For some reason, I find myself sitting in Edmonton International terminal, contemplating my response to self-criticism, as I wait for my flight to Seattle. Maybe it’s that holiday time of year where I begin to reflect on the year that was, but I’m reliving a few moments within the last year where I became critical of myself, and thinking about how I handled my own feedback. I guess you could say that I’m being critical of the way that I criticize myself.
After a terrible performance in Bozeman Montana I was convinced that I’d lost whatever ultimate Frisbee skill and talent that I once had. After receiving negative feedback on my attempts to generate demo videos for our product, I was convinced that I had no place in producing marketing material.
In both situations, I think that by admitting fault, I did the first thing correct. I passed a self reality check. Instead of ignoring the facts, I accepted that my performance wasn’t at the level that I expected of myself. It seems like this is the righteous decision to criticize ourselves for our shortcomings. After accepting such criticism I think there’s 2 ways where I go wrong handling this information.
1. I use the criticism as a dodge.
I think that a lot of time, self-criticism serves as a way of me avoiding doing something much harder. It seems odd, but I think it’s true that often it’s easier to call yourself fat rather than diet and exercise, easier to call yourself a poor programmer and logician, than to take the effort to get better.
2. I focus on the criticism instead of what I can do about it.
“I’m fat, and unattractive. I’m never going to meet anyone and have a family.” Why instead don’t we say “I’m fat, and unattractive. I think whenever I’m bored or anxious, I fall into the habit of eating pretzels. Maybe I can grab a water instead”
I read something from Eric Maisel a while ago about this. He suggests that whenever dealing with criticism, either self or external, is to state the facts, and then say “and ….” I spent a week generating a demo video, and it didn’t meet the standard of what our team expected and ….. while I realize that I failed this time, it was my first time doing such a thing, I learned that I need to focus on the higher level goal of the demo video rather than subtle details such as smooth transitions and voice overs. I realize that I need to produce a script that makes sense as the first step to generating a video. I realize that I need to let the script drive the actions instead of the actions drive the script.
The alternative to self criticism isn’t denial or wandering around in ignorance. Never would you say “I don’t make mistakes. I think for myself, the most effective alternative is stating the facts, feeling the bit of pain, then moving on to what I can do about it, and what I learned from the mistake.
BTW … I’m actually not fat and lazy ….. but I am a poor programmer … which is why I focus on breaking the software with internal tools ☺