April 27, 2009

Deadly Shoulds: "If I do my best for them, they shouldn't criticize me."

"If I do my best for them, they shouldn't criticize me."

Is it true they shouldn't criticize me? Especially since I've done what they wanted, worked hard to live up to everyone's expectations? YES!

And what is the reality of it? They're critical.

How do I react, what happens, when I believe that thought? Effin' A! I'm so p.o.'ed and resentful. How dare they be critical after all I've done, after I've been so agreeable, so accommodating, such a hard and dedicated worker?

When I believe this thought, I become a self-sacrificing doormat who is never appreciated for all I do. I don't want to hear their criticism; I block it, I deflect it, I put it back on them. I don't want to consider that anything they say might actually be true. I feel like an idiot for having done this "for them."

I keep score. I expect praise. I disappoint myself when praise is not forthcoming. I see them as nit-picky, impossible to please. I try to change their minds about me; I might be obsequious and over-accommodating so that they won't be critical. I step far out of my comfort zone, do too much, then hate myself for it. My happiness becomes contingent on their validating me. My love and approval for them relies on this also. I withhold love. I make them my judge and jury.

I expect them to overlook my flaws in favor of my efforts.

This one definitely has roots in my relationship to my mother, once again...as young as age eight, lots more when I was a teenager. She was honest with me; if I didn't do a good enough job picking up my toys or washing a dish, she let me know, and I hated her for it.

When I was ten and we moved, at my new school I tried hard to fit in and when I didn't receive party invitations or Valentine cards, I "knew" I was disliked and that this should not be. I treated other children as my judge and jury; I had to be careful around them, always say yes to their demands, never be myself (which would be just too weird for them, I surmised). I began to be very concerned with appearances, what I wore, how I talked, right down to how I sat in my chair at school (I'd imitate the way the most popular girl in class sat, even though my legs were half the length of hers and it was impossible.) I lived in fear of being picked on; I feared them and disliked myself.

As a direct response writer, I took criticism and correction of my work very hard if I had already revised the project one or more times to suit the clients...especially if they dared to change their minds about what they wanted!

What do I get for holding this belief? I get to be a righteous victim. How's that working for me? Not so well, as I still feel victimized. There is no satisfaction in being a righteous victim, ever.

Who would I be without this thought? Open to criticism; it could be very instructive. Not taking criticism personally; it's their opinion, as valid (or subjective) as kudos. I could ask for clarification without defense; if I truly want to do my best for them (and not to manipulate them into treating me a certain way), this will help me to do that. I would be in my integrity and in my own business mentally.

Turn the thought around:
If I do my best for them, they should criticize me.
1. It can bring about clarity about what is truly expected and whether or not I'm up to the task or even want to fulfill that expectation.
2. If they are critical, it is their job. If I am hurt or angered by their criticism, my job becomes clear: work on my stressful beliefs.
3. How else was I to get out of that dead-end job and have not one, but two terrific new careers?

If they do their best for me, I shouldn't criticize them. Oh. Oops.
1. My father did his level best for me, always, and I always let him know he failed me.
2. My direct reports when I was a manager: I could have helped them to do a better job rather than be critical (had I known how to do that. And that brings me to another insight about the first turnaround: maybe people simply don't know how to help me do better by them.)
3. A great mentor of mine, in retrospect, gave me everything she had in the first five minutes of our acquaintance, but for years, I always wanted more and more and more. Since more was not forthcoming, simply because there wasn't anything else she could possibly give me, I found fault with her over and again.

If I do my best for myself, I shouldn't criticize myself. Yes, it would be good to be gentler with myself, let myself off the hook for not being perfect.
1. Being critical of my best efforts has never made me do better and in fact has been de-motivating.
2. When I recognize my best efforts as my best, given my resources at the time, I can honestly assess whether there is any room or possibility for improvement, and improvement is more likely to happen.
3. In looking back at my life, I can see my "mistakes" in a kinder light and even determine that the choices I made were perfect...they brought me to this, now. Now, without a story, is a place of peace, where no criticism of myself or others can stick.
So how could it not have all been for the best?

©2009 by Carol L. Skolnick. All rights reserved.

1 comment:

Marianne said...

Hi Carol, Thanks for posting this today...I remember the first time I believed this thought. I was 7 years old and was working on my cooking badge for girl scouts. I decided to make a mashed potato and meatloaf dinner with green beans and salad for my family. I put a teaspoon of whole pepper corns in the meatloaf instead of ground pepper and of course my Dad got the mouthful (crunch) with all the peppercorns. I remember they all laughed, told me what I had done wrong, called me birdbrain and I don't think I tried cooking again until I was 20 years old....I was much harder on myself than they ever were....for many years. I see my mistakes in a kinder light too...what an awesome kid I was to try to make my family of 5 dinner at the age of 7. I'm impressed, peppercorn error or not.