http://www.nbc.com/the-island (this is a new NBC show that will air in May. My son Matt Getz is one of the men featured)
Lately it seems like I’ve thought a lot about how I handle criticism. I’d always had an intense fear of it, although I guess I hid that pretty well behind a confident exterior, since when I mentioned it, people often looked surprised.
There are a million ways to avoid being openly criticized by others, but the one thing they all have in common is the “masking” of our true selves. Whether we try to duck under the radar of life by keeping quiet, develop thick skins; telling ourselves that we don’t care what others say about us, or use some other “technique” to handle the awful emotions that we fear are bound to surface when we are being criticized, none of these ultimately work. They are all based on fear and the deep belief that we need to “protect” ourselves from the assault/enemy/unfriendly “other”.
It was a stunning revelation for me to see that the thing I was afraid of was not what would be done to me. I wasn’t afraid of being hurt physically, financially, or spiritually. I was afraid of my own feelings (and my own hidden beliefs and thoughts). I was afraid of the way that I would feel if I was severely criticized. I was afraid that those feelings would cripple me…so I crippled myself by avoiding them.
I can remember getting really offended when someone said that my cat, Fred, was fat! Well, he is fat. But the feelings of defensiveness and anger that arose in me were quite unpleasant when I perceived that statement as an attack. The meanest and cruelest things that were ever said to me were simply my own thoughts being externalized. When I was unaware of this, I was always on the defensive. I wasn’t looking at life as if it were a friendly playing-field, I was looking at it like it was a battle field and my role was to avoid getting hurt.
The only mind-set that truly works for me is to face this fear of criticism head-on, and to welcome it like a friend. I’ve begun to look at life as if it were a game; a wonderfully interconnected, immensely spiritual, mind-blowing, game, where I am just one of an infinite number of “players”.
When I remind myself to do this, I feel a great excitement bubble up as I think about the day and I can sense the “bring it on!” energy, that feels like a great life-giving fountain.
My prayer today is that I show up fully ready to play (I’ll also hold that intention for you if you’d like me to).
“This being human is a guest house. Every morning a new arrival. A joy, a depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor. Welcome and entertain them all! Even if they are a crowd of sorrows, who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture, still, treat each guest honorably. He may be clearing you out for some new delight. The dark thought, the shame, the malice, meet them at the door laughing and invite them in. Be grateful for whatever comes because each has been sent as a guide from beyond“. THE GUEST HOUSE by– Jelaluddin Rumi translation by Coleman Barks