If you want a life that stinks, seek critique when your soul craves encouragement
Can I tell you a secret?
There is no such thing as a self-made man (or woman). From the exceptional teacher to the skilled engineer to the remarkable parent to the billionaire who rose up from poverty, the likes of Oprah Winfrey, John Paul DeJoria and Ralph Lauren — no one gets there on their own.
Encouragement. It’s an underrated force behind every successful person on the planet. Even in small, sporadic doses, it pushes us through tough times.
If you want a life that stinks, ask for feedback on your business idea, project, new haircut, parenting style, or writing, when what you really want is for someone to give you a pat on the back.
If anyone dares to give you feedback, even if it’s given respectfully and with good intentions, make them regret the day they ever dared to give you feedback respectfully and with good intentions.
Why we make fake feedback requests
What we say is: could you look this over and give me your honest feedback? Somedays we mean it. Most days, what we really mean is: could you look this over and tell me how amazing it is? Could you tell me how amazing I am? Could you say something that will make me feel like I’m not wasting my time and I’m not an idiot?
We make fake feedback requests because it’s socially awkward, nay it’s rude, to ask for praise. When we are exhausted on the road to success, our souls crave encouargement. So, we invite critique that we really don’t want.
Praise is a response to what we have done. Encourgement is reassurance to keep doing it.
Faux feedback requests are bad news. They will hurt you coming and going.
You don’t get needed information
If you dismiss the input of other people, input that you requested, you’ll earn a reputation. People will learn to give you shallow feedback or ignore your requests altogether.
Maybe worst of all, you may train people to give you false praise. You’ve got lettuce in your teeth, an embarrassing typo in your report, and toilet tissue on the bottom of your shoe. But everyone knows to just nod and tell you that you’re wonderful.
Critique makes you better. It may not be fun to hear. But you can’t birth greatness inside the vacuum of your own mind. People need people. Great ideas need other great minds.
Come and get your love
The fact that you want encouragement does not make you weak. Your need for praise does not make you a narcissist. These are basic human desires, and nothing to be ashamed of.
What is shameful is when we use manipulative tactics to get those needs met, when we could just go out and get our love.
“Our chief want is someone who will inspire us to be what we know we could be.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson
Look, I’m not here to make you an empowered citizen. If you want to continue to ask for feedback when you really want priase, go for it.
If there is a small part of you that wants to get feedback, when you need it. And get encouragement, when you need it, try this:
If you don’t want to change anything, don’t ask for feedback.
This step takes discipline.
Do you want a surefire sign that you should not ask for feedback? You’re unwilling to change based on the feedback.
Why ask your brother’s opinion about your career plans, if you’ve made up your mind? His thoughts won’t impact your decision. You really just want him to validate your feelings. You’ve wasted your time in asking. You’ve wasted his time in responding.
It’s okay to not want feedback sometimes. So, then, um, just don’t ask for it.
Learn to ask for feedback in non-sensitive areas.
Maybe you are open to feedback, but find it difficult to cope. First, as we’ll discuss below, not everyone should have a chance to speak into your life. Second, you don’t have to open the most tender parts of your life up for scrutiny.
If you want to learn to cope with critique, start with something small. Genuinely request feedback on your new shoes. Not the first chapter of your YA novel. Thank the person for their comments. Apply feedback as needed.
Those lime green cowboy boots weren’t right for the company Christmas party. Now you know. You’ve been critiqued. You survived. You live to write and wear sensible shoes another day.
Avoid cruel people.
There’s a saying, eat the meat and spit out the bone. It’s applied to a lot of situations, including when someone gives you advice. You’re suppose to consume the nourishing part — the meat — and discard the unhelpful part — the bone.
When it comes to cruel people, don’t eat anything. Push away from the table and run.
Cruel people are not out to make you better. They’re out to rip you to shreds.
Mother issues, stress, boredom, whatever the cause, some people don’t critique your work or decisions. They critique you as a person. Their delivery is harsh. They offer no actionable advice. They are just out for sport. Don’t play along.
Find a supportive community.
Need encouragement? Want a hit of praise? You need a place where everybody knows your name. Where you can plop down on the barstool and speak the truth:
- I’m feeling discouraged about this thing at work
- I wonder if I’m making the right decision about the kids
- I’m really proud of this thing that I wrote
- I need to hear a kind word right now
Not everyone can handle this level of honesty. You also don’t want to be this vulnerable with just any Joe Schmo.
Your job is to carefully find the people and communities that get it and get you.
Don’t be a faker. Ask for feedback, and mean it. Ask for encouragement, and mean it. Your future amazing self will thank you for it.
You may be interested in 99 Ways to Build a Life That Stinks: An Anti-Self-Help Journal, available on Amazon (***contains an affiliate link***).