#MentalMonday: Don’t trap yourself in a cage.

As kids, we explore every nook and cranny. We go places adults tell us not to go. Heck, we RUN toward the areas beyond the boundaries of our cribs, homes, sandboxes, etc. We’re curious, we want to go places… But somewhere along the way, we develop this fear of the unknown. A lot of the time it’s a good thing, ensuring our survival, but sometimes it that can morph into a chain that holds us in place.

For me, continued learning is a huge part of my personal evolution. I might not become world-renowned in an important field, but at least I’ll die knowing that I did what I could to be a better human being and that will hopefully spread to others around me. For this quest to continue and turn out successful, feedback is essential. While you can assess a portion of your situation, every now and again, you need a third party to objectively evaluate if you haven’t deviated from the path.

People who cannot accept constructive feedback are a pet peeve of mine. I’ve asked some people why they have such a hard time accepting criticism and the answer was that it makes them feel ‘less than.’ Many people do not know how to cope with feelings of inadequacy other than denial and aggression.

My workplace is a great source of my social observations. I went back and forth, pondering if I should share some examples on the topic of people not taking criticism well and/or not wanting it, but ultimately decided against it. It doesn’t escape me that I tend to talk more about the negatives of the human race. It’s not because I don’t see or appreciate the positive. It’s because I feel like pointing out the less-than-stellar gives more food for thought than the sunshine and rainbows stuff.

Just the other day, I was talking about this topic with another blogger – some people are just fine where they are. It’s comfortable. It’s familiar. So why bother exploring outside your very own box?

As humans, we are quite proud and rebellious. What do you do when someone tells you that you cannot do something? More than likely, a spark lights up in your eye and you become focused on proving them wrong. Right? No one puts you in a corner! You claw and you fight just to show them that you indeed CAN. While that, too, can be toxic when overdone, it can be a great motivator to push us to new heights.

If we don’t like it when other people tell us we can’t do something, then why are we OK with telling ourselves that we should not push forward?

Why are you OK with locking your ankles and wrists in shackles and chaining yourself to the floor?

Why are you OK with locking yourself in a cage and throwing away the key?

Sure, you might not be able to achieve something at some point, but it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t keep trying something else.

Push beyond the barriers of your body, mind, and soul. The only way to do it is to try, work hard, and use feedback to course-correct.

  • How do you take criticism?
  • Do you give constructive feedback to others?
  • If so, how do you go about it?
  • Do you feel comfortable pushing yourself (obviously within reason)?
  • Why / why not?

Stay golden,

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41 thoughts on “#MentalMonday: Don’t trap yourself in a cage.

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  1. One of the things I really enjoy about your essays is that they make me think about a topic I’ve not perhaps delved into deeply.

    I’ve struggled with receiving criticism. Historically, I take it very personally and it devastates me. Perfection was the requirement, so criticism was the failure.

    I give feedback if it’s asked for. Nobody likes unsolicited criticism.

    I can push myself out of my comfort zone. I don’t always want to. Sometimes, I like my rut.

    One of the hardest lessons for me to learn was that my way wasn’t the only way. I thought that ridiculous since I obviously know best, but there it is. I try to remember that when it comes to criticism.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. I hear ya on the perception that criticism = failure. I think it hits home for many. It’s just what we do with it after the period of self-pity.

      My boss asked me once if I wanted feedback. I like that approach. Although, I was taken aback a bit, because I don’t think I’ve been asked that in the past. People either give it or they don’t. What if you don’t know to ask for it? What if you think you did great, therefore don’t need criticism but that might not be the case.

      Ruts are somewhat comfy. That’s true. They just fit like a glove. RE: my way isn’t the only way – well said. I still struggle with that. Not because I think there are no other ways but because I think that some of the other ways I know of are just sub-par. I recently read about a mother who started delegating chores to her husband and kids. It took her a while to accept ‘their ways’ because they were not perfect, but good enough. Then, I heard someone say that they are learning to accept that their husband unpacks groceries and then puts them in the wrong place. I like their approach. I think it’s much healthier than stressing over the silly stuff. But, what good is it that you unpack if I will have to then move items from spot A to spot B because we are both used to finding those items in spot B? What if the washed dishes are clean enough but then you end up rewashing them because the plate is not smooth? It almost feels like double the work just so I can appear accepting of other ways.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I love that question – do you want feedback. I have a similar question I ask friends sometimes – do you want honesty or support? Sometimes, those are different.

        I like the approach of accepting that other people do it differently, but learning not to “correct” it after they’re done is the big trick. I struggle with that for sure.

        Liked by 4 people

        1. The honesty question used to jar me. In my mind, I’d go back through all of our interactions and think of the potential scenes in which you were not honest (since you didn’t ask me that question then). I’ve learned to just try to focus on the here and now and encourage that person to ALWAYS be honest in the future.

          Liked by 2 people

  2. The moment you stop learning you start dying. Some famous person said that. Point is that staying where you are is never an option. You can either go forward or backwards. Not taking criticism is a great way to go backwards.

    Liked by 4 people

  3. You might like Toastmasters… When they give you an evaluation, they tell you what they enjoyed, and what you might try next time. You get into the habit. It takes some discipline to look at the good and to couch the improvements as “next-times” instead of “wrong” because not only do people hate being told what they cannot do, they hate being told what they have not done.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. How do you take criticism? It depends if it’s intended to be constructive or if it’s intended to be hurtful/judgmental. If it’s constructive, I usually take criticism pretty well and it drives me to improve. I almost always internalize criticism—I recognize my faults when they are spoken aloud.

    Do you give constructive feedback to others? I do. I’ve been a teacher, mentor, and manager for decades—all of those roles require giving constructive feedback.

    If so, how do you go about it? There is no one-size-fits-all approach—everyone receives/reacts to criticism differently, so I try to tailor my approach to their specific needs, unless it’s in a managerial capacity—I tend to be more direct by laying out what the issue is, what the potential solutions are, and what the end goal is. My bestie prefers the rip-off-the-bandaid straightforward approach—no sugar coating…but she is not typical. Most people prefer the sandwich method: throwing the piece of criticism in between praise. I almost always deliver criticism with potential “fixes.”

    Do you feel comfortable pushing yourself (obviously within reason)? Why / why not? I think that’s when I’m MOST comfortable—I’ve always been an overachiever, and I get fulfillment in achieving new things. I aim to impress myself…and that bar is continually reset higher and higher with each new achievement.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. My preferred method is your friend’s, but it’s not very popular with most people. I hate the sandwich method. It makes the good things sound fake in my opinion. I do like the potential fixes approach. I think it’s helpful.

      I’m not surprised by your answers. We’re definitely on the same page here (and not in that limiting cage).

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m generally in agreement—rip the bandaid off, otherwise the compliments aren’t heard/taken at face value. I do like it when potential solutions are suggested, but that’s rarely the case—often when criticism is delivered, folks look to the person who was criticized to suggest solutions—and not everyone can recover quickly enough to think proactively.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. A wonderfully deep and incisive post Sam. One which challenges folk to evaluate.
    A truly good post.

    I’m prickly and will never let go of good grudge (I have ones of 1970s vintages), nor a judgemental opinion. I also do a great line in brooding and can construct mental soliloquies, worthy of a badly plagiarised Shakespearean play or parody of the dire 1950s Angry Young Men writers (self indulgent bunch-grumble, grumble).
    And can poke fun at myself and my own political and social views.

    Moral: If you can’t be mature and accept others views, at least laugh at yourself from time to time.

    (Oh I forgot to mention I’m a 70+ year old geezer- that counts for something….right?…….Can’t think what though….Off-stage call to wife ‘Hey darling, do you remember what I said about ethics the other day?’)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you for such kind words. Making people think and evaluate was the main reason for my creation of this blog. It’s recently evolved to be more of a creative writing place, but I still enjoy coming back to my roots every now and again. I just find it these days to talk about certain things as it seems that so many of those are politicized to a point where people have fixed preconceived notions and it’s not worth picking a fight no one will win.

      1970s? Nice. I mean – not nice. LOL I definitely shortened my grudge life-span, which wasn’t easy. And still isn’t as I love to brood, myself. Having distance toward yourself is SO important!

      70+? I guess something about a dog and old tricks? (that didn’t sound very nice, hmmm…)

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It is important that we try and let go, otherwise the whole durn thing gets carried on from generation to generation with legends invented and handed on.
        These days I try and keep my ‘grudge’ mouth shut and the motivations locked up…..Maybe they’ll wither away.
        Coming up for ten years retirement, I’m hoping to mellow a bit in this stage of my life…
        Mind you…..with so many loudmouths spouting off, and not taking Mark Twain’s advice:
        ‘It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.’ it’s difficult 😀.

        Keep up the good work Sam

        Liked by 1 person

          1. I hear you talkin’ 😀
            It is our right to grumble and complain without prompting or provocation and on whatever subject takes our mind, and it is the duty of those within hearing to stand and listen.
            We’ve earned it, putting up with all that foolishness we didn’t instigate over the years!
            Now what were we talking about?🤔

            Liked by 1 person

  6. I don’t take criticism well at all. I get mortified and feel like the other person just revealed the hatred the entire planet has for me. A lot of it has to do with delivery. Some people make others feel like shit, but I’ve seen others deliver it in such a way that the recipient actually feels empowered to keep trying. But most people suck at delivery.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I might act all unfazed but I am not very good at handling negative criticism of something especially when I thought I feel I put in everything….

    Over the years being a blogger has helped me push past my comfort limits and I have learnt to process criticism objectively; if warranted I can incorporate the necessary changes and if not I am able to say OK but that is not where I was going with this at this here juncture thank you kindly hahaha

    While that sounds easy enough the process might not go about as easy as that I might go off stage for a little, to rant or fume for a bit get somethings off my chest then get back to it like, Right … what were you saying hahaha.

    Likewise I am always sensitive to how a give criticism and dish it out in the way I would hope someone giving me constructive criticism would do it… where you highlight the good and then suggest an idea as a next time try this and then cap it off with a bit more spotlight on what worked…. I think I read somewhere that is called the sandwich approach so that you dont just deliver dose of negatives, it was likely at some toastmasters function too… those guys know the art of giving constructive criticism


    Liked by 2 people

    1. Heh, you internalize it, too, huh?

      I think blogging is great in terms of feedback. While it is only the written word, it means that it can be taken negatively even if it is not intended that way. However, it also gives you the ability to process and react with a delay – gives you time to take emotions out of the question.

      One of the reasons why I don’t like the sandwich in this case is because people have short attention spans and they focus on the good and forget about the bad, rendering the negative part of the feedback completely useless.


  8. I try to look at how I can improve and develop myself, but despite that I think most people are uncomfortable with feedback/constructive criticism. I teach students how to give feedback, and as an academic am regularly giving feedback. My feeling is we’re taught how to give feedback, but maybe we also need to be taught how to receive feedback without becoming defensive or hostile. I wonder, too, how much might be shaped by previous experiences- if you’ve had a person with influence who is negative – a manager, teacher, parent etc.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. What a great perspective!
      I often wonder why we focus only on one side of the equation. We tell people to be sensitive to others and not offend them, but we tend to skip helping people become tougher. Not that being vulnerable is bad, but turning to mush at any sign of a breeze is just not healthy. It continues to erode our mental health instead of build it!

      Same with receiving feedback – well said.

      Previous experiences definitely play a big role. So does the overall mood at the time of receiving the feedback. Sometimes you have room for it and sometimes it just tips over the jenga tower.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t disagree. However, I feel like having to care about people’s feelings takes a lot of my energy that sometimes I might not have. Or sometimes when I do, I go about saying things the long way and then the other person gets annoyed at the indirect delivery. Communication is a lot about tailoring it toward each individual.

      Liked by 2 people

  9. Hi Goldie. I’m still seriously lacking in terms of my stock of round tuits, else I’d spend more time on this. Good to see such engagement in the comment thread (sadly, I didn’t read it all… again, no time).

    On topic: my thoughts are summed up in my post ‘Everything has its place‘ (and its comment thread, which includes gems from your golden self) from a few years ago.


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