on life, ambitions, and dreams


The Problem with Criticism and Flexibility

sookiepose by 416style

I have been in a funk. Yes, that’s right, I said it. I don’t know if it’s Seattle’s endless winter or the fact that some things in my life have not been rolling on the shiniest side of the coin and I don’t really know what’s going on.

Okay, that’s a lie. I know what’s wrong and what’s not right and I’m nervous to admit it. Mainly I’m upset because I’m guilty of not moving forward. You know that I’m a fan of getting things done, making things happen, and a ton of other clichés. I am not wearing my strong suit right now and I’d rather shy away from the public eye instead of staring what’s wrong in the face, owning it, and changing it.

And then I write.

I received some really honest feedback about a month and a half ago that was so spot-on that it made me nervous. I internalized it and because of that I’ve let that feedback turn from constructive criticism, a chance to inspire and motivate myself, into something that has been halting me.

This has happened before and I know that “feedback” is hanging over my head when it really shouldn’t. It was meant to empower and give myself a gut check, and I totally took it the wrong way.

The problem with criticism (constructive or not)

I’ve been guilty of violating Tara Sophia Mohr’s eighth rule for Brilliant Women as I have been open to the feedback and guidance others are graciously offering to me, but I have not been viewing their feedback through my own eyes and my own perspective about myself. It is good to be open to the advice and feedback of others as it’s a good gut-check to how I’m coming off in public, but never, ever, when it’s at the expense of myself.

For example, I have been struggling with an injury since last summer and in January I started taking control of my own body and going to see specialists, physical therapists, massage therapists, and an acupuncturist to try and diagnose what happened so I can recover. It’s working, slowly. But around the first few weeks of February I came to a stand still when my physical therapist declared that I am a “hyper flexible” person or have “hyperextension” in my joints. It’s not bad, it’s just how I am and probably attributed to the injury. But then my doc gave me a barrage of information about how I should be aware as a “hyper flexible” person when lifting weights that I don’t over extend myself since I have weak joints, etc.

I became the poster child for “hyper flexible” people. I actually met someone at a party and we bonded over our hyper-flexibility. Seriously, if I found a bumper sticker that said, “Hyper Flexible People Unite!” it would have gone on my car.

Flexibility isn’t always a good thing

Everything I did was through the lens of a “hyper flexible” person. I was an advocate with a new identity (and a ridiculous one at that). And then one day at the gym my coach sat me down and read the following quote from Epictetus, the Greek Stoic philosopher, to me:

Disease is an impediment to the body, but not to the will, unless the will itself chooses. Lameness is an impediment to the leg, but not the will. And add this reflection on the occasion of everything that happens; for you will find it an impediment to something else, but not to yourself.

Whether it’s a physical ailment or part of what drives you, you can let something define you or it can just be a part of who you are. You can let it rule your life or you can rule it.

The choice is yours.

Has something someone said ever rocked you to the core and changed how you thought about yourself? How did you crawl out of that and find “you” again?

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  • Aw Laura, I’m so sorry your injury has taken such a toll on you. When I was dealing with my back injury last year I can see times when I had let my injury injure my will. The Epictetus quote from your coach was perfect and timely, thank you for sharing it! :)nnIn answer to your question of how to find “you” again, it reminds me of your post from November, “On Character Development”. In the comments, I had replied that our “self” basically only exists as we are experienced by others. I am who I am as I am experienced, out in conversation and action in the world. On autopsy, there is no “me” inside me. My identity only exists in other people having conversations or seeing my actions.nnI used to get upset when how people were experiencing me did not match to who I thought I was being. I would keep their feedback in a loop in my head, wishing I had a time-machine to go back and fix my actions so that the feedback wouldn’t have even been necessary. Now when I receive feedback, if it’s crucial to who I actually want to be for the person giving it to me, then I can make changes. If not, then the feedback was just their opinion, and I can just keep doing what I’m doing. It all depends on who I want to be viewed as, what identity I want to create for others to experience. The choice is mine, and owning that choice is powerful.n

    • Hi Kelley, nnRemembering to filter or file someone’s feedback between essential info if they’re someone you care about or just opinion is a good thing to keep in mind and remember. In the example I mentioned, the reason why the feedback rocked me so hard is because it is from someone who I care about. However, even as that was the case, not filtering what they say through what’s true to *me* is also essential.nnThanks for bringing back up “On Character Development,” that post is very similar to this one.

  • Good post. nnIsn’t it funny which comments we take and internalize? For instance, if someone had said to me: You’re are hyper-flexible I would probably not dwell on it. For you, it became an important piece of information that you attached to your identity. (I liked the part about the bumper sticker – I saw one the other day: “I used to be cool” which I completely adore!)nnI used to be more more sensitive when people gave me as advice or feedback. Being married to a politician has made me realize that someone may not like me simply because of the way I breathe. I have to let those people and comments go. nnAnother thing – as you get older – there are certain things you start to accept about yourself, so when another decides to chime in with advice or information (solicited or not) it generally won’t throw you off your game as easily. I think it becomes with acceptance and self-love which tends to come more readily with years (so there’s a good thing about aging!)nnThat doesn’t mean I don’t evaluate all the advice, comments and thoughts. I do. If I find they add to my life and the way I interact, I will try to find a way to incorporate those bits. nnAnd I don’t take on those which do not add a helpful dimension to my life. nnIt’s all about finding and maintaining balance. nnImelda

    • “That doesn’t mean I don’t evaluate all the advice, comments and thoughts. I do. If I find they add to my life and the way I interact, I will try to find a way to incorporate those bits. “nnWell said, Imelda. Thanks for this. nnAnd, yes, the core issue is knowing oneself and realizing what elements of criticism, feedback, and even flattery you should absorb and work back into who you are.

      • Good point, sometimes flattery is the hardest for us to take on and digest…nn