1.10.2013

The Enlightening Mat: Fear of Criticism

the gift

We fear the criticism of others. To defend ourselves against the criticism of others, we either try to make everything "perfect" so as to get around harsh judgments or avoid taking risks as a way to eliminate potential mistakes.

Fear of criticism is the second universal fear that holds you back from openly sharing your true nature with the world. To read my whole blog series on the six universal fears, click here.


Fear of Criticism

There are essentially two types of criticism. The first one is constructive and born out of a desire to help, support, and connect with another human being. The second one is a behavioral response to internal suffering where you are the collateral damage of another person's pain.

At the roots of constructive criticism is a person who wants to see you be your best, and they may have the knowledge and experience to help you grow. In this way, criticism is praise mis-phrased. Another human being sees your beauty and wants it to shine even brighter. Maybe this person didn't communicate in a very sensitive manner but underneath their harsh words is a message of love and admiration.

The second form of criticism, which usually comes out of nowhere and hits you like a ton of bricks, is speaking volumes about the other person and is consciously or unconsciously meant to inflict pain. In this case, criticism is a sign that someone feels blocked from their true nature. They have let feelings of jealousy or pain provoke a critical response as a way of hurting another human being so as spread their suffering.

While growing up you may have let your fear of criticism take over. It's possible you built an impenetrable wall as protection from all forms of judgment so you can no longer discern what might actually be opportunities to grow your talents and compassion for others. It's like not leaving the house when it's storming outside because you can't be certain if it's going to be a nourishing rain that helps you grow or golf balls of hail that bruise the heart.

Why not get out the safety of the house and start working with the material of criticism? Stop hiding from the fear of potentially painful judgments and start using them as seeds to grow your compassion and love.


How to Dissolve Your Fear of Criticism

Go to Bikram yoga. Seriously, in the last twenty years I haven't found a more safe, fun, and interactive therapy for working with my fear of criticism. The teachers are constantly criticizing your behavior, correcting your postures, and saying outlandish things that can be really maddening.

Growing up, I tried be a perfectionist so as to avoid the criticism of others, and this behavior crippled my ability to cope with life's challenges. Working in the Bikram yoga room for the last four years with both forms of criticism has helped me hear people's judgments in a whole new way. To read more about how I learned to heal through the criticism of the Bikram yoga studio check out my earlier blog post by clicking here.

The other way I work with criticism, particularly the kind that seems to be born out of the suffering of another, is to use this experience as an opportunity to practice empathy and grow my compassionate heart. For an easy method for turning the harsh criticism of others around and using it to cultivate compassion, download my free Empathy for Others worksheet by clicking here.

The Enlightening Mat is a blog series exploring moments of awareness that come to Beth Hemmila while practicing Bikram Yoga.

To shop for yoga charms that celebrate the different poses click here to view this blog post Sterling Silver Charms for Bikram Yoga Postures


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