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Less so now, but I have been stalked by perfectionism, which is the ultimate critic – can get into every column inch of the newspaper. Trying out new things with the joy of stumbling forward requires me to not take too much heed of my critic.
When I am being critical, I focus on the negative and miss the positive in people, animals, experiences, places and myself. This diminishes my curiosity, calm, confidence, compassion, creativity, courage, clarity, and sense of connectedness – components of interior wellness according to Richard Schwartz, PhD, developer of the Internal Family Systems Model of Psychotherapy. As a result, the possibility of joy is greatly decreased for me.
Stressing about work or feeling defeated, not good enough steals my joy.
When I focus on the negative, I automatically lose joy. And one negative thought can lead to another, and another…until you’ve found yourself in a spiral of crushing emotions. And that negative energy, unfortunately, can rub off on others. Hijacking the joy of those around me. Being critical serves no purpose.
Sometimes, people do stupid things that really get me riled up, but when I allow myself to get that way, I find that I am less open to unconditional love and care for others. On the other hand, when I work to cultivate forgiveness and remember that the person in question has a story that I could never fully understand, I am able to embrace them with love, remembering that they are acting from their own pain.
When teaching I have, of necessity, been expected to evaluate or “critique” my pupils’ efforts. But this doesn’t mean that I am “being critical”. In the former I am looking for positive and negative attributes, while with the latter, I am only looking for and expressing the negative.
And to do that is to be a killjoy, a single word that describes the hijacking of the possibility of joy in both the giver and the receiver of the criticism.
I learned from the practice of the 12 Steps not to take others’ inventories but, if their behaviour causes resentment in me, then the answer is to pray for them and ask to be shown how to be useful to them.
“I can no longer condemn or hate a brother for whom I pray, no matter how much trouble he causes me.”
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Christian Community
When I say, “I like this, but don’t like that”, it is a subtractive process. Joy resides in “all inclusiveness”.
I think I do this to protect myself from disappointment. Of course, it also robs me of joy.
We won’t even go there. Being critical has, in the past, been my greatest fault. Since stumbling onto the book Secret last May and then this website, I have been engaged in a very real battle to become a positive person and suspend criticism. It is an ongoing battle, though I am noticing some small improvement. Being grateful is getting easier and more automatic.
Oh oh this touches my core wound — and my lifelong transforming work as an enneagram One.
I always read others responses first before adding my own and I like the distinction made between helpful and hurtful criticism—- because it’s when criticism = judgement and negativity that experiencing joy becomes less of a possibility. But when criticism = advancement and improvement it leads to results and accomplishments that allow us to experience joy.
Not criticism, but worry – I’ve been good at remembering : “I can’t foresee the future” most of the time lately, but I started worrying about the election. Then I read in “Kitchen Table Wisdom” about responding to life with surprise, and I’m now regarding the election as an adventure instead of worrying about it. As I’ve said before, I don’t need to add more ‘worry’ to the world.
While my analytical mind helps me to make right decisions and solve problems, sometimes I feel the opportunities to soak myself into pure joy were robbed. Even though I don’t verbally express minor problems I can see, it manifests as skepticism and pessimism in my attitudes. I need some time-off from my critical thinking.
I’m being critical of myself because I’m in pain. The pain from the migraine is brining me down. I have to be honest this is hard. I miss you joy .
I am so sorry. I suffered from migraines for years until they finally went away in my late 20’s. I hope yours end for good soon.
Thank you so much Linda . ♥️
I know that migraine and joy can’t co-exist. May your migraine attacks become less frequent and less painful soon.
What you say is true . It’s challenging me deeply. 3rd day today. Thank you for your kindness.
Ah, where do I begin in a world that seems to be turned inside out right now. Joy is only possible in the present moment and I have allowed the trifecta of disasters (political, environmental and COVID) to take me out of the present moment. The “them and us” feeling that is never healthy, nor joyful. I am working on that one.
Criticism is judgement. It indicates less than full acceptance of a shared, sacred plan. My.joy is in full acceptance that I am always cared for by a collective wisdom greater than my own.
I’ve been in communal projects where I’ve unconsciously become a judge & jury & sometimes executioner by negative thinking & judgmental words. It quickly eroded any feeling of joy from being involved with the group. Entering projects w/out expectations is the direction I need to take. We’re all doing the best we can.
I made a critical decision of leaving my former employer before lining up a job … I had a decent savings and wanted to eliminate stress and find a better fit for me. It was scary but pure JOY once I made that decision and left. No hijacking, I turned a negative into a positive. No regrets.
I’ve done this before— it’s a good feeling for sure!
Is our critique accurate? Is it relevant? Is it kind? Guard your thoughts because if you’re not using your mind, then it’s probably using you
There are times when I focus on a negative action or words that someone has done or said & it’s hard for me to see past it. We are all a walking dichotomy & there’s so much goodness in each of us, which brings joy to me when I choose to see it. Negative thoughts weigh me down and my life is so much richer when it’s consumed by joy.
I love the image of. “a life consumed by joy”
There’s nothing better!!
Being critical is the same as being negative. It harbours anger, non acceptance and creates tension and conflict for oneself and others. Being critical creates a smoke screen which hides the positive things and gratitude which encircle us.
I think that I can honestly say that at those infrequent times when I am critical of a situation or action, it’s because I was hopeful for an outcome that was successful, positive, or one that benefited others. I propose here that being critical may also mean that I am being discerning, not because I am seeking my own joy, but rather, I am invested in a mutually good outcome for all parties.
I like your comment that it is healthy to be discerning. I do it all the time but have been viewing it as critical in a negative sense. I knew there was a place for discernment. Thank you.
Being critical of the small, petty things in life often takes away any joy from the moment. .Pick your battles wisely.
When I read this I understood my question to be critical equating to negativity. Finding the flaws, the shortcomings and the weaknesses of any situation or person or place, is a focus which can stifle spontaneity, humor, lightheartedness and downright silliness. All of which are pretty important in regards to ways of expressing joy. Now there is a time and place for critical eyes, as a teacher for instance, or coach. When being placed in those roles where I am accountable for the outcomes it is easy to fall into. And in these ways it is not only common to be critical but pretty necessary to the job to some extent. That is the issue for me anyway, when is it going from helpful to hurtful? So there it is, that slender reed of a boundary which I can easily overlook.
The difference between criticism and disernment…. The value of discernment seems to be the inclusion of a giant pause before one’s observation is shared. …. checking the criteria of truth, kindness and necessity as Javier pointed out.
Amen, Howie! Thank you for your take on today’s question.
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