Praising Versus Criticizing
When I saw this topic, #6 on the list of my current obsession, an article called “15 Things Happy People Do Differently,” I thought “here we go.”
Because this just might be the nuclear missile-equipped fire-resistant wall that stands, ever firm and resilient, between my little corner of the world and the good folks who are even now lining up to join the “happy people” club.
In particular, I struggle with self-criticism. I struggle with criticizing others too, of course, but the meanest thought my mind can ever produce while trained on someone else is just a weak pretender in the face of the verbal bombs I lob at myself on a daily basis.
Obviously, this is an area my mentor and I work on a lot. The issue can be aggravated in the presence of stress, female issues, heartache, the mere mention of certain members of my extended family, finding bird poop on the brand new cute dress I was planning to wear out tonight…..pretty much anything can trigger it, actually.
I also grew up in a family with the double-edged sword of DNA laced with the “sarcastic humor” gene. As I have progressed in my recovery journey, this means that what I used to find really funny now I often find just plain mean.
Thank goodness – but it is a painful discovery nonetheless.
According to “15 Powerful Things,” Carl Jung once said “what you resist not only persists, but will grow in size.” If he did say that, he is a brilliant man…or he has perfected the art of afterlife time travel and visits my curious little life quite regularly.
If you’re listening, Carl, the anything but happy truth is that I so want to be a “person of praise,” but I have so habitually criticized that the unlearning and re-learning process is going less rapidly than anticipated.
It just makes so much sense, too – of course a person would naturally be happier in the presence of more praise and (when necessary) more productive, praise-focused criticism. A happy person would also be more likely to adopt this approach when deciding whether to mete out praise or criticism to self and others.
One thing I have learned in my own recovery journey, however, is that practice is never wasted. I am much less self-critical than I used to be – and much less critical of others as well. Best of all, I can now feel this odd little burst of JOY! whenever I am quick enough to automatically course-correct a critical-feeling thought in a more positive-feeling direction, and even when I have to switch the setting to “manual” to pull this off, the JOY! burst is still my reliable reward.
So while I have had quite a time of it trying to unlearn the critical thing I do and replace it with a new preferred praise thing instead, what has come easy is to do something my mentor calls “following the joy”. When I follow the joy, the praise path is a choice that is much easier – and more joyful – to take!
Today’s Takeaway: Are you also struggling to opt for a kinder, sweeter path whether you are headed in your own direction or someone else’s? If so, would trying something like my mentor’s suggestion to “follow the joy” make it a bit easier for you to sense when you too need a course-correct?
Cutts, S. (2012). Praising Versus Criticizing. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 30, 2015, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/mentoring-recovery/2012/07/praising-versus-criticizing/