As many of you know, I recently went through a 360-feedback assessment that blew me away. I read the report and could only think “ouch” – focusing (as I instruct my clients not to) on the negative. On what is “wrong” with me.
My least favorite learning? The assessment highlighted my critical tendencies. I think I have, for years, convinced myself that I’m not critical. (Those of you who know me well, don’t laugh.) At least not critical in that way.
Others helped me as I struggled to accept and integrate the feedback results. “We think your critical nature saved your life,” they told me. That made sense. I held on to that thought, letting myself allow my critical side.
But I kept watch anyway. “Am I really critical?” I asked myself. “And if so, is it really okay?”
Flash forward – I’m driving down the road and the driver in front of me does something I don’t like…and I hear the criticism flooding my mind. “That’s dumb.” “They shouldn’t do that.” “What an idiot.” Cleary I know that I would never do whatever the rude or stupid thing is that they’ve done.
Do I really think I know better? Do I really think everyone should do things the way I do? Maybe deep down I do, but I certainly don’t want to admit it. And I certainly don’t want to think that anymore.
When I feel the criticism flooding me – when I’m judging others and deeming them unacceptable – I’ve taken to reminding myself that I don’t always know better and that I’m not always right. I know that I don’t know all the reasons behind the other drivers’ behavior, and that I may not even be seeing and understanding what their behavior actually is. It’s so easy to make up stories that reinforce my worldview. (“I’m good.” “I’m not critical.”) I remind myself of that. I remember to give them the benefit of the doubt. And I lovingly instruct myself to appreciate my critical nature when it’s necessary, and to let it go (and let it go again) when it’s making me self-righteous.
Because I’m not always right.
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