It seems everyone is a critic these days the fear of negative criticism.
Negative criticism, or evaluation, is among the worst of all fears.
It is its own terrible form of anxiety and tears apart our self-esteem and well-being. Like an infection, this fear may spread to other areas of our lives as if our friends, coworkers, and even strangers will see the possible “truths” of these criticisms and prove the naysayers right.
The fact is, everyone has an opinion, and those aren’t facts. We can take better control over our inner landscape and allow more of what appears as constructive criticism to be internalized instead, though some of it may be hard to hear.
We can worry so much about how we’ll be perceived and received that we go down the dark path of becoming our own harshest critics in hopes that we can spot our faults and correct them before others do. This quickly becomes an exercise in futility because there is just no pleasing everyone. And why are we not pleased about ourselves? External validation is like building your esteem as a house of cards.
We can however escape from others by detaching from social media, withdrawing from society, and seeking refuge in the far nooks of nature beyond civilization. We may soon find that life demands our return, though staying off social media might be one of the healthier choices you make. While it is one possible solution, removing yourself from various social contexts may be cutting you out of your own life until there is only you—someone you may not want to be with alone.
Here are 3 traps to avoid so we can better internally validate.
Self-Scrutiny. Put the Mirror Down!
As mentioned above, one of the ways to fight the fear of negative judgement is to troubleshoot all the possible flaws and foibles someone might judge by overanalyzing what they could think of us. Will they disapprove and not like our outfit? Am I smiling too much? What if they don’t like me? The imaginary answers might as well be real before anything actually happens.
So, we may try to correct ourselves before anyone even has a chance to point it out. This terrible habit of self-scrutiny eventually forms a twist. We become the harshest of critics hovering over everything we do. How do we get it out? It may be like chasing an elusive hornet out of your home.
At this stage of our harsh critic dis-ease, we no longer are free, we are imprisoned in our own minds.
At that stage, we may feel like there is no escape, and now the hornet is sitting on the other bunkbed ready to sting you with its vicious venom of negativity. How do we break out of jail?
The key is to realize you have the key all along. When let yourself out of this cage, you may find that the holding onto that venom inside you—allowing it to course through your veins—is ultimately a choice that we make. A strategy could be to intentionally do or perform something to fail. Wear a shirt you don’t like. Prove to yourself how little such a thing matters, and ask yourself did my fear come true? Notice how much you are wondering about others’ attention to you while creating evidence that it has no real threat to your life. Begin to see your inherent worth not dictated by the world around you.
It may all feel like a losing battle sometimes. It may not be so, if you commit yourself to changing the way you look at yourself, this being from the inside out and not through others.
Negativity Loves Company So Quit $#!% Talking! [Talking badly of others and of yourself].
Misery loves company, so the expression goes. Negativity can be much like a black hole that sucks all light into it. There appears to be no end to how much good it can swallow.
When we give and receive negativity from ourselves, we may feel like a bottomless pit. While we are stewing this vile brew, it is worth considering how much we are putting that same energy into the world around us. We may find ourselves judging others unfairly or with envy embedded within our thoughts.
The shade we cast outside of us leaves a trail of smoke in its wake. Get your hands dirty slinging mud, and take a look, your own hands are covered in it. By intentionally giving out positive energy, thoughts of gratitude for others, assumptions of positive intent, empathy that this human may have their own struggles—that positive energy had to come from somewhere… Perhaps you’ll end up holding some yourself.
It can be hard to admit when we are being unkind and judgmental. No need to dwell on it if it doesn’t help. Start rinsing your hands of the mud projected unto others and produce positivity by giving this to them instead.
Who Made You the Judge? The Jury is Out on This One.
No really, who made you the judge? Or anyone for that matter? It may feel like that inner bully inside you grabbed the microphone as some sort of gavel to claim judgements against you, but perhaps you gave it to them.
Or you gave it to your teachers, bosses, friends, family, social media, even society who all have their own perceptions—good, neutral, and bad. There is no escape from being judged, but that doesn’t mean they’re qualified to do so.
Ironically, our ways of trying to defeat our fear of being judged harshly often leads to growing self-hatred and the development of an inner bully, which is far worse than any judgement coming from others.
You see, there are no quick gimmicks or magic tricks despite various Facebook or Google ads or even therapists claiming to have just the trick. There is none. Instead, there is hard work, challenging your thoughts one at a time. Redeveloping the space inside you to house warmth, welcoming, and acceptance instead of cold, cruel hatred.
If there is any sort of trick, it is befriending that bully inside, listening to their anger, hatred, and rage without trying to change it, and accepting that they are a part of you. Fighting your bully will give them more ammunition. Accepting your bully without judging them can disarm and bring you peace at last. And ask yourself: are my bully’s words true? The answer rarely is yes if at all. Once you realize that your inner bully is nothing more than a self-grown hatred, its own kind of hurt and pain that was meant to strengthen you when this all began, you may be able to start healing and changing your relationship with yourself.
Others may judge us harshly, but it is not our responsibility to prove them wrong. Everyone has an opinion, but this doesn’t mean it they are right. When we manage to not react, and simply act as ourselves despite them, we may find that peace of mind we’ve been hoping for.
And I cannot leave out a comment on social media. It makes negative evaluations ever so invasive because they hit close to home. People are much more brutal when it is behind device. It is hard to escape from something that comes straight to our phone, newsfeed, or email at any time of the day or night. In many cases, negative evaluations no longer happen face to face unless you count Facebook as such. Negative evaluations can come in many forms such as likes, or the lack thereof—how many fans, followers, views, or meaningless negative comments that you fear others will see and misunderstand.
What is the true value of any of it? Why are we allowing these artificial metrics to measure our self-worth? Instead, it is important to work on our healthy self-evaluation and development of a friendly inner critic who can provide a solid base of self-acceptance in this not-so-brave new world.
Therapy offers a variety of new ideas, relief, and strategies, but no counselor will be able to convince you that you are worth something. They can show you value, but it doesn’t matter if you can’t see it yourself. For therapy to work, there needs to be an established partnership between you and the therapist. If the inner-negative critic is getting to you, you can try and create a space with your therapist that is off limits for it. All of that is hard to come by when your inner critic destroys every bit of hope that you may yearn for. This won’t be easy, and it may take many sessions to weave your inner thought patterns into more positive tapestry. Each stitch at a time is one closer to a healthier you.