“Yes, you are like that,” said my husband one night as I was lamenting criticism I had heard about myself that day. “I am?” I asked, shocked, a little hurt, and angry. “You are, “ he replied. “Everyone who knows you knows this.”
No one likes to hear criticism. Our lives are so busy, so over-extended, that stopping to hear that something we said or did upset or annoyed someone is like suddenly having a flat tire on your way to a busy day at the office. Who has time for it?
Not to mention, well, it kind of sucks.
Recently, I received some pretty harsh criticism from someone who only knows me from social media. I disregarded much of the attack, but it was interesting to see to how someone views me on the internet. If someone I know had said these same things to me, someone close to me, you likely would have found me in the pantry with a sleeve of Oreos.
But even our harshest critics offer us a little gift, if we choose. A time to stop, hit pause, and look deep inside ourselves to see what needs to go.
Every year I clean out my closet. I get rid of things that don’t flatter me, things that really have no purpose, or that I mistakenly thought were cute. Similar to the trendy shoes I bought that don’t really serve a purpose, sometimes we have to do an internal inventory, and get rid of what isn’t right.
It’s hard to work on yourself. It’s hard to shut the door, sit in the quiet, and examine your current vitals. It’s much easier to ignore pieces of yourself that need some adjusting, or maybe just need to hit the trash pile.
I would rather spend my time reading fun things, creating things, or writing. To be honest, spending time reading about how to improve myself feels like reading about the Kreb cycle.
But the more we age, the more our environments change, we must do some serious reflection. We must take time to go inside and see what can be sharpened and what can be improved.
This morning I spent an hour reading a book about my character traits according to the Enneagram, a personality test I have taken. To be honest, it required two cups of strong coffee as I read about some of the negative things associated with my personality type. I have heard people tell me some of these things, so I know they are true. I also laughed out loud at parts of the book, which listed in verbatim examples of what I have done or said. It was spot on.
Often our biggest weakness is the overextension of our greatest strength. Which means our strengths and weaknesses are twins, closer than we imagine. I know for me, it requires me to daily keep my strengths in check so to speak.
It also requires me to spend time, not always fun, dissecting the feedback of my critics, and listening to harsh truths. I can honestly say the more I spend time on internal work, the less I dread it.
Time spent working on our character is one of the most important gifts we can give ourselves.
Give yourself the time, and grace, and perhaps a strong cup of coffee.
You are worth it.
Sasha K. Shillcutt is an anesthesiologist who blogs at Brave Enough.
Image credit: Shutterstock.com