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Good Seeds, Bad Seeds & The Infamous Critic Within Us
An introduction to the most important but vile voice in our head; the aggressively growing bad seed and the less-watered good seed; and the tale of a painter who was criticized but not helped.
“Each of us—we are each our own worst critic.” —Ellen Hendriksen, in an interview with The Guardian.
We’re all stalwarts of the critiquing organization. We’re either neck-deep in self-criticism or we’re inevitably doing it to others. To those that deem this calumny, we’ve got credible reason to prove otherwise.
Of the thousands of different voices we have in our heads, it’s the critic we give the most importance to. We barely listen to the voices that tell us we look good today, or that nudge us to appreciate the people around us, or even the ones that tell us to speak up in front of our bosses. However, we’re all ears to that one tiny but powerful voice that tells us we’re not deserving of everything that’s coming our way; that we shouldn’t walk up to someone we like because they’ll think we’re ugly or that we shouldn’t speak publicly because we might make a fool out of ourselves.
This puny voice commands us to think about things we’re better off without and it’s hysterical because we listen to it! It’s been with some of us for so long that giving in to it, has become an involuntary reaction. It’s taken over our lives, prohibiting us from progressing because we wholeheartedly believe that it’s right when in reality, it’s just a bad seed.
The mind, especially that of a youngling, is fertile land. The only drawback is that the owner of this fertile land, i.e. you, isn’t in control of what is sown. You can reap the benefits, but what is planted is in the control of those around you. If someone appreciates your intelligence, it’s a good seed sown in the fertile land. Your parent calls you beautiful, that’s another good seed. A friend compliments your problem-solving skills, that’s yet another good seed in the bank. Like these, the fertile land is planted with all sorts of seeds that people around you are willing to contribute. But not all contributions are benevolent.
Bad seeds are potent. They infest fertile grounds and grow faster and more aggressively than the good seeds. Research has proven that criticism has a more long-lasting effect than appreciation, because we’re subconsciously programmed to water the bad seeds more often than the good ones. With time, bad seeds grow into bad trees with their roots firmly set in the land that’s slowly but persistently losing its fertility.
Self-criticism is not just a problem for us, it also affects how we see others. We’re quick to judge, and our thoughts are usually centered around our own insecurities. The negativity that we sow inside ourselves is a reflection of ourselves rather than of others. Have you ever thought about how the faults you find in others are, in some ways, the shortcomings of your life?
If someone doubted your intelligence when you were young, any reiteration towards that, even the slightest of criticism in that direction, reinforces the fact that you’re stupid. There then comes a point when, even if someone compliments your intelligence, you doubt their credibility and tag them as a foolish person because they weren’t able to identify you correctly.
It’s funny how we’re the only species capable of thought and speech, producing sounds that formed, what we know today as, ‘language’, but the inner voice uses these sounds to ridicule and criticize instead of appreciate and love. On the contrary, look at animals—they howl, fight, scratch and bite but can never scar another animal for life, with a bark, roar, meow, coo or cackle.
Never mind the futile comparison with animals, bad seeds, that turn into solid trees with their roots firmly set in the land, can’t be uprooted. They can, however, be overshadowed, by watering the good seeds profusely. And you can do that, by accepting one fact:
Nothing that someone else does or says is because of you.
They’ll criticize you because it makes them feel better.
They’ll appreciate you because it again, makes them feel better.
The only difference is that one spreads hate, while the other one spreads love.
A Story For You
There was once an amateur painter who had recently completed his art course. He used his bristly paint brush to manifest his imagination onto canvasses, in ways that mesmerized onlookers. He was ambitious, young and talented but despairingly insecure.
He craved for appreciation and loathed criticism. Yet, he always sought people’s opinions on his caliber and painting skills. Validation from strangers would keep him at peace and reassure him of the path he was taking. However, even a hint of criticism would blister his ego and his wrath would immediately take precedence.
The complicated fella was aware of his shortcomings but still wanted to get ‘constructive’ criticism for his work. He found a way around it.
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One morning, he put up his creation at a bursting street junction and placed a sign board below that read — I have painted this piece. Since I’ve recently completed my course, I might have committed a few mistakes in my strokes. Please put a cross wherever you feel there’s a mistake.
And so, he left.
When he came back in the evening, after running a few errands, he was furious to see the whole canvass filled with Xs (crosses). Some individuals even took the liberty of writing comments on the painting. He ran to the master that taught him at the course, his self-belief dwindling and his confidence hanging by a thread, and burst into tears.
“I placed my creation into the hands of the audience and the verdict is out,” he said, taking out the painting, now completely red with crosses. “The people have rejected me.”
The master smiled and said, “My son, I want you to know you’re a good artist and are on your way to become great. Paint it again and bring it to me, we’re going to the junction to display your work again.”
The young painter reluctantly agreed and two days later, presented the replica to the master. "Come with me," the master said.
They reached the bustling area once again and displayed the uncanny replica in the same place as the youngling had done a couple of days earlier. The master took another board and wrote — I have painted this piece. Since I’ve recently completed my course, I might have committed a few mistakes in my strokes. I have put a box with brushes and paint below this painting. If you see a mistake, kindly pick up the brush and correct it as a favor to me.
The master and disciple walked back home.
They visited the same place in the evening. The young painter was surprised to see that not a single thing had been changed in the painting. The day after that too, the painting remained untouched. In fact, they kept it at the junction for one whole month to see if anyone would pick up the brush to correct anything in the painting. But no one did.
“There are several critiques in the world,” the master said, “but only a few, who’ll actually help you. Those that crossed your painting, did it not for you, but for themselves. And in case someone had helped you, they’d be doing that for themselves too. The only difference would’ve have been that one would be spreading hate while the other, love.”
A story adapted from SpeakingTree.in.
Until next time,