Criticism is never easy.
To learn that others judge us to be
foolish, perverse, ugly or unpleasant
is one of the most challengingaspects of any life.
However, the impact of criticism is hugely variable
– and depends ultimately on a rather unexpected detail:
what sort of childhood we have had.
The clue as to whether criticism will be experienced as merely unpleasant
or wholly catastrophic
lies in what happened to us many decades ago
in the hands of our earliest caregivers.
What is meant by a ‘bad childhood’?
Is here a matter, rather simply, of love
An infant arrives in the world with a very limited capacity
to endure their own being.
It is the tolerance, enthusiasm and forgiveness of another person
that gradually acclimatises us to existence.
Our caregivers’ characteristic way of looking at us
becomes the way we consider ourselves.
It is by being loved by another
that we acquire the art of looking sympathetically
on our cracked and troublesome beings.
It is simply not in our remit
to believe in ourselves on our own.
We are utterly reliant on an inner sense
of having been valued inordinately
by another person at the start
as a protection against the subsequent neglect of the world.
We don’t need to be loved by many,
one will do,
and twelve years might be enough, sixteen ideally,
But without it,
the eternal admiration of millions
won’t ever be able to convince us of our goodness.
And with such a love,
the scorn of millions won’t ever need to be fatal.
Bad childhoods have an unfortunate tendency to drive us to seek out
situations in which there is a theoretical possibility
of receiving outsized approval
– which also means, along the way,
a high risk of encountering outsized disapproval.
The emotionally deprived return almost manically to the question,
never really settled of:
‘ Do I deserve to exist? ’
And this is why they typically put unusual effort
into attempts to be famous and visibly successful.
But of course
the world at large will never give the emotionally nervous
the unqualified confirmation they seek;
there will always be dissenters and critics,
people too bashed about by their own pasts,
to be able to be kind to others,
and it’s to these voices,that those with bad childhoods will be accused
however enthusiastic the crowd as a whole might be.
We can observe along the way
that the chief marker of being a good parent is that one’s child simply has
zero interest in being liked by large numbers of strangers.
We do not all hear the same
thing when we are criticised.
Some of us, the lucky ones, hear just the surface message
from the here and now:
for example, that our work fell short of expectations,
that we must try harder with our assignments,
我们写的书 拍的电影 唱的歌不够完美
that our book, filmor song wasn’t excellent.
This can be bearable.
But the more wounded among us hear far more.
Criticism takes them straight back to the
primordial injury. An attack now becomes entwined
with the attacks of the past and grows enormous
and unmanageable in its intensity.
The boss or unfriendly colleague becomes the parent
who let us down.
Everything is pulled intoquestion.
Not only was the work subpar, we
are a wretch, an undeserved being,
a piece of excrement, the worst person in the world,
for that is how it felt, back then,
in the fragile, defenceless infant mind.
Knowing more about our tricky childhoods provides us
with a vital line of defence
against the effects of criticism.
It means that we can be on our guard,
when we are attacked, against
raising the stakes unnecessarily.
We can learnto separate out the verdict of today from
the emotional verdict we are carrying
around with us and always seeking to confirm with
the use of current events.
We can learn that,
however sad the attacks we are facing, they
are as nothing next to the real tragedy andthe effective cause of our sadness: that things
went wrong back then.
And so we can direct our attention to where it really belongs;
away from today’s critics and towards theunconvinced parent of yesteryear.
We can forgive
ourselves for being, in this area,
through no fault of our own, fatefully sensitive – and,
in essence, mentally unwell.
We can not stop the attacks of the world,
but we can – through
an exploration of our histories – change what they mean to us.
We can also, importantly,
get a second chance:
we can go back and correct the original verdict of the world.
take measures to expose ourselves to the gaze of friends or,
more ideally, of a talented
psychotherapist who can hold up a more benign
mirror and teach us a lesson that should have been
gifted us from the start;
和别人一样 不管有何缺点 我们都值得存在
that like every human, whatever our flaws, we deserve to be here.
At The School of Life we believe that
the confidence is a skill we can learn
Our confidence prompt cards
are designed to help us master this mysterious art.
Click now to learn more.