Beyond Criticism

DR JOHN DEMARTINI   -   Updated 3 months ago

Dr John Demartini reveals why you’ll likely embrace criticism when you see how it’s serving you and guiding you to become more authentic. Any criticism can be perceived as valuable feedback and turned into an opportunity for empowerment.

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DR JOHN DEMARTINI - Updated 3 months ago

Many people perceive criticism as a “bad” thing – something negative that they try to avoid at all costs. These people are often surprised to hear my view that criticism is neither good nor bad, but instead, an event in life that you are wise to face and learn from.

Criticism and Values

Every human being has a set of priorities or values that you live by, things that are most important to least important in your life. Whenever you perceive that someone is CHALLENGING you and potentially interfering with the fulfilment of what you value most, you tend to go into your autonomic sympathetic, fight or flight response.

As such, you will tend to withdraw because it represents a challenge, like a predator attacking you, which likely results in an instinct to avoid.

When you perceive that someone SUPPORTS you and will potentially help you get what you want, this activates your autonomic parasympathetic, rest and digest response, where you tend to feel an impulse to m
Many people perceive criticism as a “bad” thing – something negative that they try to avoid at all costs. These people are often surprised to hear my view that criticism is neither good nor bad, but instead, an event in life that you are wise to face and learn from.

Criticism and Values

Every human being has a set of priorities or values that you live by, things that are most important to least important in your life. Whenever you perceive that someone is CHALLENGING you and potentially interfering with the fulfilment of what you value most, you tend to go into your autonomic sympathetic, fight or flight response.

As such, you will tend to withdraw because it represents a challenge, like a predator attacking you, which likely results in an instinct to avoid.

When you perceive that someone SUPPORTS you and will potentially help you get what you want, this activates your autonomic parasympathetic, rest and digest response, where you tend to feel an impulse to move towards them.

In other words, you have autonomic responses to things that you perceive to challenge or support your values through praise or criticism, support or challenge, being nice or mean, kind or cruel, positive or negative, etc.

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Perceiving criticism as feedback instead of judgment

I believe three key situations that result in your perception that someone is criticizing you:

  • When you do something the other person perceives to be challenging to their unique set of most important values;
  • When you expect someone to do something outside their most important values or something that goes against what they want to do; or
  • When you inflate or puff yourself up above them and you’re self-righteously projecting your importance and minimizing their importance.

For example, if I walked into a room and you praised me and told me how wonderful I am. If I humbled myself, you’d likely continue praising me. However, if I responded by saying yes I agree that I’m phenomenal and that in fact, you have no idea how phenomenal I actually am, you’d probably switch your praise to criticize and try to cut me down to size.

Praise and reprimand, support and challenge, or praise and criticism are homeostatic mechanisms to get people into authenticity, fair exchange and equilibrium.

So, anytime you do something that challenges someone else’s values, or when you make an assumption or disrespect their important values, they are likely to respond with criticism. That criticism is trying to guide you to learn how to more effectively and respectfully communicate what YOU value most in terms of what THEY value most.

Anytime you’re arrogant, talk down to them and expect them to live in your highest values; they’re likely to criticize you because they feel they are not being respected for who they are or that you’re trying to get them to be somebody they’re not.

Whenever you are criticized, it is wise to ask these two questions:

Question 1:

What are you doing that’s challenging their values that they would want to criticize you for?

You may be tempted to perceive that they’re always criticizing you. The reality is whenever you’re challenging their values; they’re likely to criticize you because you’re not respecting and communicating in their values.

Anytime you think you’re superior to them or are puffed up or arrogant in any way beyond what they think you deserve, they’re likely to try to bring you down.

Them bringing you down into authenticity and levelling the playing field is actually a way of attempting to get the communication to be more respectful.

When you look up to someone, you’ll likely stop and think before you speak.

When you look down on someone, you’ll likely speak before you think.

If you look across at someone, you’ll tend to think and speak respectfully.

In essence, criticism is an essential component of communication in society and relationships to get people into equilibrium.

Think of a time in your life when you have been arrogant or puffed up and how your partner or someone close to you has criticized you to bring you back down. This is because whenever you’re puffed up, that’s a persona or a façade. It’s not you.

If you interpret their criticism wisely as bringing you back down and guiding you back to authenticity, you will likely thank them instead of resenting them.

Criticism, therefore, has a very important component in society.

This can be a challenging concept for individuals who perceive that others are supposed to be always nice, never mean; kind, never cruel; and positive, never negative. I’ve never met an individual who lives that way. It’s a complete fantasy that you will ever find a one-sided individual.

One of the more common unrealistic expectations human beings have on other human beings is to expect them to be one-sided.

It’s the same in your own life. If I told you that you’re always nice, never mean; and always kind, never cruel; you would innately know that this couldn’t possibly be true.

Your intuition is always guiding you back into that center of authenticity.

So, if you get puffed up, challenging their values and expecting them to live in your values, they’re likely to be critical of you.

When that happens, it’s wise to see that criticism as feedback instead of something hurtful.

The likely reason why criticism hurts is that you’re addicted to praise.

When you’re living in your highest values, living most meaningfully, and living in a way that you are most fulfilled, you’ll tend to be the most objective, neutral, resilient, and adaptable to praise and reprimand.

In this case, you are unlikely to become enamored with praise or highly rejected by criticism. Instead, you will tend to allow both to occur because you appreciate the value of both in your life. You are neither addicted to praise nor ‘sub-dicted’ from reprimand.

Some gold medallists and top athletes I’ve worked with often ask for criticism instead of avoiding it. They ask for it because they are looking for quality feedback to help them master their skill.

Criticism is not a ‘bad’ thing and praise is not a ‘good’ thing. Both in life together are essential for a balanced authentic orientation.

Sometimes praise is due to a perception of a façade. Sometimes praise results from being infatuated with someone and perceiving that they have more positives than negatives and are more supportive than challenging.

In this instance, you’re likely blind to the downsides and challenges that are likely to occur. So, both of those, by themselves, are incomplete perceptions. When you are infatuated with someone you are conscious of their upsides and unconscious of their downsides and therefore blind or ignorant of half of who they fully are.

Praise plus criticism is what builds respect.

If you look at some of your most important relationships, you’ll likely see that if you get arrogant, they’ll bring you down; and if you are humbled, they’ll lift you up.

I noticed this early in my marriage when I’d come home feeling a little arrogant after a productive and profitable day at my clinic, and my wife would criticize me. At first, I perceived that she was toxic until I recognized that she would also equally lift me up when I was humbled by an unproductive and unprofitable day.

What she was doing was bringing me back into an authentic and loving equilibrium.

The more you’re addicted to praise, the more painful somebody’s criticism will feel.

It is wise to understand that criticism is also trying to help you become authentic.

Everything that goes on in your life is attempting to get you out of the personas, masks, and facades you wear and get you back into the authentic center, where you learn how to have respectful, equitable communication with other people.

To recap, criticism is an essential component. A wise question to ask when someone criticizes you is:

Question 2:

Where am I addicted to its opposite, praise?

If you are criticized and can say thank you because you understand that it’s helping you become authentic, it is unlikely to be painful. However, if you perceive the criticism to be painful and something you want to avoid, it’s likely because you’re addicted to praise.

An addiction to praise can result in you subordinating yourself to people you look up to who appear to support you and what you value. As such, you can lose your identity by becoming juvenilely dependent on them. You may even sacrifice what’s important to you to try to fit into their values.

Many people adopt a herd instinct because they’re afraid of rejection. So they’re trapped trying to put on a facade to fit into the group instead of standing out.

A question I often ask at my two-day signature program, the Breakthrough Experience, is, “Who wants to make a difference?” Everyone puts their hand up.

I then ask:

“How are you going to make a difference fitting in?

How are you going to make a difference doing whatever it takes to get praised instead of allowing yourself to be challenged?”

If you’re not also being equally crucified, you’re probably not directly pursuing what is most meaningful and purposeful in life and not most authentic in life because there has to be both support and challenge in your life for you to maximally grow.

If you had nothing but support, you’d stay juvenilely dependent. If you had nothing but challenge, you’d become precociously independent.

You put the two together in perfect balance, and you have growth. Maximum growth and development occur at the border of support and challenge, praise and criticism.

So, I don’t see praise as “good” and criticism as “bad”. I think that’s foolish.

I see that receiving both praise and criticism as being essential for maintaining your authenticity.

As such, both praise and reprimand are essential in the journey towards your authentic self.

Additional questions you can ask, questions from the Demartini Method that I teach in the Breakthrough Experience, include:

  1. “What specific trait, action, or inaction do I perceive this individual displaying or demonstrating that I dislike or admire most?”

This could be verbal criticism, as an example.

  1. “Let me then go to the moment where and when I perceive myself displaying or demonstrating the same or similar specific trait, action, or inaction, and go on to identify, where it was, when it was, who it was to and who perceived it?”

You may think of a time when you verbally criticized your co-worker, child or spouse. At this point, it is wise to list all the times you recall displaying that trait until you can see that you have acted in the same way to the same degree in your own life.

True reflective awareness comes when you can say, “Well, I’ve done that to the same degree, quantitatively and qualitatively. The reason why I want to avoid this criticism is that it’s reminding me of something I feel ashamed of in myself.”

When you stop and reflect and find out where you do it a hundred percent to the same degree, it enables you to say, “Well, who am I judging them for? They’re reflecting me.”

  1. “Let me go to that moment when they verbally criticized me. How does it help me? What was the benefit?”

Did it humble you? Make you self-reflect, more resilient, more creative, more driven, more resourceful, more attentive to customer’s needs, less arrogant, less presumptive…

Once you see its benefits, it no longer has power over you. You can then say, “Thank you for the feedback.”

You don’t have to be a victim of what other people do to you. You can take your perceptions, of their actions and transform them into appreciation and gratitude.

To sum it up

  • Many people assume that criticism is ‘bad’ and praise is ‘good’, but that’s not exactly true.
  • Criticism doesn’t have to be hurtful or painful when you understand that everything that’s going on in your life is trying to help you become authentic. I’ve had people critique me in the way I present some of my programs, which helps me grow. Criticism is not necessarily ‘bad’ or ‘good’ until you label it with a subjective bias.
  • The more addicted you are to praise, the more you’re vulnerable and dependent you’ll likely be on the world around you, and the more criticism is likely to hurt. This is because you’ve set up in your mind a polarity instead of understanding the downsides of the praise and upsides of the criticism.
  • I’m a firm believer that both criticism and praise serve a purpose, and they both keep you honed in on authenticity.
  • Addiction to praise is likely to result in you being humbled, and trying to avoid reprimand is likely to keep you from opportunity. You need both to grow optimally. So honor both the value of praise and criticism for they’re both working for you.
  • It is wise to look at how perceived criticism serves you. All your feedback mechanisms - praise and reprimand - are trying to get you in equilibrium and help you communicate more equitably and respectfully.
  • It’s not what happens out there. It’s your own perceptions, decisions and actions of what’s out there. As such, you are not a victim of something going on out there; you’re simply an individual who is experiencing or even attracting these events in your life to help you.
  • If you see all of those events as being “on the way” and not “in the way”, you’re most likely to be grateful for life. If you see them as being “in the way” and not “on the way”, you’re most likely to be ungrateful for your experiences.
  • It is wise to master the skill of effectively communicating what you love in terms of what other people love and being your authentic self.
  • You want to be loved for who you are. It’s time to be who you are. Praise and reprimand are respectfully helping you be your authentic self.

Join me at my signature seminar, the Breakthrough Experience so I can teach you the Demartini Method. It's a tool with a thousand uses that is hugely valuable for coaches to use both for themselves and for their client empowerment.

 

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Beyond Criticism