Do you ever get the feeling that you are not good enough and that it doesn’t matter what you do because someone else is doing it better, has done it first or they have an opinion about what you are doing? The disappointment of not meeting your own, or a loved ones expectations can be difficult and lead to less than positive feelings. I was so sensitive to others opinions of me that it didn’t matter whether it was at work, dating, in my relationships or even getting fit and going to the gym. I would wonder what other people were thinking and I’d always try to please others first. This led to me to taking everything personally.
If someone commented about how I was going home early from work, or if my nan mentioned that I was still single, I would take it to mean something about how they thought of me. I did this with many things. If I heard a reference to my weight or not meeting expectations at work, not to mention looking at myself in the mirror or not meeting my own expectations of myself, this would trigger me to think that I was doing something wrong or not doing enough. I’d usually feel guilt, shame or sadness. I began to use those negative emotions as a reason to eat unhealthy foods, or stay home and avoid social occasions, which did not help.
Many people have encountered disapproval from a colleague, friend or loved one at some point, whether it’s a boss pointing out failing performance, not meeting health goals, forgetting a friend’s birthday, or not having the best first date. The ability to keep in perspective and to transform these moments into feedback that trigger growth and learning, has made a massive difference in helping me to grow beyond the constant feeling of “less than” and to be able to value myself more and take things less personally.
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“The first step to solving a problem is admitting there is a problem to be solved” Pete Seeger
We are always growing and changing and there will always be challenges that show up in life. The key is in how we choose to show up in our own lives. Learning to reduce reactions and increase our ability to respond and grow from challenges, can be one of the best ways to overcoming disappointments faster and not take things so personally. When we’re on the receiving end of feeling criticism, a great goal to remember in those moments, is to learn from the feedback, and not let emotion close our minds. The idea is to be proactive, not reactive.
Stop & take a moment to get in perspective
When we react with emotion, sometimes we might say or do things that we later regret, creating a bigger problem. It can be valuable knowing if something is being said as constructive feedback that can help you to learn, or if it’s being said with a negative intention. Stopping and taking a moment can really help to gain more clarity about this. By taking a breath to look in on the comment or thought from a different perspective, can help to separate you from the initial emotional reaction and allow space for reflection and feedback.
Ask yourself if it’s a one time piece of feedback or whether it has happened before. For example, if someone is commenting on you being late for work, is this a one time occasion or does it happen often? If there is a pattern, while it may be difficult to hear or recognise, it can be valuable to know about it. If someone is commenting about it, they are possibly giving you a clue as to what is important to them. Time may be really important to one person and less important to another person.
Knowing what is important to people (and to yourself) helps you to understand them and yourself better. In work situations it can help you stand out and contribute more to a colleague or boss through focussing on what they value. In your relationship it can really help to create a stronger bond with your partner by having a better understanding of what’s important to them. This can be important in any area of life where interacting with others is valuable to you.
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Talk directly to the person involved
Have you ever noticed how information can get more and more distorted, or even create a problem that wasn’t there, the further along the grape-vine it goes? For example, if one person makes a comment about something you’ve done at work and tells someone else in the office rather than to you, how would you feel? If someone has a problem with something that you said or did, while it may be more uncomfortable initially, it is a lot better to get accurate feedback when you speak direct with the person involved. Finding out directly from the person involved what the problem or feedback is, limits the number of people involved which makes it more simple to deal with, whilst also giving you the opportunity to respond with more accurate information or to take responsibility and grow from the feedback.
What to focus on so you don’t take things so personally
In the beginning when I was taking every bit of feedback personally, I constantly thought that I was a bad person, less-than or not good enough, which would lead me to eat less than great food, feel demotivated or do other behaviours that weren’t great for me or helping me in any way. A friend of mine suggested that instead of taking things so personally, I could separate myself from the feedback and look in on it as data. Like when your smart phone is asking to do an IOS upgrade.
The phone doesn’t think that it’s not good enough, rather it has an opportunity to update it’s programming with new data Thanks to improvements made and growth from feedback, I started to look at all feedback as an opportunity to grow and learn from updated data that perhaps I wasn’t aware of before, or that I wasn’t prioritising. That’s when I could choose to feel bad or choose to grow. I soon found that appreciating and incorporating the feedback was a lot faster and more valuable than losing minutes, hours or days feeling bad about a situation.
When a child is learning to walk, they take their first step and usually fall over. They get up and have another go, improving each time and keeping on going until they can walk step after step without having to think about it. We are the same when we learn new things and when we get feedback. By doing it again and again, it becomes an automatic behaviour. There is no reason to take the feedback personally when all it is, really, is updated information that we can use to grow and improve.
What people are saying about Emotion Academy:
"After many years of training, courses, and counselling in various forms I thought I had certain aspects of my life sorted. Yet completing Emotion Academy showed me that I had been running away from my emotions and not facing them. After Emotion Academy, now I have the tools to engage with myself and win the internal battles once and for all - Neil Welsh, Victoria
Feedback is just an opinion
The great thing about feedback is that it is only an opinion and not a fact. It is another person’s opinion regarding your performance or your opinion of yourself and that doesn’t mean that it’s true. If the feedback is not accurate then taking it personally is a waste of time and emotions. In those cases it can be better to move on from it as quickly as possible. Ask someone whose opinion you trust if you are not sure if it’s accurate data. Who is someone that support you 100% and who is someone who has good perspective of themselves or who receives feedback in a practical and constructive way? Ask them for their opinion so that you can learn the difference between when it is accurate data and inaccurate opinion.
I used to have inaccurate opinions of myself quite a lot of the time. I would want everything to be perfect and not accept that maybe that was an unrealistic expectation. I was constantly disappointed in myself and not recognising the moments where I was improving. By separating yourself from the opinion and getting second opinion, you can update your perspective on yourself and what you are capable of.
If you are asking for a second opinion, it’s good to be aware of being open to receiving the feedback, even if it is not what you expected. If you want to grow and get better from your experiences, sometimes you will need to hear and learn to receive feedback that might not match your expectations. Be aware of your internal state when you ask for feedback so that you can receive it as a positive tool to help you grow.
Melisa Grigg - Head Coach & Trainer
Melisa was stuck in sadness for 15 years, hated her job, was overweight and her relationship had just ended. Melisa inspires people with her story and now teaches how she sorted her life out. She worked out how to be happy and how to lose over 30kg of body weight. In simple steps she teaches how you can stop procrastinating, find confidence, stop being so sad and finally start to find true meaning and purpose in your life.
Find ways to turn negative feedback into a positive
If you receive a negative feedback, turn it into a positive one. Think of it as a way for you to improve and be better in what you do. Appreciate that the person giving the feedback may not want to be giving it, and that they may wish the best for you and for you to improve as a result. To increase the quality of feedback,include both positives and stretches, as we grow through doing what is a step beyond us. Don’t just focus on the positive, don’t just focus on the negative. Instead, through receiving and incorporating both positive and negative feedback we can grow in a more balanced way.
For example, the first time I made a birthday cake it didn’t work out so well, but instead of thinking that I was terrible at making cakes, I found 2 things that I did well. I followed the recipe and cleaned up as I went. Then I found 3 stretches that I could do better next time. I could be more accurate with weighing each of the ingredients, I could put the oven on sooner and I could set the timer so that I was more prepared for when to take the cake out of the oven. Overall it was a good first attempt. I kept doing this each time I made the cake and I recently made this cake again, not even needing to think about the process because I had done it so many times already. It turned out awesome and I still gave myself some feedback.
When we accept feedback, apply it, grow and move forward, not only do we benefit, but others also benefit from our example. These days I find it so much easier to take on feedback and to make the changes that I’d like for myself. By consistently applying the above steps, I have seen myself grow so much in being able to communicate better with others, improve my relationships and add even more value at work. I’ve even improved my health by learning to receive the feedback my own body is giving me, and to improve each time I go out for a run. I definitely don’t take feedback so personally anymore, and in fact, I have a little fun with it, celebrating my successes and noticing how far I’ve come just by improving this one thing.
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