Criticism isn’t the same as rejection. Yes, really.
Posted May 31 2013 6:00pm
Conflict and criticism (‘c-situations) are something that most people struggle with to some degree and when you’re already judging you about certain things or at the very least attempting to live your life by consensus with people pleasing, criticism can cut through you like a knife and be personalised as a rejection of who you are as a person.
Criticism is in essence an expression of disapproval based on perceived faults or mistakes or it can be about judging the quality of something or someone and so of course while it might be negative, it could actually be positive and point to opportunity for growth.
It’s a form of feedback that depending on a number of factors including the situation, deliverer of the criticism (critic), your respective agendas, fears, motivations etc, may or may not be of use to you and may or may not have the power to knock the wind out of your sails.
Criticism like communication, isn’t all verbal so it can be expressed via action or lack of it too. How faults, mistakes or even the quality of something is perceived is also important to note because it is that person’s perspective which may be influenced by their own agenda or just coming from an entirely different perspective that may not make sense to you.
It’s the value that we put on other people’s perception of things that can lead to problems because if how you feel about you is largely based on external validation then regardless of whether there is merit or not behind that person’s criticism or even the right to judge you, you’re going to be affected by any perceived expression of criticism.
This why some people take a person not reciprocating their interest as a criticism of who they are because they associate it with rejection. It’s the assumption that if someone doesn’t do as they expect, want or need, it’s because they were judged as being inadequate in some way.
Rolling on with that assumption, you can then see how easy it is to feel as if you’re taking bullets left right and centre if the association you make with criticism is that it happens to you each time things don’t go your way. “They’re not doing what I want because they disapprove of me and I’m rejectionable”, when in actual fact people do what chimes with their own agenda and their reasons are very tied up in themselves and their habits.
Rolling on even further with this assumption, it’s also easy to see how you can end up with the belief that if a person expresses any form of criticism, even if it’s actually respectful feedback, that they don’t like or love you. This is simply not true.
Even if verbalising your disapproval isn’t your strength due to being more focused on being a people pleaser, that doesn’t mean that you haven’t and aren’t expressing any disapproval in your life, even if it’s with your actions or expectations.
Think of all of the times when you’ve felt unhappy in a situation or within a relationship. Think of the times when you had a different agenda to someone else. Think of the difference in values between you and someone who you struggled to make it work with. Think of when you expected, willed, waited, hoped, begged, cajoled, pleaded and even demanded that somebody changed. Think of when you were more in love with the memory of who someone was or the initial illusions you had about them than you were with the actual person in front of you. Think of when you’ve tried to express that you didn’t like something. Think of when you’ve had an argument. Think of the fact that whether you’ll admit it or not, you know that each person in your life isn’t perfect.
Does this mean that you didn’t / don’t like or love any of these people?
If you believe that criticism means that you’re not loved, liked or approved of then you’re also saying that when you don’t like something, that you don’t like, love, or approve of that person either. If you’ve been insisting on how much you’ve loved somebody and even how you can’t get over them but at the same time, like any person who is in this situation, there are issues, this runs counter to what you believe.
This idea that any and all criticism is bad and that if you’re criticised or perceive you to be that you’re unloved, disliked or disapproved of is an inadvertent way of saying that you don’t have the right to be human.
You can’t like everything and everyone. You can’t. You are allowed to query things, to give (respectful) feedback and to also pick and choose what you do or don’t want to pay too much attention to. That’s your right.
I’ve become a lot more grown up about criticism in recent years (it used to reduce me to being a sullen, disapproved of teenager who didn’t believe that she could get anything right and judged all criticism as ‘permanent’) and because I know that I love and respect various people in my life even when they’re not perfect and don’t do as I expect or like, I’ve had to let that flow back to me instead of holding me to a different standard and freaking out. It’s too much to expect that you can spend weeks, months and years interacting with a person and that every last move is going to be ‘approved’ of.
Criticism isn’t the same as rejection and actually, while it can be an expression of disapproval, at the heart of it is feedback which you can take or leave, plus it may actually be feedback that relates more to the critic than it does to you especially if there’s boundary issues. The criticism might be founded (which is useful feedback if you’ll see past your nose) but ultimately criticism isn’t going to become the gut wrenching rejection that it can become if you ultimately approve of you first and aren’t reliant on approval. If you accept you then the things that you used to judge you on can’t be used against you by others.