As a child, I expressed my many opinions with characteristic frankness. In the moments after another judgement left my lips, my older (and wiser) brother would remind me of an old adage: ‘Everyone’s a critic‘.
It’s a playful saying with truthful undertones: it’s easy to criticise. Understanding and evaluating take more effort, so the unevolved among us will sway towards harsh judgement until we fully develop our capacity for empathy. While empathy is embedded in 99% of the population – 1% are sociopaths – there are those who purposefully disregard the feelings of others in favour of self-absorption. When somebody puts you down, it hurts. After acknowledging that fleeting feeling, you have the power to choose how it will affect you.
I’ve said ‘undeserved’ criticism to highlight the need to differentiate between constructive critiquing and an insult. If you’re yet to conquer your insecurities, you could be prone to feeling attacked without due reason and therefore it’s imperative to see if you’re being unnecessarily defensive out of self-consciousness. The Baz Luhrmann song, ‘Everybody’s Free to Wear Sunscreen‘ includes life advice such as “Remember compliments you receive – forget the insults. If you succeed in doing this, tell me how”. While I can’t work some Eternal Sunshine’-esque magic on your memories, I can proffer some protips for self-preservation. The most relevant of which is this:
People tend to criticise what they fear or desire in themselves
If you really analyse the meaning behind the words, you start to realise how much truth the saying holds. Most of us have been bullied at some point, particularly as children, when we’re told it’s due to jealousy. This doesn’t make sense to someone with low self-esteem: “why would they be jealous of my poor background?” In this instance, the person slinging insults around could be trying to hide their own low socio-economic status by targeting someone else. Somebody who is kind and susceptible to what other people think of them will usually be the target for negativity. If you feel like you’re used as a cure for other people’s insecurities, take comfort in the fact you have an inner strength that other people both fear and desire to acquire for themselves.
A few years ago I taught myself to recall the above quote whenever a conspicuously petty remark was made, and it was interesting to see what traits people feared in themselves and which they desired to possess. None of us are immune from making mean comments occasionally, so when I slip up I analyse my own negative talk to see where it’s coming from.
People will sling verbal arrows at you in both casual and premeditated ways but if you do your best to accept yourself, undeserved criticism won’t hurt your warrior self.