Oh, criticism. THIS is how I usually respond to the tension of being different. I'm not as likely to get sucked into comparing myself with you or competing with you - my brain moves straight to criticizing.
Me: Well, that person is doing things a bit differently from me. It is causing me to feel an awkward tension. Fix it, brain.
Brain: Stevie, you're awesome. Take this list of reason that person sucks and is doing it wrong - it will make you feel better.
And the other, more common and also more embarrassing to admit, version:
Me: That person does things differently from me. They must be thinking I am wrong. They are criticizing me IN THEIR BRAIN. I don't like the idea that they might, maybe, be silently thinking about all the ways I am wrong.
Brain: Oh, they are so wrong for thinking you are wrong. In fact, you are super right and they are the ones who are wrong. Here is a list of reasons their way of doing things is wrong and not as good as yours. ALSO, please take this additional list of reasons the things you think they are thinking in their brain but have never said and probably aren't even thinking are so totally bogus.
THIS IS MADNESS!
Beyond being ridiculous, this kind of repetetive, negative thinking could be harmful to my brain. It can raise cortisol levels and negatively affect the hippocampus (meaning, increase stress AND make it harder to learn and remember new things!)
When I am imagining another person criticizing me, I might be triggering my poor brain's fight or flight response mechanism and problem solving mechanism. When occupied in this way, my brain can't be expected to process anything else - it is stuck in the consuming activity I assigned it when I IMAGINED someone maybe, possibly criticizing me.
IDIOT! (<-- Self criticism, also unhelpful.)
Criticizing flings me out of my role (the role of being my own dang self) and has the potential to derail someone else as well. It is destructive. It is icky. It isn't who I want to be.
So, what should we do instead? Seriously, I'm asking, what should we do? Your tips and tricks for curbing criticism in your own life are VERY welcome in the comments.
Practical advice from me:
1. Go back to part 2 of this series. You can't remind yourself too often that you were made on purpose, with a purpose, and your purpose is different from the purpose of others and that, too, was done on purpose. (This sentence makes me laugh. Some mean editor would rip it to shreds, but I say "Shut up, mean editor. You don't exist because I am not cool enough to have one of you. I write what I want.")
2. Celebrate. The very instant you catch yourself criticizing someone - or yourself - stop and celebrate the object of your criticism. Out loud, in your brain, via text, or whatever floats your toy sailboat - just celebrate. Celebrate something, anything, about the person. They have great hair. They have a cool spouse who loves them (so they must have some redeeming qualities). They did something cool or said something nice one time. ANYTHING. Derail the critic train. If we do it enough, maybe we'll smash the fool engineer who keeps taking us down these mad tracks.
3. Believe this: It is okay to disagree. Unity does not require uniformity. I am going to spend all of next week's words on this topic because for those of us who swing critical it is SO STINKING IMPORTANT to grasp it and I need to dig deep into it for my own human self.
In the meantime, BE YOU. BE WEIRD. BE AWESOME.