Constructive or Destructive Criticism?…a Saturn Story

Maybe it’s my Saturn in Gemini, and Mars stirring up energy around that,wonder woman I find myself thinking about the inner critic, and the power of criticism. Where did I learn that criticism would always come before praise? Among other answers, I hear my child self say: grade school. I remember handing in most of my schoolwork, receiving it back – and all I could see was red. Those red pens still make me shudder. Teachers might think about removing those red, nasty, mean pens and start using…purple. Purple is magical and creative. Or even blue; blue is flow and change. My guess is they don’t learn color psychology in elementary trainining 101. They’re too busy learning how to make those big fat red X’s.

So I researched and found the following article on effectively dealing with criticism, not because of a problem in appropriately responding to the outer critic, but the inner one, the constructs and limits that have been placed around my creative being. I’m very aware of the inhibiting power of the inner critic, the piece of work (Saturn) that was eaten by the sky God Uranus, for ultimately reflecting some piece of his shaming “not good enough message.” And this sentence was particularly hopeful for me because I see it’s truth, often:

When people criticise us directly, we should feel they are not criticising our real self; but, just an unillumined aspect of ourselves.

I like that bit about the real self. I know my real self is immune to ever being diminished by any critic, including my own, and only wants to learn and grow – which pacifies the inner landscape from freezing over. Just to throw in my two cents, I might add that they’re also illumining an aspect of their self, too.

But back to my educational malaise. I know there are some wonderful teachers out there, and I humbly praise you. But Saturn’s in Virgo and everyone’s a critic, so I’d like to offer some constructive criticism born of this question’s inworking. Our formal educational system teaches us how to dismantle works, to critically evaluate (criticize), not create and construct. When we construct, we integrate and build, and criticism can be healthy supports – or big wrecking balls (And I know I’m not alone here, as this article on how to become a creative genius recognizes). In my school experience, creativity was supposedly a magical, spontaneous act, learned vicariously apart from criticism, and yet somehow immune to it. I vaguely remember hearing I was creative and talented from (who was it?) someone… I think I was so busy trying to conform to my teacher’s expectations about who they wanted me that the big red pen just got in the way.

When is criticism constructive or destructive? Sometimes it’s obvious, especially when it’s just mean. But more often it is meant to be helpful, requiring cold, hard reflection, and plenty of contemplation to know the difference. My adult Saturn self knows that criticism can be helpful, but she’s still trying to convince my kid self to let down her guard, experience the full flourishing of her creative being and stop seeing red…

And look at that, I already turned that big red X into a symbol of empowerment – thanks wonder woman!

Here’s the rest of that article:

7 Effective Ways to Deal With Criticism by Tejvan Pettinger

Nobody likes being criticised but, unfortunately it is a fact of life. To be able to respond to criticism with nobility and detachment is an important life skill, which few people have. If we respond to criticism without careful consideration, it can easily lead to unnecessary suffering.

1. What Can I Learn from Criticism?

Most criticism is probably based, at least in part, on some truths. Criticism may appear negative. But, through criticism we have the opportunity to learn and improve from their suggestions.

2. Respond to the suggestions not the tone of the criticism.

The problem is that people may make valuable critical suggestions. However, there tone and style of criticism means that we respond not to the suggestions but remember there confrontational manner. In this respect we need to separate the criticism from the style of criticism. Even if people speak in a tone of anger, we should try to detach their emotion from the useful suggestions which lie underneath.

3. Value criticism.

The problems is that quite often, we only value praise. When people speak kind words we feel happy. When people criticise we feel miserable. However, if we only received insincere praise and false flattery, how would we ever make progress? If we wish to improve and develop we should invite constructive criticism and appreciate their suggestions.

4. Don’t take it personally.

This is often the biggest problem which occurs with regard to criticism. If I criticise my Mother’s cooking, she feels personally offended. But, it is a mistake to identify ourselves with an apple pie. Somebody may find good reasons why our cooking is bad; but, this does not mean they are criticising ourselves. When people criticise us directly, we should feel they are not criticising our real self; but, just an unillumined aspect of ourselves. When we criticise others, we are perhaps criticising their pride or jealousy; but, the jealousy is a mere passing emotion, it is not the real person.

5. Ignore False Criticism.

Sometimes we are criticised with no justification. This is a painful experience. But, potentially we can deal with it more easily than criticism which is justified. One option is to remain aloof and ignore it completely. We should feel that false criticism is as insignificant as an ant trying to harm an elephant. If we remain silent and detached the criticism is given no energy. If we feel the necessity of fighting it – in a way, we give it more importance than it deserves. By remaining silent we maintain a dignity that others will come to respect.

6. Don’t Respond Immediately

It is best to wait a little before responding. If we respond with feelings of anger or injured pride we will soon regret it. If we wait patiently it can enable us to reflect in a calmer way.

7. Smile

Smiling, even a false smile, can helps us to relax more. It creates a more positive vibration and smoothes the situation. It will definitely help psychologically. Smiling will motivate the other person to moderate their approach.

 

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  1. [...] Gladly, Mars can whiz through obstacles at speed of light. Help you fight the good fight. Hold your ground when you need to. And Mars can make you a public – and easy – target. If you’re riding around town on your dirt bike (you’re really going places). People notice you. It’s like walking around with a big red bulls-eye on your forehead. The thing is, it’s practically invisible; you don’t realize it’s there because you’re so focused on your game. Stay focused on your game. Maybe it’s a good time to learn how to manage criticism. [...]

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