Criticism and Feedback

Why is it so easy to criticize negatively? Why does the negative seem to trump the positive, especially when it comes to self reflection?

After I baked my first bread, I was very disappointed with the way the bread turned out. I kept focusing on the fact that the bread wasn’t as chewy as it should have been, that it did not double in size as it should have, that it just wasn’t perfect. I focused all my attention on the negative.

On a whim I took half of the bread to my class yesterday afternoon and before offering it to my classmates and teacher, I prefaced it by asking, “I am learning to bake, and I want you to give me honest feedback on this. If you do not like it, tell me why. If you think it’s bad, tell me what would make it better…” (Notice how all my questions started with negative assumptions? I only noticed this about myself afterward). They all took a piece, spread some Kerrygold butter that I had brought and sprinkled a bit of Fleur de Sel before placing it in their mouths. I waited and no one said anything. Impatience, one of my unfortunate virtues, propelled me to ask, “Und was denkt ihr?” while they were still chewing. They chewed and left me waiting (obviously they do not suffer from impatience). When they finally spoke, after what seemed like an eternity to me, my teacher said that the flavors were wonderful and asked me what was in it. I told her there were over 20 ingredients including fennel, caraway seeds, cacao, shallots, etc. She said the taste was “Wonderschoen!” When I mentioned that I did not like the crumble of the bread and that it should be chewier, she said, “Ja, es ist ein bisschen trocken aber es schmeckt sehr gut.” Another classmate noted that she loved the flavors and indicated she would buy such breads if offered in a bakery. Another classmate, who stated that she also bakes, said the flavors were perfect. They asked if they could have more, and I was pleasantly surprised and answered, “Bitte schon!” Of course, all this was happening in German, and because of my developing German skills, it’s possible that they told me how awful the bread was and I only misunderstood them (see, there I go again…).

Does everybody do this or is it only me? Why are we so quick to criticize ourselves (and often others) so negatively. How does that serve us? Should we be kinder to ourselves by allowing the positive to trump the negative so that we can be kinder to others? How do we achieve this as individuals? Perhaps awareness is the first step so that the next time it happens, we are better prepared to take immediate steps to alter those negatives thoughts, which often lead to negative feelings and inappropriate behavior. Yes, easier said than done, I know.

Appropriately enough, as I was thinking about my own self-critical nature, a friend sent me a link to Jimmy Kimmels Mean Tweets. Yes, some are funny because of the way the actors are reading them. But, I wonder, are the mean tweets necessarily about the celebrities or do they reveal the insecurities of the tweeters themselves?