Fear of Criticism

QA129 QUESTION: I feel very close to complete fulfillment and success in my work as a creative writer. And yet I think that fear of criticism of my work – actual fear of criticism or being a target of critics if I attain the success I’ve worked so hard for – might be a barrier. How can I overcome that?

ANSWER: Well, before you can overcome it, you first have to understand certain factors within yourself, and you will have to go quite deep in order to find the following conditions. I will tell you what they are, but that in itself is not sufficient unless it helps you as an incentive to experience – as an emotional experience – the truth of this.

It’s not one factor. There are several, and they are the following. In the first place, you criticize yourself more than you realize, and the self-criticism is, of course, projected onto others. The second factor is connected with the self-criticism, which, I might add, is due to a misconception that you have to be so perfect that no criticism must come to you.

Intellectually you may know better, but emotionally you deeply feel that every criticism is a proof of your inferiority, that you are not good enough, and if you were good enough, there would not be any area in which you could be criticized. When you can feel this, you can go further.

The second factor is an artificial limitation you have built into your psyche, your inner life, inner reality. You are not supposed to have, so you think unconsciously, more than certain fulfillments, certain expressions, certain talents. More, you feel, would be demanding, would be immodest, would be greedy on your part. You feel hesitant and reluctant to open yourself up for the expression of several areas of creativity, as well as of happiness.

You too constantly think you have to make a choice, either this or that. And if you accept this and you’re successful here, how can you then be successful there? All these artificial limitations and limits you set to yourself come, of course, from many factors that you would have to painstakingly unearth.

There are areas where you are afraid of giving of yourself, and therefore your psyche seeks to establish a balance by preventing yourself from receiving. This is a very frequent balance within the psyche. You know that the psyche constantly tries to reestablish balance. You find this in this work when you go on this personal Path, as you see it in nature.

When there is an imbalance on the one side, there must be a complement to that. If you are too much here, it is too little there. In other words, in your case here, you, I might say, punish yourself or establish balance unconsciously, where you withhold yourself from life. You do not permit yourself to open up toward manifold fulfillment in other areas. This you would have to specifically find where you withhold yourself, in what way do you do this, how does this manifest.

Then you have to examine why you fear, so that you feel the need to withhold yourself from life, from others, in very subtle ways. When you find this and correct the wrong conclusion, you will no longer prohibit yourself from going out. You will therefore no longer feel any kind of criticism is devastating for you. You will be able to take the risk. You will not feel you ought to be criticized.

As it is now, on a very, very deep, deep level that is hardly conscious at this moment, you feel, “Since I do withhold myself in certain areas from living, I do deserve criticism. And if I venture out into gaining more happiness and success that I’m willing to give of myself fearlessly to life, I do not deserve this. Therefore, I deserve criticism on a different level, in a different way.” And it manifests on the conscious level in such a fear.

 

QA191 QUESTION: My problem is with a coworker of mine who is extremely critical of everything I do. One of my very big problems is that I cannot take criticism, so I will do anything to placate and accommodate this person, and lately I haven’t been placating or accommodating. So the other alternative is to not do anything. I just don’t say anything to her all day, which is very difficult for me and for both of us. I think the thing to do would be to confront her, perhaps. But I’m very stuck. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know how to confront.

ANSWER: First of all, my dear one, you want to solve the problem by arranging your actions, by intentions and procedures. It can never be solved that way, because this shows that you are at war with yourself. You do not accept where you are now. It would be much more to your advantage not to coerce yourself, because you already start every meeting with an apprehension, much less about her than about how should you behave.

You make your behavior the criterion by which you approve or disapprove of yourself. This is already a splitting process, a disintegrating process. I would just suggest, instead, that you relax and say, “Now I will observe how I will react naturally. If I am still compelled to comply, this is what I am going to observe. And rather than forcing myself out of compliance, I will learn from it, until I know and understand so much that I will no longer be obliged to do it.”

With this approach, you will discover that a very interesting phenomena will take place, and that phenomena is this. By accepting your present state, your present problematic confusion and conflict, you take the pressure off yourself. Therefore, the compulsion to have the feelings or the actions or the attitudes that you so disapprove of will become much less.

I venture to say that you, as well as many of my friends on this Path, must have encountered this truth many times. It is only when you stop forcing yourself, only when you stop fighting against yourself, that you will be much less prone to feel, act, think and behave in certain ways, than you would if you are all tense about it and worried that you must act one way rather than the other way.

It is not in the action that the health can be determined, because you may say the same words and do the same act, and it may be the best thing in the world – and under other circumstances, the worst thing in the world. Do not go by your act. Go by your feeling and accept where you are. And learn from it.

Do not pressure yourself. By the very fact that you observe, something will change much more effectively – and in a relaxed way that will unify you – than any effort you make in this particular way.

 

QA214 QUESTION: I have a question about my teaching. I have an intentionality which is directed to communicating the truth to my students in a way that comes through the material that I’m teaching, and it does have an effect; it does produce positive results. But at the same time, I’m also aware that in some way my negativity is also involved in my teaching. That manifests in, for instance, my high sensitivity to criticism – how I feel that nobody should criticize me, especially students. I feel insecure about these criticisms and that maybe I am not giving them the best way or the truth, but I’m doing something else. And sometimes I’m very reluctant to give anything. How do these two intentions interact and what I can do to make my teaching more positive and convey more truth?

ANSWER: I would say the following thing: the fear of criticism is an illusion you can only dispel when you expose yourself to it again and again deliberately – in your groups, for example. There is no other way to come out of anything unless you go into it. I have said that many times – that you open yourself up to the pain; that you experience the pain; that you then question yourself, “I want to be mainly committed to the truth. If what I hear has a grain of truth, I want to see it. And if it is not true, I will feel that pain of the unjust criticism.”

In that way you will totally lose your fear and you will become vulnerable, and invulnerable through that. Then your positive intent to give the best of the universe to the people you instruct – to be an instrument and not to serve your ego – will have a more powerful acceleration. That is my answer.

QUESTION: And that means also that I will not feel reluctant to give.

ANSWER: Exactly! Exactly!

QUESTION: [Another person] What should the responsibilities be related to certain students that she feels would be very interested in the lectures. Should she give these students lectures?

ANSWER: If they are really interested and open, of course. They shouldn’t be forced; they shouldn’t be sold; they shouldn’t be coerced. But if it is a deep longing of the soul, then of course; there would be no risk.

As to the answer about responsibility of a teacher to a student, it is always, in all human interaction, the same – the healthy balance can only be found when the person is fully self-responsible. Then the teacher – or, for that matter, the parent – will fulfill his responsibility to the degree that this is harmonious and meaningful. At the same time, this responsibility will be geared to teach self-responsibility in turn, for that must be the ultimate goal.

There can be no autonomy, no fulfillment in a person’s life unless there’s full self-responsibility. Now, if a teacher has it for himself, he’ll be able to convey it to a pupil. If he does not have it for himself, he cannot convey it. He will go either from one extreme to the other. He will either be too demanding or not demanding enough; he will be too authoritative or not authoritative enough; he will go from strictness to sentimental leniency.

In either case he misses out on his task as a teacher, for the true teaching must lead to a total comprehension and execution of self-responsibility. Now specifically, in regard to that question, if, for example, our friend here feels a great personal need, for personal ego reasons, to bring the lectures, these teachings, to someone, then there will be a forcing current in her. Then there will be an urgency, and she will take on too much responsibility. There will be an imbalance in responsibility.

On the other hand, if she is afraid of consequences, of criticism, and she herself has to obey some higher outer authority in order to be good and right because the inner self-responsibility has not been established, then she will fall short and not have enough.

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