Author and speaker Brene Brown talks about how shame stops us from speaking up for ourselves. Shame can also trigger overeating, undereating, body image obsession, and feeling like you’re worth less than other people. These harmful behaviors then create more shame, and a devastating spiral can quickly occur.
On the other hand, you can set a positive spiral in motion when you do things that boost your self-confidence. When you feel better about yourself, you want to keep feeling good and you will be more willing to continue the healthy behaviors.
Unfortunately, negative messages from other people can send us back into a negative spiral. Yet we don’t want to block the feedback or constructive criticism because it helps us to grow. Sometimes loved ones will feel hesitant to give us this crucial information, out of concern that we’re too sensitive to criticism or will take it too hard.
If you tend to perceive all feedback as criticism, Judith Lasater introduces a great tool in the book What We Say Matters. It’s called “emergency empathy,” and it’s something we can draw on in difficult moments to tap into the perspective of where the other person is coming from.
Some people try to see other people’s words as divine intervention – a message from the universe or a higher power. They detach the message from the person giving the message, and that makes it less personal and more neutral, and takes the sting out.
The power of positive criticism
If you get the sense that someone is just unloading their own frustration onto you, then try your best to let that roll off you. Otherwise, aim to use criticism is a catalyst for growth – for doing something better. When I volunteer as a judge for student debate competitions, we’re told not to just say, “That was nice, that was great,” etc. The kids need specific feedback in order to grow and improve, and so do we.
We’re only human. There are going to be days when you’re more tired, you feel overworked, or there is a lot going on, and it will be harder to make use of positive criticism. Most of the time, though, you can strive to turn feedback into valuable lessons for self-improvement – and that will keep you spiraling towards self-confidence and healthy food behaviors.