I have been fairly nervous about starting mindfeed.org*. Like you, I fear ridicule, rejection, and criticism. Although I don’t understand exactly why, I find myself differentiating between the criticism of others and the criticism of myself. Perhaps the reason involves the perceived intention of the criticism. I know that when I criticize myself, it is done with the purpose of improving or bettering some aspect of myself. However, improving myself is not the result of every personal criticism. During certain periods of my life, self-criticism nearly cost me my life. Nevertheless, in general, I employ self-criticism for beneficial purposes.
On the other hand, when it comes to the criticism of others, it is impossible to know absolutely the intention behind the criticism. It may in fact be in your best interest, or it may be meant to rip you down and cause you harm. The good news is that, in either case, you have the option of effectively dealing with criticism and even growing, learning and improving from it. Although I do not have all the answers, I did manage finally to get over my fear of publishing my personal thoughts for the world to read, and here is how I did it.
The primary realization that enabled me to rationalize through my fear of public criticism involves something I refer to as “universal criticism.” Universal criticism refers to the entire, endless array of criticism that may be leveraged against an individual at any point in time. Absolutely everything within the realm of human capacity that may expressed toward any person at any given time comprises this hypothetical universal criticism. From extremely positive to extremely negative, there is a theoretical, infinite collection of criticism that may be applied to you or your situation. You may only be exposed to several thousand such criticisms during your lifetime, but let’s assume that infinitely many exist.
Now, let’s turn for a moment to the perception and reception of criticism itself. As I begin writing for this blog, I am expecting that a certain percentage of people will respond with some level of criticism. Upon preparing for the reception of such impending criticism, I have psyched myself out to believe that all criticism is potentially beneficial — perhaps slightly painful or even incorrect, but useful in some way nonetheless. So, as sharp criticism inevitably manifests, I am able to maintain my momentum while embracing the ideas of others by employing the idea of universal criticism.
For me, much of the pain or discomfort frequently associated with criticism generally involves two closely related factors: surprise and accuracy. Upon receiving some dislocating piece of criticism, the first response generally is a sense of surprise: “is that really the case?” “am I really like that?” or “do people really think that about me?” Our sense of surprise generally corresponds to the degree to which the criticism proves true. Extremely enlightening critiques are those perceived as being accurate. Without some degree of accuracy, criticism is neither surprising nor enlightening.
So, as I set forth on this online mindfeed mission, I have resolved to prepare for and benefit from even the harshest criticism by employing the concept of universal criticism. Rather than avoid controversial topics or sidestep personal convictions in an attempt to avoid criticism, I proceed with the realization that I am far from perfect, and that as such everything that I say here at mindfeed.org is definitely subject to criticism. Then, going beyond that, I imagine the infinitely exhaustive expanse of worldly criticism, insult, and hatred that may already exist. Thus, rather than experiencing surprise and pain upon encountering harsh criticism, I prepare myself to be surprised if I don’t receive criticism.
Remember, the criticism already exists — don’t be surprised when you hear it, be surprised if you don’t. If you don’t, you have already failed. If you do, prepare for the worst. Operating from this perspective of realization empowers you to proceed without fear of the unknown, equipped fully to extract optimum levels of benefit from everything headed your way.
* Note: this article is re-posted from the since-removed mindfeed.org.