Back in college, I made a conscious decision not to become a slave of watching football. The same way I always make a decision about one thing or the other. I do watch football, but only when I choose to. That decision has been of great help to me. This was because I had noted how addictive this habit is. One starts simply and then, over time, he/she cannot resist the habit no matter what is at stake. It was becoming slavery. So much so that even if there was an exam the next morning, the 'born again watchers' would still watch the games even up to 3am to the detriment of their performances in exams.
But before that, what I had learned is that the people watching the match on TV or live in the stadium always tend to know more about the actual players in the field. Most of the time spent by fans watching is full of criticism and insults. I kept wondering how come these people, who do not (perhaps even know how to) play, tend to know much about how the players in the field ought to act; see how weak and reckless they are, how much better they could have done, etc. I have been in the fan squad for a school football team and have had all these experiences. This tendency does not exclude commentators! I learned two things:that people who do not know how to do it will always be the fiercest critics and that if people who do it listen to people who do not do it, with their insincere criticism, they would not attempt. Their dreams would be completely killed! Because it hurts!
I have learned to live with criticism all my life. There is no venture I ever started that was without criticism. I remember when I went to class 7, in a primary school where my dad was teaching, and at the end of the term, I happened to be ranked top of class, having worked hard and excelled pretty well above the rest. It was not easy for me! In stead of getting pats on my back and complements, I was in for fierce criticism and allegations. No one believed those were my grades and even the head teacher said that no pupil can come from another school and top a class in his school! They claimed that my dad, being a member of staff, leaked for me exams. That I was not the type to be number one in that school!
One of the greatest causes of failure, someone quipped, is conformity. Human beings are conformists. They want to look good, correct and in sync with the rest of the world. By the end of it all, it appears as if he or she is comfortable, but not really. Nothing can be worse than doing things simply to please people or to win (cheap) praise. You, the doer, shall get bored, feel empty and (if you gain enough courage) quit.
If you find college-going folks and ask them how many are doing the courses they wanted to do, you will get some worrying statistics. I like asking whether the course one is pursuing was out of his/her own choice or someone else's. You know the answer. And why is that? Why is it that people tend to do what they do not like to do? Criticism!
Criticism kills dreams, creativity and the spirit of adventure. Most people fear being different, fear being criticized. In fact others want somewhere or someone else to blame should things go wrong. Thus, people just do things because many others are doing the same. No need to adventure and appear different. You risk being criticized. You risk being the centre of focus and thus vulnerable; which means more criticism. If you have ever been criticized, you know it. It surely hurts. More so if you are a people's pleaser. If you are the kind of person who only wants to hear praises, you will hate to be criticized. But the truth is, if you realize that you have no one to criticize you, you probably have seized being relevant. You can't and shouldn't avoid criticism no matter how hurtful it is. Aristotle said: there is only one way to avoid criticism; do nothing, say nothing and be nothing!
When I joined the university, I quickly enrolled into a church choir and started directing music. I came to learn that most people would love to conduct songs in front of audience but they do not have the courage to get started. Because of my tendency to develop people, I kept giving people, who showed some interest, a chance to conduct. But most of them tried once and never came back again. Why? Because they flopped the first time and feared to be criticized. In fact, a large number of victims to this disease are ladies. They try once and when things don't go right, as they must, at least for the first few times, they see themselves looking foolish in front of the choir and (at times, in front of audience as well and) bid farewell to it.
BEFORE CRITICISM, NO GROWTH
It will serve you well to know that your personal growth will entail how you handle criticism as well. Maturity here means learning to focus on your goals and playing blind and deaf to the critics. Human beings will never lack something negative to talk about you. Some have expertise in this field. Notice that they know what to say because they are not players (in the field); just fans beside the field. They pay to get into the stadium and risk nothing. They are not known.--You're value doesn't decrease based on someone's inability to see your worth-- Only the players are known. That is whom you are. A player. And that means you're, if on the path to growth, a centre of focus for the 'ordinary' minds.
I learnt that most criticisms come out of jealousy; someone trying to belittle your effort or success. This attitude doesn't do well even to the person criticizing you. In fact, it does more harm to them. One of the rules of thumb in success is Don't Criticize. We're normally told that 3 Cs to avoid are Complaining, Criticizing and Condemning. You're therefore better placed to attract criticism because it means you have drawn some attention. Remember, only a tower draws attention. Not a small hut or an ordinary building. As you grow into a tower, or as I usually say, a mountain, more and more people, some of whom are struggling to grow like you, are able to see you. Majority of them, who have no chance, perhaps because they have given up, will find a reason to say every negative they can about you and how meaningless your achievement or effort is. But those who are well meaning, success-focused, will give you praise and at times come for your advice. Praises are never as weighty as criticism. You can get one praise for every 50 criticisms. It's quite fine. At times if you listen to some people criticizing, you may be forgiven to think they are paid to do it. Less objectivity. It is good to know that there is positive criticism, which is good and rare. It is hard to come by. Here we dwell on negative criticism because it has not much to offer. It has no solutions to your problem(s). It is largely baseless and ill-driven.
HOW TO HANDLE CRITICISM
1:Reflect on it
You may use criticism positively by ensuring you prove the critics wrong. This, you do by action and not by word. Not by arguments. If someone says you cannot do it, you're good for nothing. Move on, go ahead and do it. Become someone who is difficult to ignore. Prove them wrong by achieving that which they said you will not achieve. My critics in that primary school finally had nothing to say when I kept the standards high and maintained my performance. As time went by, I was able to prove all of them wrong. I also remember back in the advent of mobile phones when I conceived an idea of having ring-tones that would literally call my name when someone calls my number. When I said this to a fellow, he simply responded, "which you cannot do". It didn't last long and all these things came to be. No one has ever achieved greatness without criticism. If you want to know how great a leader you are, check how many people are talking about you. You handle criticism by succeeding. The best revenge, I'm told, is massive success.
2:Mind Your Business
Again I say, do not talk. You simply need to act. Stay focused to your goal if you believe in it. I am told of a lame, young man who was in a race. A lot of noise was coming from the fans outside the field, rebuking him. Partly because he was lame and looked weak, he didn't look like he had a chance among the well-built, seemingly talented folks. Because he seemed to mind his business, he looked ignorant. The noise weakened with time, then dead silence! He won! When the journalists went to him for an interview, the first question was how come he did not consider quiting despite the deafening noises of discouragement. That is the moment they realized that he was deaf. His sense of hearing was impaired. This served him very well. It is good to be deaf to the discouraging remarks, and stubborn at your goal.
Look at the intention of your action. The goal you want to achieve. If the goal is noble, listen not to anyone but your heart. As long as you believe in what you're doing, go right ahead. In the end people will agree with you,if you succeed. If you don't, well, you owe no one any apology. At least you will have tried. It's better to try and fail than fail to try. You will be wiser for trying than not trying. You cannot succeed otherwise. Listen to your conscience, your heart, your intuition. These three won't mislead you.
It is important to understand yourself; your strengths and weaknesses. To an extent, criticism can help you understand something about yourself; how emotionally strong you are. In today's world, I see many people who are terribly weak emotionally. Any little squabble and you see a Tsunami side of them! They get vexed even with nothing. It is not right. Make better use of the situation by checking against your scale objectively to know how you truly are.
Long time back, I learned that if someone insults me, it could be that he/she is saying something true about me or untrue. If it is true, why bother? I know it already and, where possible/necessary, I can correct it. If it's untrue, why bother? And most insults are highly exaggerated. For example, let's assume someone says I am as short as a hammer. Well, it's true I am not that tall, but so what? Neither am I the size of a hammer. Do I need to be tall to be useful? What if I am actually tall and not short. Then it is his judgment which is impaired. He should pity himself. So why the hell should I be disturbed!
It is very much in order for you to understand yourself and love yourself accordingly. Ask for the grace to accept the things you cannot change and the wisdom and courage to change those that you can and should change. Maturity comes with self acceptance. The moment you accept yourself and love yourself truly, you become a brand. (We talked about brand in one of the previous editions.) Even what you thought really mattered all of a sudden you realize doesn't really matter. When you set a standard, all the previous misjudgments fade and your critics become fools. You become a point of admiration. Your physical status irrespective. Your academic or lack of it is not an issue. Just the way you are, you are still in a position to create your own person and become one of the most beautiful, adorable and influential people the world has ever known.
Mind your business, stay focused and Live Your Dream! Because you can do it!
Alongside is a Responsorial Psalm for Ascension Sunday.
God goes up with Shouts of Joy