Opinion: Is it a fear of criticism, of failure, or both?

Home Focus Opinion: Is it a fear of criticism, of failure, or both?

While negative thoughts are a natural (and irritating) occurrence, psychologist Lisa Firestone says we need to handle them with care: they can easily lead to debilitating distress. In particular, she warns against self-hatred or self-doubt. In their place, Firestone suggests a COAL attitude which translates to “curious, open, accepting and loving.”  

   In a piece entitled How Negative Thoughts Are Ruining Your Life, she writes that “harping on negative life events can be the prime predictor of some of today’s most common health problems.”

Writing in Where is God When It Hurts? Philip Yancey includes this unforgettable passage: “It is hard to be a creature. We think we are big enough to run our own world without such matters as pain and suffering to remind us of our dependence. We think we are wise enough to make our own decisions about morality…”
   Public speaker and leadership coach, Sope Agbelusi, uses different words to articulate the same weak positions that men and women try to fight: “To protect yourself from others hurting you, you locked everyone out but at the same time you locked yourself in. All you now have is yourself for company but you never took the time to quieten all those negative voices in your head.”   

A number of online courses and self-help books identify a common enemy that needs to be constantly fought. Others call it the “inner critic.” Some opt for the more common name of “negative thoughts.” The inner critic has the capacity to stop you from reaching a new goal, or following a new dream. It lures you into self-limiting or self-destructive behaviour. The inner critic leaves you stultified!

   Douglas Van Praet writes that “we are profoundly social creatures that evolved to protect: our kin, our tribe, and ourselves.” Jennifer Read Hawthorne reckons that, “we have anywhere from twelve thousand to sixty thousand thoughts per day…80 percent of our thoughts are negative.” Without doubt, negative thoughts are a heavy burden to carry. Their mission is to leave us stressed. Their vocabulary rarely goes beyond “you are lost, lonely, and wrong.”

   Accordingly, Barack Obama says “the best way not to feel hopeless is to get up and do something. Don’t wait for good things to happen to you. If you go out…you will fill the world with hope, you will fill yourself with hope.”

Novelist Barbara Kingsolver argues that, “the very least you can do in your life is figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside the hope. Not admire it from a distance but live right in it, under its roof.”

   “You do not need to know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith and hope,” says Thomas Merton.

Psychologist Joan Rosenberg believes that “we must actively alter the way we construct our inner thoughts – you need to be aware of the distortion, catch yourself using it, and then replace the thought pattern with more constructive and optimistic thinking…when we face a new situation, we tend to apply former outcomes to our present one, and then create over-generalized rules that hold us back from pursuing our next opportunity.”

   Equally important is the need to sift through what other people think about us: “At one time or another, we’ve all been guilty of caring too much about what other people might think. We hesitate to be innovative, creative, or to speak up because no one wants to be told that his ideas suck, or her plan was just a big mistake.”

Is a checklist possible? Entrepreneur Marie Forleo thinks so: “write a list of things that could possibly happen if you said yes to taking on this scary opportunity, include all the worries about criticism you might get from this decision. Next to that list, make another one with all the things that will (and won’t) happen if you decide to play it safe…compare each list and decide which path you’d rather take.”
   It is time to stop negative thoughts from having a field day on our minds.