It’s not uncommon for us to feel that we are up against the world, on any given day. On one side there is ‘us’ (i.e. the important ‘Me’) and on the other side there is everyone else. But of course, we are special, and our trusty ego never fails to remind us that we are always right. In fact, in the past I took so much pride in proving to everyone (well those who would listen) that I was always right. I would predict something and eagerly wait for the ‘I told you so’ moment. Or if someone would think that I am wrong, deep inside, my little voice would happily say ‘Whatever! Talk for yourself, I know am right anyway’, whilst I nodded reluctantly. This attitude should give you an idea of my reaction whenever I would face any sort of critical remarks by those around me, especially those who are very comfortable in giving their unsolicited opinions about our behaviour and flaws. Usually they live in the same house- these precious siblings, elders, partners or if you’re lucky, in-laws too, can be surprisingly useful. However, it is important to note that not everything they say should be taken to heart. We must carefully sift through and preserve our self-esteem and good spirits. But if we thrive to improve ourselves, their comments can be useful, because truly the world is our mirror.
All too often, we are very quick to blame others when we are criticised, and it takes some courage (as well as by-passing the ego) to take a step back and give them the benefit of the doubt. In my case for example, I used to get angry/irritated quite often and like most of us, I also freely expressed my anger at home. And although our anger is ‘always’ justified, those around us just don’t seem to understand. So, when I would constantly be told that I have a lot of anger within and that my tone of voice portrays irritation, I continuously dismissed the unappealing remarks. This kept going for years until the seed of transformation was ready to sprout. Transformation is inevitable, with the arrival of Swami G in our lives and He helps us see ourselves in a better light.
Things then started to change. One fine day, I decided to (quietly) accept that maybe the other person was right after all (I hope he doesn’t read this post!). Maybe I should be more mindful. And gradually, looking into my flaws one after another, I started being more mindful about my tendencies of anger, procrastination, carelessness (and many others in the endless list). Then a realisation dawn upon me. The criticism we are faced with in our outer world is often a mirror of our inner world. And each piece of not-so-nice advice can be a catalyst towards our growth, if we don’t take it personally. If we look at it from the perspective of polishing ourselves to have a clearer image in the mirror, it can be rewarding.
If those around us are constantly reminding us about our habits of anger and irritation or our lack of truthfulness or that we are constantly restless, they could be right. Very often, nature is trying to reach us through these remarks to guide us into self-transformation but unfortunately our egos interfere. Our resistance towards change and feeling ashamed to admit to our flaws, I believe are some of the biggest hurdles towards becoming the person we aspire to be and make the world a better place.
I realised that there is great benefit in accepting criticism from others. In this acceptance, and careful analysis of the seed of the criticism, we are given an immense opportunity for change. If we give our best attempt to perfect ourselves and wilfully work on our tendencies as and when they present in our lives, then life becomes a game. As we keep working on ourselves, the bigger picture of our true nature becomes clearer.
Whether we are dealing with anger, carelessness, sincerity- the basis of transformation remains the same. We must first be willing accept that we may be wrong, thereafter we can carefully and mindfully work on improving ourselves moment by moment. With the mindfulness of speech as well as the guidance of our Om Swami, we can surely rise above fits of anger or any tendency. And as He rightly said (here), with regards to anger, it could help to record ourselves when angry and re-listen to our piece of art. Or if the mindfulness is present, we can even postpone our anger-event to a future date.
And if those around us constantly state that we should be more caring, perhaps they are right. If we take comments from our friends and family as prompts to perfect ourselves, we stop taking things personally and gradually, a deep sense of peace engulfs us. So, if I hear any of these statements (or you may have heard other more beautiful statements…), I genuinely try to see if there is truth to any of it.
“You have a lot of anger within you. Go fix your attitude.”
“Pay attention to your tone of voice. Why are you so harsh when you talk to me?”
“Why are you always so negative!?”
“Please, watch what you are doing. Be more careful.”
“Why are you so nice to others? But at home you are the devil incarnate!”
Of course, I am in no way stating that we must put up with constant criticism which shatters our self-esteem, at all. We should stand up for ourselves wisely. But sometimes, those who truly want the best for us, do show us the mirror of our actions through their words. So it may take some practice and careful analysis to reach the core of the matter. Before dismissing critical remarks, it may be beneficial for us to contemplate and ask ourselves whether there is any truth to these. If we analyse sincerely and detect any truth, the journey of transformation begins. But keep it quiet, the other person doesn’t need to know s/he is right. Just kidding.
Sometimes we ought to let our success (in transforming ourselves) make all the noise. And when your loving household experiences deep peace in your presence, don’t worry, they won’t praise you. They’ll even pretend they didn’t notice anything. But at least you will be happy and fulfilled, with an arrogant smirk on your face! It’s worth a try- but without the arrogant smile:)