We all have them. If you are someone who never hears a word of criticism from others, you likely hear it from yourself. And if you don’t – if no one ever says a bad thing, and if you know your worth and your value, please contact me because I will learn at your feet!
But, those negative voices come. They come from the “well meaning” comments of others. They come directly through bullying and snide remarks. They come from the body language and expressions of others – the sneers, the rolling of the eyes, and the mouths of disgust as we talk about and do things that are meaningful to us. And then, some of the worst ones, the ones from within. The thoughts of “That was dumb of me,” “I’m worthless,” “Don’t get your hopes up,” “It probably won’t work out,” and a million billion gazillion other phrases of every kind and art that get us down and stop our progression.
Well, first of all, take heart. Those voices only come when we are doing something great and worthwhile, and when we ARE great and worthwhile. It may not stop it from happening, but hopefully that takes the edge off of the sting.
I took a class years ago at BYU. It wasn’t a BYU professor, it was a guest artist who was, well, a little bit on the crazy side. (side note – I like crazy, so this is not a negative comment towards her, although I didn’t agree with everything she said… or anything…) I remember she compared everything we did to the animal kingdom. She said that the reason people laugh at each other is because we are recognizing the weak among us and asserting our strength, because the weak are weeded out by natural selection. I don’t agree with that. The more I have watched people, the more I have seen that people don’t mock others for being weak, they mock them for being strong. Yes, they may pick a perceived weakness to focus on, but the real reason they pay any attention to them in the first place is because of a unique ability, talent, strength, or understanding that they simply don’t have or don’t understand.
So stick with your strengths, know that you are on to something, and take that as the very best affirmation of your worth – something about you shines so brightly that others will do all they can to dim your light. DON’T LET THEM.
What about the “self inflicted” criticism – the negative voices from within? Some will say that it’s to keep them from being prideful, to make sure they are aware of their weakness so that they can always improve etc etc. Well, studies have shown that people improve and accomplish the most when the ratio of criticism to compliments is at least 1:3 – meaning at least 3 positives for every negative, and optimal results are shown when there are at least 6 positives to every negative (see The Happiness Advantage). So, unless you are saying 6 awesome things about yourself for every critique, no matter how “constructive,” you are holding back your ability to improve, progress, and benefit those around you.
Secondly, I don’t believe those all come from us. My mentor calls those voices “shoulder devils.” Most certainly I believe that there is an adversarial power that is bent on us not succeeding, not knowing our worth, and keeping us down, back, under, and whatever else he can do to restrict us. So again, when those shoulder devils are having their heyday, when a million thoughts of how dumb we are, how uninspiring our creations are, and how much we shouldn’t do the things that will help ourselves and others, know that we are important. Important enough to catch their notice and for them to mount an army. Pay attention to what is being attacked, and, as another mentor of mine would say “Find it flip it.” Turn it around – “That was Stupid” – well it must not have been or else they wouldn’t care, they’d just sit back and laugh, so it must have been smart, wise, or thoughtful. “I’m not enough” YES YOU ARE. Replace that one quickly with “I am enough.” And this goes on for days.
I deal with these, constantly. And the proof of what I have said above, is that I deal with them to an exponential amount right before I am about to do something important with my family, my business, or my life’s decisions. They get their punches in as much as possible to stop me. But I’m learning their secrets, which gives me the weapons I need. And now you know them too, so let’s get out and fight for our right to shine!