Handling Negative Criticism
It’s not easy to get criticism. I think it’s a little better received when it’s quiet and in private, by someone you love.
Wait, I take that back.
I know when the closest people to me give me some constructive criticism I tend to bite their heads off, not by my words but by my, um, shall we say, attitude? Yes, I admit it. I have a hard time listening to it, although to my credit I have gotten a *tiny* little bit better
Looking straight into the eyes of my own shortcomings is no simple task. I had the opportunity to look straight into these mighty eyes (again) a couple of days ago…more on this later on in the article.
It’s even harder when the criticism is public for everyone to read! OMGoodness gracious!
When I started podcasting in 2006 I was so fired up, I could barely contain myself. As soon as I had all my gear together I so wanted to get my first yoga class up on my feed immediately! I was so proud of all my work. I immersed myself in podcasting, asked questions as necessary and got myself going all by myself. I told all my yoga students I had a podcast, and sent them all over to subscribe. I was in heaven.
Until the next day. I went over to my iTunes page and lo and behold I had a review of my podcast.
It was scathingly critical.
Of course, it was 1 star.
I was devastated and mortified. My primary fear was of others seeing this. It was the only review in iTunes and it ripped me apart. I allowed that review to make me feel horrible about myself and it really shook my confidence as a teacher. I could not let go of the negative comment. I felt the negative words and harsh criticism for quite a while. I felt them when I closed my eyes. I felt them when I taught. I felt them when I meditated. The negative words consumed me.
I finally was able to let go of their power over me. How you ask?
Almost 4 years later…
The Strength of Softening
When we get criticized the first thing that happens is that we get rigid, hard and dense: It’s a survival/defense mechanism. When criticism cuts to the core, it literally does that, cuts to the core = cor= heart.
The layer that gets rigid and hard is our outer layer. We do our best to tighten it all up, but while we’re doing that we are allowing our most valuable part to stay unprotected. Our inner layer, our essence, our desire, our love, that which we value, stays unprotected. We send all of our resources away from the source. In doing so we become less sensitive, and even dry, like desiccated barren terrain that crumbles from strong and pointed pressure.
What’s curious about our inner being and our ability to navigate through criticism, is that the softer, more receptive and expansive we are, the steadier and more unwavering our Heart becomes. As we soften and our sensitivity increases, it is much easier to connect to our own goodness, our innate wisdom, and our own courage. We are more able to discern whether the criticism coming at us is something worth recognizing in order to refine our worldly expression or, it’s something that holds no value to us. All of our resources are gathering around the Heart, allowing it to expand brightly, strong and unyielding.
The Courage of Listening
That whole softening thing is really just the first step to mold ourselves into the best that we can be. The next step is all about listening. Listening with every part of yourself. We listen with our ears, our eyes, our bodies, our gut, our root, our head, our breath and our heart. We listen. We don’t speak. We remain quiet.
That remaining quiet part is the hardest part for me.
I guarantee that if I stay quiet longer than my need to express, I will receive a deeper sense of recognition and understanding.
We listen so that we may align with the Highest. We listen so that we can recognize what serves us, and in serving us, serving all those around us. It is in this listening that we can begin to courageously choose to act in ways which will more efficiently communicate and deliver the best of ourselves, in truth, without making ourselves less than, nor more than we are, but fully as we are.
I use the word courage because that is what’s needed, an unbounded desire and discipline for continual self-affirmation, regardless of the situation. We see the beauty, we see the goodness, we see the steadiness. Now we move into action.
Sustaining courage is something that I’m always cultivating. When the situation is immediate, I can muster it up pretty quick but as time goes on and the outward immediacy of the situation has subsided, my courage slowly dissolves.
I am content in staying right were I am.
At least that is my ‘comfort’ zone.
In order to truly evolve and transform there MUST be action: action which is grounded in the best of ourselves. Action that takes responsibility to refine, to grow and expand from our remembrance that we are the stuff that stars are made of – all the time. It is our duty to step in and engage even when it becomes uncomfortable and gosh darnit, really hard.
We have to follow through with our actions, taking responsibility for ourselves, always.
Criticism + Discerning Doing = Opportunity To Shine
I said that I had to look into the mighty eyes of my own shortcomings just a couple of days ago. I happened to go into iTunes again to check on my reviews. I do like to read the reviews. It helps me to feel connected to you guys as the online yoga kula, and it also informs me whether or not the podcast is effective and it’s being received in the way that I intended.
This is what I found.
Well, that was not exactly what I was hoping to find.
I was surprised upon reading the words that I was not affected by them in the same way that I was when I first started podcasting. I read this person’s experience and recognized a lot of what she said to be true. I was able to stay soft and abiding to my heart. I was able to fully listen, and not defend myself. I am able to do something about it.
I see everything she spoke about as an opportunity for me to be a better teacher.
I absolutely talk way too much when I teach. I believe that I’m getting better at it, but I have a lot further to go. Quiet holds within it, a deep power for a teacher. I remember when Ross Rayburn gave me the note to pause in between sentences and to say less, because it has more of an impact. He told me to distill my words so that the students ‘get it’ clearly. This is a challenge for me, and an art form that I absolutely aspire to cultivate.
I also don’t give students enough time to experience their own quiet. I crave it when I practice. I must grow the quiet within myself when I teach also, not just when I practice.
Now, I’m not so sure what in the world she was talking about butt crack in spanish business… I suppose I did say that, and I totally forgot. Kind of embarrassing!
When it comes to my ‘energy’ within class and the way that I use my voice and what not…I believe that is something of a preference. I get very excited when I teach and there are times when I look around the room and folks need a little pick me up I teach to what I see, and to who is in the class. As long as I’m tuned into my physical students and choose the best way to serve them, in that class, I’ve done my job. I do crack myself up. I do. You can ask any person that’s close to me. I also do make tons of noises…All the time. That’s just me
A podcast and so many other people practicing along side at their own time, that’s a whole other ballgame. My intention is to put out classes that are fun, uplifting, encouraging, and that keep my students safe. This comes from the best of myself. Once the are offered, I have no control of how they are received.
The Power of “Thank You”
I’m very grateful for this review. It was a great reminder that there’s always more and that what I do is important. It was also a sweet opportunity to see that I am steadier in my heart. I am getting better at discerning and staying sensitive to enhance who I am so that I may serve better.
How do you ‘deal’ with criticism?
Do you have tools that you use?
Why not share them with the kula?
NOTE TO SELF: Must replace first episode of Elsie’s Yoga Class: Live and Unplugged Podcast…
So how about joining my goofy discerning self to truly be quiet, listen and breathe?