Check your Critic

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Theodore Roosevelt

This remains one of my favorite quotes, although I often interpret “the critic” as the critical and negative voice in my head. We all have it, some of us are better at ignoring it, while others have learned how to channel the voice into a positive force. Internal or no, it helps to calibrate, to check the validity of the criticisms. Hear one perspective too long, and we begin to think it is the truth, no matter how false.

Ask others for their opinions or feedback. When possible, find objective methods for evaluation. It may be worse than you think, but it could be better, or different. You may never find the truth on your own, and risk wasting time and energy on delusions.

Several years ago, I hurt my adductor (groin area). Everything seemed to aggravate the injury. I began to assume that I would have to stop all lower body exercise until it went away. As the pain worsened, I began to worry I’d need surgery. Finally, I sought physiotherapy. They helped me realize that old assumptions about stretching were preventing me from healing, and that I could address many, if not all, of the causes. After wasting a year, I experienced immediate relief. The pain can return when I slack off, but nothing like before.

The suffering I endured was unnecessary and detrimental.  Injuries are rather obvious examples, but the theme exits for every perspective you hold. No one has a perfect grasp of reality, but we can crowdsource effective representations.

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