NATALIE BURTON OLY
I’ve always struggled to put into practice the usual advice people offer when receiving criticism from others.
You know, the standard ‘Don’t pay any attention to those who criticise you and judge your performance’.
This has always seemed so much easier said than done for me, as my default reaction has been to let the negative comments feed my own self-doubts and beliefs.
I guess it’s because the criticism that hurts the most is the one that mirrors what we already believe about ourselves.
(How many times can you remember being criticised for something you are confident about? You probably can’t remember it ever happening, because you just brushed it off and moved on.)
For me, I believed I was never good enough throughout many stages of my basketball career.
So, when I heard people online questioning my selection in the 2016 Australian Rio Olympic team, I listened, and I let the words find a home within me.
Actually, I tried to tell myself not to pay any attention to these people’s opinions, and I pretended like they hadn’t affected me.
I knew rationally that these people had not been there for all of my trainings and workouts, and they had not witnessed the blood, sweat and tears that I put in behind the scenes to get selected. They were not the decision makers for the team because they were not my coach, so their feedback could not contain any critical, useful information that could be used to enhance my performance. Their feedback was therefore literally irrelevant to me.
But I still believed them. These comments found root within me, because they confirmed the belief I already had about myself. That I wasn’t good enough.
It was a constant battle between the rational thoughts, and the part of me that believed my worth and wholeness was determined by my performance and capabilities on the basketball court. Every time I heard criticisms about my performance, the more attention I gave them. I was essentially watering a weed; allowing it to grow larger and larger as I gave it more and more of my mental energy. Each watering-can only confirmed my limiting belief, and it found even deeper root within me.
So, someone telling me simply to not listen to the people who criticised me and judged my performance really didn’t help me. And it’s no real surprise when we understand that our focus is our fuel, and whatever thoughts we focus on, are the ones that will grow and influence our actions and behaviours.
The key then, is to change the way we perceive feedback.
Feedback is not personal; it is simply information.
If it is coming from another person, then it is information about how that person sees things; their own assumptions, opinions and beliefs. So, when a person gives you their opinion about your performance, it actually doesn’t tell you anything about you, but rather, about the person giving the feedback.
When we see the world this way, we don’t end up attaching any sort of meaning about ourselves to the words of others.
Using my story as an example, the information I was receiving was really only telling me one thing: what these people liked and disliked in a basketball player. It did not determine MY worth, it did not tell me if I was good enough to play at that level, and it certainly didn’t tell me if I was capable of playing basketball or not. It was purely information being given to me, and I get to choose how I let that affect me.
That is the real kicker. It now becomes a question of what you are going to do with that information. Are you going to let someone else’s words poison you? Are you going to give them power? Or, will you put your energy and focus into your own self-efficacy? That is; your own knowledge and belief in your abilities, without doubt.
I’ll leave you with one more idea; when we can reflect on the feedback that hurts the most, we can actually learn a lot more about ourselves. If the criticism stings and takes root within you, remember, it is shining a spotlight on a limiting belief we have about ourselves.
This awareness provides you with an insight into the way you may be holding yourself back. Now you can choose to take action either based on your negative self-beliefs, or, you can go for what you want to achieve. This is how you truly learn and grow from every experience you have in life, no matter the outcome.