This week I’ve been struck by how easy it is for me to close myself off from both compliments and critiques from others. It reminded me how vital it is to live with an open heart and mind, because even though such a tender mentality will sometimes break our hearts and leave us ostracized, to close off and protect ourselves isn’t really living at all.
As I chatted with the owner of a yoga studio I teach at, she said she’d noticed I sometimes give cues that are for meand NOT the students. In other words, the alignment and positioning tips I’m giving aren’t helping them because they’re already doing it. Even now, right away my mind goes on the defensive, thinking of all sorts of reasons why what she said isn’t necessarily true. Yet, when I take a deep breath and really listen to her words, I see the truth in them. I realize how taking time to ponder her feedback can help me become a better teacher.
I’d been so caught up in the groove of teaching that I didn’t have eyes to see this area I could grow in. We all have blind spots in life, which is why it’s essential we get, hear, and digest critiques from others. While “criticism” isn’t always accurate or helpful, by taking the time to look at it with an open mind, we will get insights into ourselves we wouldn’t realize otherwise, which will allow us to grow and transform into the most amazing version of ourselves possible.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, my wife Lisa says the most kind and encouraging things to and about me ever. Just the other day, she was telling friends I’m “the kindest and most caring person [she’s] ever met!” In the same way my initial response to critique was defensiveness, the first place my brain wanted to go with Lisa’s praise was to deny it, brush it off, or ignore it. Just as a closed heart is unable to hear the truths in critiques, it’s incapable of receiving the blessing of compliments.
A metaphor just occurred to me. Think of yourself as a car, which you naturally want to run well and go fast. Critiques tell us where repairs, tweaks, and modifications are needed, just as the dashboard lights and an auto mechanic do. Likewise, encouragement, words of affirmation, and the like are fuel for our souls, but they can only be “pumped” into us when we keep our hearts and minds open. We experience the most incredible joy when we’re firing on all cylinders, don’t you think?
Something helpful to remember when it comes to truly hearing and receiving the gifts of both critiques and compliments is that NEITHER of them defines us. We’re born beloved and wonderful, NO doing required. The feedback and encouragement bosses, friends, parents, partners, kids, etc. give us don’t NAME us they HELP us. So, let’s keep our hearts wide open!
Grace and peace,