For many people, criticizing is like breathing, they do not conceive of a life without criticism. But being the object of criticism, becoming the target, is different, because it causes a lot of suffering.
Inadequate criticism, made at an inopportune moment, can cause deep emotional wounds. In fact, if we look into the memory, it will probably not be difficult to remember that criticism which has hurt us so deeply in the past and which still has not healed.
Unfortunately, we cannot stop others from criticizing us, but we can choose how to react to criticism. We don't have the power to avoid criticism, but we can decide whether to let these words hurt us. And the key to doing this lies in an ancient text.
Self-affirmation: An empowering path
"Whoever affirms himself escapes criticism", we read in the Tao Te Ching, a classic Chinese text whose authorship is attributed to Lao Tzu and is one of the foundations of Taoism. This is a very old but still valid advice.
Self-affirmation is almost a super power, but sadly it is not taught to children. In fact, it is often suffocated right away, because when children are taught to seek the approval of others, when they are taught to evaluate themselves based on others' judgments of their qualities, it is killing their self-affirmation.
Self-affirmation is the ability to express our opinions and affirm ourselves in relation to others. At its base is deep self-confidence. Only when we are sure of who and what we are and objectively value our abilities, are we able to express our needs and ideas assertively, without harming others, and at the same time avoid our rights being trampled on or despised.
To assert oneself it is necessary to give clear answers to these three questions:
1. Who are you? It may seem trivial, but many people don't know themselves, they don't know who they really are. However, to assert ourselves it is necessary to know who we are, to know our strengths and weaknesses, to know what our values, tastes and needs are. Only a self-conscious person is able to assert himself.
2. Who do you want to be? It is not enough to know each other, you need to know what kind of person you want to become. What do you want to improve, what are the skills you are proud of and what is the path that could help you develop these skills? Answering these questions will allow you to take control of your life.
3. What do you want? The goals we set ourselves end up changing us, which is why it is important to know what we want to achieve and how. Setting realistic goals will help us build self-confidence, become more responsible, and be immune to unhealthy criticism.
Why is self-affirmation the best antidote to criticism?
When you know exactly what your weaknesses and strengths are, when you are sure of what you want and how to make it happen, the criticisms of others will not even touch you because they will not be able to make you feel inferior, incompetent or doubtful.
In fact, we must not forget that criticism hurts so much precisely because it makes us doubt ourselves, because it activates in us the feeling of not being up to par, of being inadequate or incompetent. The criticism that makes us suffer is like the finger in the sore, the criticism we listen to is the one that, in a sense, confirms our worst fears about ourselves.
We can think of criticism as a tuning fork. Only those that resonate at the same frequency as our inner "I" can harm us, those that appeal to our fears and insecurities. Therefore, self-affirmation is the best antidote to unhealthy criticism, self-confidence allows us to take an emotional distance from harmful words. So we can objectively evaluate whether the criticism is constructive and brings us something that allows us to grow or, on the contrary, are just words that have the aim of hurting us. Either way, the decision is in our hands.