some people to adopt a ‘cast out anyone who disagrees/criticizes’ mentality. This is really fucking stupid and has nothing to do with the ‘black holes’ I wrote about before. It has nothing to do with people who limit your growth, quite the contrary. Take a look at this picture I found on the Facebook page of Inspirational Cosmic Crystal Woo Energy and Healing Vibrations. (Yes, the page is as hilarious as it sounds.)
Scepticism and criticism, even if they feel like ‘negativity’, can be useful when they are constructive, when they can be used emotionally or practically as a catalyst for the process you’re in, regardless whether it’s career, relationship or sports related.
An ’emotional catalyst’ in this sense could be a negative emotion like guilt or anger to fuel your otherwise waning discipline. It could the feeling that you’re not working hard enough, after someone told you to do something you should be doing but aren’t. It could be a frustration that you let out to push yourself a little harder in the gym.
If these are negative emotions, there’s a drawback. It can work wonders, or it can come back to haunt you. If someone tells you that you did something wrong and you feel guilty about it, that could be motivation to do better next time… But what if you fail again? Will it empower you or set you back? Guilt is generally not a productive emotion, unless perhaps you have wronged someone and there is a need to make amends, compensate someone or heal someone from the wound you inflicted.
Emotional catalysts caused by criticism CAN be constructive, but they can be harmful as well. Anger, guilt and fear (just like infatuation, a competitive state of mind or a sense of duty) can fuel progress or they can eat away at you and tear down everything you’ve carefully built up. Be mindful of this.
A ‘practical catalyst’ is less complex. If I do a squat but I lean forward too much, my coach might tell me to drive through the heels, flex my abs harder, keep my chest up, push my hips forward or simply to stay more upright. That is constructive criticism with a practical application to improve myself. If a person tells me that I am really hypocritical because I go back on my word all the time when I always preach about the importance of honour, reliability and credibility, I’ll be happy to accept that criticism. The person is helping me by reminding me that I am doing something that is not fitting for the type of person I want to be.
There is no need to always do whatever well intentioned people advise you, there’s no need to swallow all the bitterness that the critics shoot at you, but it is good to listen and assess at times.
Don’t shut out all criticism or feedback that might be considered ‘negativity’. Realize when it is appropriate to accept and handle criticism like an adult with the intention to improve, and when to tell someone to fuck off.
“Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfils the same function as pain in the human body; it calls attention to the development of an unhealthy state of things. If it is heeded in time, danger may be averted; if it is suppressed, a fatal distemper may develop.” – Winston Churchill