Overcoming the Power of Criticism
- by Gina Parris
“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” –childhood chant
Will was in his second year pitching at a famous Division-1 University. Long gone were the days when baseball was “fun,” but this particular day took his breath away. His coach had called him into his office. Not sure what to expect, he was stunned when the coach raised his voice and rambled on about what a “mistake” it was to bring Will to the program. The sophomore’s heart began beating hard in his chest as he stood there, looking at a coach who seemed nearly crazed.
“This doesn’t make sense,” Will thought through the tirade. He had more appearances than the other pitchers. His performance was consistently strong. He hadn’t even MADE a recent mistake, so why was his presence suddenly a mistake?
“Why is he saying these things?” he wondered. He tuned back in to hear that phrase again.
“Bringing you here was just a MISTAKE!”
The words pierced his heart and turned his stomach. He left the office filled with anger and resentment. What was he supposed to do now? He was still on the team, still expected to save games, but with the sickening notion that he was unwanted.
His mind went back to his high school career. Those were the days! He had the highest strikeout record in his whole state. He thought about all the attention he had gotten just a few years earlier. What great offers he had received. He thought coming to this program would be a dream come true. Now it turned out it was just a dream gone bad.
Every athlete has moments that lodge in their psyche. They have memories that exhilarate and inspire. They have memories that bring grief. As a child we recite the saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me!”
Oh if only that were true. In reality, the memories of critical words have a HUGE impact on millions of people. Grown men recall with anger hurtful words that were spoken to them in childhood. Athletes remember the “boo” of a crowd, or the demeaning words of a coach. The experience can be so painful that a person will do anything to avoid being criticized again. That is where the fear of criticism has derailed many with great potential.
You can rise above any words.
You see, we cannot change the words that were spoken to us, but we CAN change the meaning we give to them. We can change the impact they have on our reality. In fact we can do that regarding things that were said in the past, and any words that may be spoken in the future. Knowing this fact will free you from the fear of wondering, “What will people SAY?” That freedom alone will empower you to play miles above the average player.
How might you do this? Try these three things:
1. Separate yourself from the talker
2. “Remix the soundtrack” of their words
3. Offer acceptance or forgiveness
SEPARATING YOUR SELF FROM THE TALKER:
Imagine you are looking at a person trapped in their own shackles. Have you ever seen pictures of slaves who had a ball and chain around their ankle? What if the ball and chain were around their neck? What if that chain was long enough for them to whip that ball over their head like a lasso, and throw it around you until you were caught in their chain too? You would be bound to them, in a most uncomfortable way!
On some level, that’s what happens when we let someone’s angry words impact us. Obviously we don’t let that happen consciously. That’s why you want to separate yourself from the talker – so you are not caught into the chains of their own personal issues.
The first thing Will did to separate himself from his angry coach was to consider the source. His coach was still a rookie, trying to prove himself against a losing record. He knew his job was in jeopardy if he couldn’t get these amazing players to win more league games. Obviously the coach was pitiful at motivating the players, but watching him implode from pressure was NOT Will’s problem.
Jim Rohn used to say that we don’t see things as they really are; we see things as WE really are. The fact that Will’s coach was always seeing the worst in everything was more a reflection of himself than his players. Knowing this helped Will to relax and drop the chain connecting him to the memory.
“REMIX THE SOUNDTRACK” OF THEIR WORDS
Words have a frequency. Music has a frequency. Everything you see, touch and feel is really just energy vibrating at a certain frequency. When you hear something coming at you that is upsetting, it’s a good time to remix the frequency! You can do this by going back to the memory and mentally manipulating the pitch, the volume, the sound, the size, the image -whatever you want from the original scene.
It’s true that you can’t change the past. You CAN however, change the meaning you give to past events and that will change your reality.
Here’s part of what Will did to remix that unsettling soundtrack:
-First he mentally relived the fateful moment in the office. He purposefully re-lived it clearly enough to raise his current anxiety to a level 10 on a scale from 1 to 10. Perfect! Then he consciously accepted his own anger and emotions.
-Next, while tapping on his chest to feel the vibration of it, he used his imagination. Remember, your subconscious mind does not know the difference between events that were real or imagined. It just tries to protect you based on all its known and felt.
So, while remembering his angry coach at the desk, he saw coach shrinking, shrinking to the size of a mouse while Will calmly towered over him. He could barely hear his coach’s mouse-like voice screaming, “mistake, mistake, mistake. Bringing you here was just a mistake.”
In the memory Will was already hugely successful and the coach seemed curiously comical. He continued with different images, colors, sounds until the event was laughable. By the end it was impossible to remember the original experience with any pain, and the memory had no power on Will’s performance.
OFFERING ACCEPTANCE AND FORGIVENESS
When people criticize us, it is easy to become angry at them for making us feel a certain way. The truth is that no one really has the power to make us feel terrible, unless we give it to them. When we separate our self from the talker there are usually two people to forgive: ourselves and them.
This forgiveness is NOT an elaborate spiritual process. It is mostly a statement of acceptance and release. Some example statements might go as follows:
1. “I forgive myself for feeling so upset.”
2. “I forgive The Talker for doing the best he knows." (You would use their name.)
Anytime we walk in forgiveness, we strengthen our personal power. It does not mean that we are condoning past actions that were bad. It means we give up our right to punish for them. Spending our own energy trying to punish ourselves or others is exhausting. It creates a conflicted state, and conflict is the opposite of flow. When you walk in the steps we’ve just covered, you will powerfully free yourself from the fear of criticism. When you do, you will break through to the next level of your game.
What happened after Will took these steps to deal with the criticism? He felt immediately free and empowered. Interestingly, a few days later his coach followed him off the field to say,
“You know Will, you really do have what it takes to be an outstanding major league pitcher!”
Now, changing your reaction to another person does not guarantee that they will become nicer, but it does make your life more peaceful. The important thing is to know that you can handle any criticism that may come your way – past, present, or future. It never has to hinder your performance.
At the time of this writing, Will is on track to do quite well in the next MLB draft. He is playing for a program he loves, and baseball once again brings him joy.
How about YOU? What words of criticism rattle around in your head? How would you be different if you were free from the power of those words?
If you would like to get the book that explains more of how to MASTER YOUR ENERGY on and off the field, than please check out my Flow On Demand. You can purchase it for instant download right here: FLOW ON DEMAND – The Athlete's Edge
Until next time, keep playing hard and enjoy your game!
I'm in your corner,