Conquering the Fear of Criticism
An article by Mel Solon
Have you ever wondered how it’s possible that so many people want so much from their lives, yet most people spend their entire lifetimes unfulfilled? Why does mediocrity abound? What holds us back?
For many, it’s a lack of confidence. For some it’s a lack of persistence or drive. For others it’s a lack of imagination or creativity. Then there are those who live in mediocrity because their goals are not clear, written, and specific, while others are held back by their excuses and other self-defeating and self-sabotaging ego defense mechanisms.
The list could go on, but the major cause of mediocrity is much more basic and much more real. It’s fear. Not the fear of failure, as many would guess, but the fear of what others will think, say, or do—the fear of criticism—the most common weakness of all human beings. Paralyzing and inhibiting, the fear of criticism can turn life into a “hell on earth” by sapping us of our energy, creativity, and enthusiasm.
Think about it. This fear so pervades our “psychology of being” that the majority of the population is stuck wallowing in mediocrity…afraid to pay the penalty of leadership. And there is a penalty. Leaders, by stepping out in front of the pack and making things happen, make good targets, because they are easy to spot. Also, because of their position of power, they are often envied, resented, and attacked.
The upshot and downside of all this is that in order to avoid criticism and escape the responsibilities of leadership, too many fear-motivated people are turning to a “say nothing, do nothing, be nothing” philosophy of life. Their coping attitudes are “don’t take chances,” “don’t rock the boat,” “don’t stick your neck out,” and “let sleeping dogs lie.” With these attitudes they unwittingly relegate themselves to living in familiar and comfortable ruts, unaware that ruts are like graves with the ends kicked out. In knee-jerk fashion, these individuals become consumed in seeking ways to avoid risk, change, and challenge, because making mistakes, being different, or trying something new is an open invitation to the critical judgment, faultfinding, and censure of all who observe.
What this means, unfortunately, is that in their desperate need to please everyone and avoid criticism, fear-motivated people are willing to forsake their higher needs by placing a greater value on gaining the acceptance and approval of others than on being uniquely and expressly themselves.
Why, though, are they willing to pay such a price?
I believe it’s because they are hung up on the third rung of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs—the need to belong—to be a member of the group, organization, or subculture. They simply have not yet gained sufficient self-acceptance and self-approval to be assertive without being aggressive; to be open and vulnerable without being neurotically defensive, or to be seen as different without being defiant, rebellious, or indignantly self-righteous.
With these thoughts in mind, let’s now take a look at four suggestions to help you transcend the third rung of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Here are some ideas to help you strengthen your resolve whenever you’re bombarded with criticism or threatened with rejection:
1. Reduce your vulnerability and sensitivity to negative feedback by regularly taking time out to affirm your uniqueness and sense of identity. (listen to Being Unique vs. Feeling Unique on YouTube)
2. Keep in mind that in the long run it often costs more to avoid criticism than it does to confront or accept it, evidenced by the fact that we treat coverups worse than the offense.
3. Engage in some visualization exercises. Imagine yourself uninhibited by the fear of criticism and see yourself living life’s most exciting possibilities.
4. Keep in mind that although bucking the crowd may seem emotionally risky, you’ll find that if you come from your heart, there will always be a few people who do understand and accept you. Be aware also that it matters not that these relationships may be few in quantity, but, if they are built on a foundation of trust and understanding, these relationships will not only survive all the superficial ties to the group but, in the end, they’ll enhance the quality of your life beyond measurement.
Ultimately, then, it's the individuals who can handle criticism and pay the “penalty of leadership” who have the best of both worlds, because these individuals not only have the opportunity to belong, but they also have the strength and freedom to stand alone, if need be.
So remember, whatever you do, don’t hold back out of fear. Run some risks, rock some boats, and rattle a few cages. You may not win an award as a professional people pleaser, but you won’t die with this on your tombstone, by Paul J. Meyer: “Here lies John Averageman and Mary Mediocre. Lived sixty-five years without goals, plans, desires, confidence, or determination. Their favorite books were Non-Involvement and The Story of Playing It Safe. They tried never to try; they asked little of life, and life paid their price.”
The message is clear: Untether yourself from the fear of criticism and unleash your unlimited and untapped potential. Be a leader, take a stand, rise to the occasion, and make something great happen! Why not?
Mel & Bryna Solon
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PPS. If you love quotes, click here to view an audio-visual presentation of our book, Quotations To Help You—From Out of Their Minds.
PPPS. Credit Success Motivation Institute & Paul J. Meyer with some of the wording and phrases. I internalized them, a zillion years ago, while marketing their motivational, life-changing products.
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What's the difference between
being unique and feeling unique?
An article by Mel Solon
Have you ever been told you’re unique? How did it make you feel?
The fact is, most people take this compliment with a grain of salt, after all, we’re all children of God, we’re all unique. So, how much of a compliment is it to be told you’re unique, since it’s a judgment that applies to everyone?
Okay, it’s a given, you’re unique. Even your thumb print is unique. The question, however, is how unique do you feel, and does it matter?
I think it matters a lot, because your answer to this question plays a major roll in how you feel about yourself...your self-esteem, self-confidence, and self-worth. It also can affect the quality of your of your interpersonal relationships.
I contend that most people don’t really appreciate how truly unique they are, otherwise, there wouldn’t be such an inclination for people to compare themselves to others, whether it be their looks, body, clothes, wealth, status, intelligence, or competence.
In making such self-defeating, irrational comparisons, they conclude they are either better than or less than. This kind of thinking, unfortunately, leads, inescapably, to feelings of either superiority or inferiority, neither of which is an admirable character trait.
The need to feel superior to another person ultimately springs from deep-seated feelings of insecurity.
Why is it important to understand this premise?
For one, in my opinion, superiority feelings are often at the root of much of the bullying, so topical nowadays. Further, I believe inferiority feelings are often tied to teenage depression and suicide, also a frequent newsworthy topic. Unfortunately, the habit of comparing ourselves to others doesn’t apply only to our youth. In more subtle ways, it can also apply to adults.
Regarding feeling superior, a Hindu proverb states, “There’s nothing noble in being superior to another person, true nobility lies in being superior to your previous self.”
I’ve also learned that an ego problem is simply the exaggerated concern with proving one’s uniqueness or greatness, whereas all that is necessary is the simple recognition, respect, and appreciation of one’s own innate and unique awareness.
An egotist, incidentally, is not someone who thinks too much of himself, but too little of other people, and humility doesn’t mean putting yourself down or feeling insignificant, it means appreciating the inherent importance, uniqueness, and greatness of others.
Eleanor Roosevelt reminds us that “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent or approval.”
Back to the question, just how truly unique are you, and how deeply unique do you feel?
Before answering, consider these mathematical facts involving variables.
One, the odds of matching 7 lottery numbers out of 49 possibilities is over 85 million to one.
Two, a social security number using 9 digits can produce one billion possibilities.
Three, there are more possible moves in a chess game, played on 64 squares with 32 pieces, than there are atoms in the universe.
Now ask yourself, how many variables go into the development of one’s mind?
In contemplating the answer to this question, consider that no two people who have ever lived have the exact same family, educational, social, political, religious, economic, cultural, racial, time or place background. Not even twins.
Based on this background, no two people have the exact same psychological, philosophical, and spiritual perspectives on life.
No two people think exactly the same way.
They have different wants, needs, and preferences, different fears, doubts, and worries, different loves, hates, and prejudices.
They have different goals, dreams, hopes, and wishes, different desires, plans, and aspirations.
They have different habits and attitudes, different potentialities and capacities, and different past experiences, positive and negative.
The list could go on.
Now ask yourself, what are the odds of matching the immeasurable variables that comprise one’s unique awareness with that of another human being?
To answer, consider that your brain is comprised of 100 billion neurons. Although 100 billion is a large number, it is nevertheless a finite number. How then can we say our potential is infinite or unlimited?
This is true because each neuron has a network of thousands of synapses and dendrites that allow it to communicate with other neurons through thousands of pathways.
This understanding leads to the conclusion that the number of permutations and combinations of creative possibilities in your brain is the number 2 x itself 10 trillion times. It's a number so large, it exceeds the number of elementary protons and neutrons in the universe, plus all the grains of sand on all the beaches of the world.
To put it another way, consider that however complex a computer chip is, our brains are still infinitely more complex than all the computers in the world linked and networked together with all the telephone lines in the world.
Mathematically, the message is clear, your mind is infinitely unique among all the people who have ever lived and ever will. In short, your potential for original, unique, and creative thought is immeasurable and incomprehensible.
Given our differences, is it not a wonder that any relationships survive? It takes work, compromise, and a lot of forgiveness to reconcile the differences. It takes a tolerance for conflict, and a lot of flexibility. Our goal then is to learn to accept and appreciate ourselves and others not in spite of our differences but because of them.
To avoid the jealousy, insecurity, and possessiveness that ruins so many relationships, remind yourself that you are a unique and special human being. You can not be duplicated or replicated, you are truly irreplaceable, even if not totally indispensable.
Your sense of self-worth, then, is inherent in your understanding and appreciation of your uniqueness and your God given, unlimited and untapped, creative potential.
So, believe in yourself. Love your uniqueness. You have a special contribution to make to the world, and, if not to the world, to those you touch and those who love you.Trust your creative potential to find solutions to any problem you encounter. And remember this quote, attributed to Jesus, “When you’ve exhausted all possibilities, remember this one thing, you haven’t.”
Bless you and may the thinker’s edge always be with you.
Mel & Bryna Solon
Instant Coffee & Pyramids
Instant coffee, instant soup, TV dinners and microwave ovens—each an attempt to save and preserve our most precious asset—time! Time to smell the roses…time to love.
Yet, in spite of an endless array of modern time-saving technologies, most of us still feel that time is running out or rushing by. So we hurry and the anxiety continues to grow. In a frenzy, we hurry to enjoy ourselves, to be there now, and then wonder upon arrival, what’s more important, the journey or the destination?
It’s as though we don’t really accept the fact that life is a process, a journey to be lived one day at a time. Our problem, though, is not time. Our problem is our attitude about time, and our attitude is called impatience.
How is it we’ve learned so little of patience? Were we not all taught that patience is a virtue and its own reward, or that "the secret to great success is knowing how to wait"? Maybe our impatience is just a reflection of the times, with our emphasis on ends over means.
The fact is, patience is the cement with which the great pyramids of ancient Egypt were built—pyramids forty stories tall with wide bases—pyramids that have withstood the test of time.
How simple a premise. Patience and base-building…the slow, secure way to success, riches and outstanding achievements, whether in the arts and sciences, in business, education, or politics, or any other field of endeavor. Witness the patience of our Olympic athletes as they train with dedication for ten years to run just ten seconds.
Patience, then, is the name of the game. As the saying goes, “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” nor is it likely that anything of substance or enduring value will be created from scratch in any less time.
But who has the patience to wait? After all, isn’t life too short not to take shortcuts? Impatiently, then, we proceed en masse to build one-dimensional, paper pyramids, in a desperate attempt to achieve instant success and fulfillment, without having to suffer the slow, plodding, meaningless journey. We build our paper pyramids and then watch them crumble and fall like a house of cards, enduring no longer than the patience and persistence of the builders themselves.
The point is timeless, persistence without patience causes anxiety, while patience without persistence yields futility. But combine patience with persistence and the result is a power that, when harnessed over time, can topple despotic governments, bring down walls that divide us, and change the destiny of the world, all with the appearance of happening overnight.
And so, too, with patience and time, the mulberry leaf becomes silk, a caterpillar becomes a butterfly, an organization becomes an institution, and dreams become realities.
In the final analysis, patience, at its roots, is really little more than a demonstration of faith; so God, grant me patience, and I want it NOW!
For those of you who say you have no time to think or that you're too busy, too anxious, or too stressed to think, then it's definitely time to think. And what better way to do so than to download The Mighty Mind Expander at thethinkingplace.com. Listen to this comprehensive and condensed, two-hour, audio, mini-seminar, broken into 6 bite-size segments, and think about your life, calmly and proactively, the perfect solution for dealing effectively with the stressors of our times. We call it musings for the thinking class; wisdom for minds that matter. See the testimonials at the bottom ofthethinkingplace.com.
Quotes on Impatience
The first three quotes, screened and filtered, are found in our book — Quotations To Help You — From Out of Their Minds. They represent 3 of 60 quotations on patience collected during my past 40-plus years in the self-development field.
The fourth quote, by TY-Thoughtfully Yours, will be in a future edition. For an audio/video presentation on our book, click here.
- “Patience is the companion of wisdom.” —Saint Augustine
- “A handful of patience is worth more than a bushel of brains.” —Dutch Proverb
- “Patience is the ability to idle your motor when you feel like stripping your gears.” —Barbara Johnson
- “Personal experience has taught me that my impatience has been more responsible for the errors, mistakes, do-overs, and bad decisions in my life than my ignorance, immaturity, or inexperience.” —TY
Mel & Bryna Solon
True or false? People are basically selfish?
Subtitle: The Upside of Selfishness
An article by Mel Solon
Following the definitions below, I offer a personal perspective on selfishness, with the understanding that all thoughts expressed herein may involve a matter of degree or balance.
Here are four dictionary definitions:
1. Selfishness — devoted to or caring only for oneself; concerned primarily with one's own interests, benefits, welfare, etc., regardless of others.
2. Self-interest — regard for one's own interest or advantage, especially with disregard for others.
3. Altruism — the principle or practice of unselfish concern for or devotion to the welfare of others.
4. Selflessness — having little or no concern for oneself, especially with regard to fame, position, money, etc.; unselfish.
Question: Are people basically selfish?
My answer is an almost unequivocal yes.
Before I make my case, I first want to concede that it's generally agreed that altruism and unselfishness are positive traits. We're especially impressed with people who help others who can never repay them, or do so anonymously without any expectation of receiving credit for their good deeds or giving nature.
With the preceding as a backdrop…I contend that even though a given behavior may appear to be totally unselfish, it has, at its roots, selfishness as its motivator. While selfishness is typically seen as a negative trait, I believe it sometimes gets an undeserved bad wrap. I argue that even true love is not entirely unselfish.
Before you disagree, ask yourself this: If behavior appears to be unselfish, for example, giving to a charity or being a good samaritan, but it's motivated by a selfish desire to feel good about oneself; to pay back or forward; to look good in the eyes of God; to feel valuable; to be appreciated; to be seen in the eyes of one's significant others as an "angel" or hero; to experience a heightened sense of meaning and purpose; to demonstrate one's love, or to experience the joy of loving unconditionally, can such behavior, given these selfish motives, be considered truly altruistic, selfless, or unselfish?
Selfishness, as discussed above, can also explain how in spite of our inherent survival instinct and our selfish will to live, many are willing to sacrifice their lives for their country, their children, or even a stranger. For example, a fireman who runs into a burning building?
Yes, sometimes it's out of a sense of duty, obligation, or guilt, or a desire to do the right thing, but in either case, I reiterate, much of what we call our unselfish behavior is motivated consciously or unconsciously by personal, selfish motives. These motives can be emotional, psychological, or a desire for spiritual rewards, all beyond money, fame, or power. Ultimately, they reflect, express, or validate one's character and ultimately one's sense of self.
In the same vein, selfishness explains the willingness of many "altruists" to engage in apparent selfless behavior even though it may seriously compromise their financial security, their need for sleep, or impair their personal health? Selfishness can preserve one's integrity while absolute selflessness may not only be self-defeating but, in many cases, can prevent one from being truly helpful to anyone else.
Do not misunderstand me. I'm not advocating selfishness. I'm simply saying that being selfish is part of our nature, and it's only when it reflects a total disregard for the valid and healthy needs of others that it becomes a troubling trait. As a mind bender, imagine the opposite. Picture, what would happen if everyone was selfless and made everyone else's business and self-interests their primary motivation?
Lastly, keep this thought in mind: I believe there's a price to pay if you don't accept your selfish nature, that is, if you believe your behavior is totally unselfish, and you don't feel your unselfish behavior is being appreciated, you may very well end up being resentful and/or angry.Lastly, keep this thought in mind: failure to acknowledge or accept your selfish nature, that is, if you believe that your charitable behavior is totally unselfish, there will be a price to pay whenever you feel your unselfish behavior is not sufficiently appreciated. The price: you will very likely end up being angry and resentful.
So accept your inherent selfish nature and give of yourself, your time, energy, and your money, but don’t think, for a moment, that there’s nothing in it for you.
The following three quotations on selfishness come from our book, Quotations To Help You—From Out of Their Minds, a major culmination of my life's work. Click here to view a presentation of our book.
1. "It has been said that we feed the hungry, clothe the naked, bind up the wounds of the man beaten by thieves…because we receive ourselves pleasure from these acts." —Thomas Jefferson
2. "A man is called selfish, not for pursuing his own good, but for neglecting his neighbors." —Richard Whately
3. "Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live. It is asking others to live as one wishes to live." —Oscar Wilde
PS. If you love quotes, click here to view an audio-visual presentation of our book, Quotations To Help You—From Out of Their Minds.
PPS. Why not follow us on Linkedin, Facebook under Mel Solon and Like us on Facebook at The Thinking Place.