"Caring about people" - a beautiful trait on its own - too much can morph into a paralysis regarding disappointing people, where your own anchor moves with the slightest breeze of someone else's emotion. Moods, issues, frustration invariably become about you when they sometimes have nothing to do with you. Always looking outwardly for worth leads to a loss of self-knowledge, develops a fear of failure, and fosters a shadowy case of self-centeredness. The "Holy Trinity" of a failure complex.
Failure complex leads to an unrealistic expectation of perfection. Perfectionism leads to procrastination, procrastination to malaise, malaise to self-doubt, self-doubt to anxiety. Anxiety to depression, and depression towards "what happened to my life?,' all while life happened. On and on the wheel turns.
Trust me. I've been there.
Part of this cycle I believe develops from our society. I have written about this before, and I'm sure it won't be the last time. Our society applauds competition, making plans, multi-tasking , getting ahead. It also values independence and scrappiness, making lists of "shoulds" to be successful, compilations of "10 things to do to (fill in the blank)." Constantly, we are imbedded in a mass media overload of information, the latest and greatest quickly filling up the spaces as life, technology, cortisol levels increase in intensity.
Our society does not, however, value a culture of feedback. Feedback that can enhance communication between speaker and listener, giver and receiver. Feedback given with love and respect, and received with a similar attitude of appreciation and gratitude.
I'd like to propose an alternative to criticism when viewing others and ourselves. Criticism, or even perceived criticism when it's not meant to be delivered that way, can be a stumbling block to growth. For both people. When we feel criticized, a deep part of us feels rejected. Rejection triggers the "fight or flight" response, which in essence stalls or stunts any good that can come from the conversation.
Criticism creates a disconnect with others, while feedback offers connectedness. If done correctly, feedback enables a sort of magic space between two individuals reaching towards each other. Taking the time to center yourself before giving as well as before receiving sets the stage for a communication space built on love. Where can you go wrong with heart-centered communication?
Both of my yoga teacher trainings these past six months emphasize feedback as a crucial part of becoming a yoga teacher fueled by compassion. So many professions based on competition remain so focused on "getting ahead" that continuing education becomes forgotten. How can you become better at what you do if you are not continuously wanting to improve yourself or learn new techniques? If you consistently stay in your comfort zone, how can you become not only more humble, but better at what you do in offering your specific skill set to the world?
These are the "golden" people, I believe. People who have that certain something that draws others to them like a magnet. People who seek out, give, receive, and embrace feedback as a vital part of their daily lives. People who not only challenge themselves and their own teachers/mentors to look at a different perspective, but who also praise them to reiterate what worked in whatever it was they shared. Respect and connectedness should be the base of a culture of feedback. When we grow, we shine. Not to sound cheesy, but that's how the world becomes better.
I used to shy away from criticism like a bug from a bug zapper. It would trigger defensiveness and shame, which would block anything constructive from occurring. Slowly, I am learning to extricate "what am I doing wrong?" from my vocabulary, and replace that tick of failure with one of "how can I become better?" Soften the edges around my life of co-dependency in order to really see what someone, with a heart set on healing instead of division, has to say to help me shine.
Giving and receiving feedback has been the number one blessing from yoga training. I am seeing it start to resonate in other parts of my life - from how I talk to my children, my husband, employees, everyone around me. I feel softer, more vulnerable, yet also calmer and less stressed when taking a millisecond to open my heart when conversing. To better communicate from a lens of feedback rather than criticism.
If we, each of us, could set an intention to listen with empathy, give feedback with respect, and accept it with love, our individual and collective lives would be enriched. Our society may soften around the edges and grow more expansive. Rather than looking solely ahead, we can gaze around and behind, and reach out a hand to help everyone we see.
We are all on this beautiful Earth together. Feedback can help our journey be even more miraculous.
"In an orchestra, as in a community, intelligence allows individuals to make their unique contribution while receiving feedback from the larger wholes and serving them in a meaningful, fully connected way." (Will Tuttle, The World Peace Diet)
Special thank you to my yoga mentors and teachers for their love, acceptance, and inspiration.