Winston Churchill had lots of critics. He didn’t allow the fear of criticism to hold him back.
“You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.”
― Winston Churchill
Fear of criticism dogs us all. It’s the most human of fears, and we spend so much energy doing battle with the pesky little thoughts that started when we let our guard down for a moment, or listened to the opinions of our friends and were then betrayed by those we trust.
Humans are vulnerable creatures. It’s the price we pay for being able to change, to be dynamic and adaptable as we travel along the road of life.
Criticism kills Creativity and our ability to Create a Change in Our lives
Criticism can kill any attempt at developing a new idea. New ideas are what helps us grow, they need to be nurtured and protected in the early stages.
Criticism, which may be clothed as “good advice” from a loved one or a friend, can be like sword to the heart of a great idea or new undertaking.
What we see, is not What others see
Our ability to believe in ourselves is often not perceived through the same positive eyes by others. They may only see the cold facts that come from unpleasant experiences in their own lives.
Don’t allow your initiative and your courage, to take a new idea and your belief that you can turn it into something great, become ruined by the pessimism of others.
You are vulnerable, and so am I, we both will never escape that essential human quality. But to understand ourselves and be able to live without the fear of being criticised for our actions and our decisions is a tightrope walk that seems never ending.
I say that vulnerability as a human being is a quality, because it is. It is what allows us to always be in position to change. And change is essential to our survival and to progressive learning.
Learning about Others
We can learn by observing others and reflecting on how their actions and words help us see ourselves. But when we get too close to their ideas and forget ourselves, we can fall into the trap of losing our sense of self — our self-esteem.
I wholeheartedly believe that the concept of self-esteem is our saving grace when it comes to protecting ourselves from invading voices that seem to drown our own thoughts.
Self-Esteem and You
Napoleon Hill wrote about how important it is to build a solid basis that will serve as self-esteem. The self-image that stems from a solid base of knowing who you are, protects you from the inevitable comments, criticism and want-to-help-you advice that often comes from friends and colleagues when you change something in your own life.
MP Bessie Braddock spoke to Churchill: “Winston, you are drunk, and what’s more you are disgustingly drunk.”
“My dear, you are ugly, and what’s more, you are disgustingly ugly. But tomorrow I shall be sober and you will still be disgustingly ugly.”
It’s always when a small change takes place that a person will feel provoked into giving their tuppence worth of thought on the subject. A friend will feel they are entitled to criticise, trust has been given and the forgone conclusion that familiarity, or cheeky comments are allowed, is an open arena for the games to start.
Feeling criticised by a friend can be overwhelming, more so than if it came from a person you don’t know. Unfortunately, an act of perceived betrayal can only come from within the circle.
Criticism is like a betrayal of trust. You thought confiding in a friend was safe, but really, communicating with one another is about the dynamics of idea exchange. Try having a conversation without hearing argument or conflict.
When we know who we are, having a great sense of self-esteem, then conflict with others becomes like a game of wits.
We know who we are because we get through the bad bits in life, we didn’t fall at the first fence but righted ourselves and galloped on towards the finish line.
Each fall teaches us lessons, one of them is that we will fall again, and again, throughout life.
Perfecting our personality is a Utopian ideal. Learning to become a great warrior of wit, a person who knows how to deal with criticism is a matter of developing good mental strategies.
To become the modern version of Oscar Wilde, or to have the come-backs of Winston Churchill, when people criticised his weighty body, his brandy odoured breath or his ideas about how to win a World War, he would always come back with a loaded answer that put the person criticising him in their place — without them becoming his enemy in the process. Often, he gained more respect from the right people because of his strategic use of precise observations.
Oscar Wilde, the Irish writer of the 1850s, had to deal with heavy criticisms from know-it-alls and other men who disapproved of his homosexuality.
Imagine the fears that he lived with in those times. Not only to be criticised for his ideas about literature but also about his very being, his lifestyle. I’m sure his self-esteem about his homosexuality was strongly intact, but constantly under attack.
The strength of character needed to allow criticism to bounce off can be learned, but only through trial and error. We can’t avoid the nasty bits of life yet expect to be blessed with the powers of a magician. We must use our vulnerability to navigate the changes that we need to grow and thrive as human beings.
Our powers of observation during conversations, or when listening to other people’s opinions should be at their highest, our ears pricked up and ready. Not only to be on guard against having our ideas ripped to shreds by some “expert”, but to be able to give clear and truthful answers that cause the critic to stop and think about what they are saying.
To get them to think of their own opinion and question its validity is a great strategy for bouncing criticism back to the critic. Learning to do this is a matter of practice.
The Positive Side of Vulnerability
Overcoming the associated emotions of our vulnerability as being a weakness that leads to feeling open to attack, but see vulnerability as a necessary part of character that allows us to become flexible, to accept good ideas and change which benefits our own cause.
Think about it, without the ability to change nothing good will happen in life. Change is good when we have some control over it, when it is in line with our own self-image, and self esteem — our values.
We don’t compromise values when we change, we tend to move towards them. When we know who we are and what we want, change can be an exciting development in our lives, but, it will be a change of plans for our friends and family who, really, just don’t want that change to happen.
Friends who know you have built an image of you. Their concept of who you are is the basis of how they relate to you, talk to you, and how they give you the benefit of their wisdom. If you always accept their advice without challenge, then you are something like their pet. They know you won’t challenge them, you’re too nice for that.
When a day comes and you refuse your friend’s advice and criticisms about a plan or an idea, you rock the boat. This doesn’t mean that the friendship is over, it does mean that you are reorganising the relationship. You are making yourself vulnerable to finding out who your friend really is.
When you change, you test your friend’s mettle, you find out if they have character enough to understand that you are you, and they are they.
Who would want friends who only need pets?
Better to build a circle of friends that have character and values, that way you all learn from one another about conflicts, and the real meaning of solid friendships.
Learning to understand our vulnerability in social and business life, teaches us to value the importance of resilience of character. To bounce back immediately requires mental energy.
Energy comes from using the resource again and again, it won’t develop and become spontaneous in everyday situations without use.
Overcoming the fear of criticism is very much a case of facing fears.
To quote Charles Darwin’s words, “The strongest survive,” is an often misused quote that is taken out of context. People who feel they already have the upper hand in a situation use this quote to justify their unfair dealings, but they don’t realise it is actually just a part of the whole idea.
“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.” Charles Darwin (1809–1882)
Of all the things we are, and all the things we do, we are in constant flux. The universe is a reeling, rolling mass of elements and ideas in a constant battle to express themselves.
The search for harmonious living is also subject to changes and adaptations and we must be alert and ready to deal with them in our lives.
Resilience, adaptability, intelligent listening that leads to precise and truthful questioning gives us the individual capacity to express ourselves according to our own needs and wants, and therefore disclude the uneducated opinions of our critics.