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Unsolicited Advice, Feedback, and Criticism: What's Self-Love Got to Do with It?


Unsolicited Advice, Feedback, and Criticism: What's Self-Love Got to Do with It?

Marina Smerling

People love to give advice.

Whether you want it or not. Whether it's useful or not. Whether they've considered, digested, reflected upon their own triggers, feelings, and needs -- or not.

They love to tell you what's wrong with you, what you should do with your life, where you went astray, and what you "need to do" to get back on track.

Oftentimes, such "help" comes in moments that we're hurting and in need support, we're genuinely wobbly, vulnerable, and in need of guidance. Then comes our friend who generously decides to "speak their mind," and suddenly the mess only gets messier.


The challenge for so many of us, upon receiving the "gift" of unsolicited feedback, is that we genuinely *want* to learn. We want to grow and become the best version of ourselves. We want help in seeing our blind spots. Even if it feels crappy, we choose to wrestle with the other person's words, helping them to land either gently or forcibly in some crevice in our soul.

Alternatively, our defenses rise, and all we know to do is reject the other's words outright. Still, as we do that, it may be half-hearted, as we sense the loss of an opportunity to learn something valuable.

Mercy here.

For how hard so many of us try - to make the other person's words fit, or else to reject them in self-protection.

Yet the solution lies in neither squeezing in an aberrant piece of the puzzle, nor tossing it off the edge of the planet without consideration.

Rather, it awaits us in our bones, beckons us in our outbreath... that age-old trustworthy compass called self-love.

Consider this: If it doesn't help you to love yourself more, forget about it.

Ah, but how quickly the objections arise!

#1: "If we were all navel-gazing in self-love, we would get nowhere! Sometimes we need to be put in our place. If we all just sat around doing what feels good, the world would be in ruins."

Self-love does not mean self-ish. In our most self-loving, we are the most giving. In our most self-accepting, we are by nature the most considerate, compassionate, generous toward others.

It's a lack of self-love, not a surplus of it, that's at the root of the violence of this world. Authentic self-love in our leaders would drop the swords and armor of so many armies to the earth, allowing them to collect millenia of dust there.

May we be so blessed as to live among an abundance of self-lovers.

#2: "Personal growth is supposed to be hard work. You can't learn if you're being too soft on yourself."

Bullshit. Personal growth is liberating, freeing us to experience more love, more pleasure, not less. Where growth is in alignment with our soul, life becomes easier, more full of grace.

Yes, of course, we have our defenses, and peering under the hood at our defended places is at times uncomfortable, not a place we're rearin' to go.

But our defenses rarely hide an unsightly truth.

Rather, they tend to hide something false -- a belief, a misunderstanding, an early-childhood conclusion such as, "I'm not enough." "No one supports me." "I'm alone in this world."

And thus "confronting" our defenses sets us free. As we come to remember that we are enough, that support exists if we open your arms to it, that we are so, so not alone, this world becomes a softer, gentler, friendlier place to inhabit.

Personal growth invites us to relax *into* compassion, not away from it.

#3: "Focusing on self-love will keep you small, stuck, and stagnant. It's blood, sweat, and tears that make you grow stronger!"

Sitting in love, resting here, in the love that is our essential being guides us to what is real more than any fear-based judgment or philosophy. It's love that guides us home, to the relaxed wisdom in our cells that knows how to treat another human being, how to respect life, and how to respond to challenge and uncertainty with grace and an open heart.

While fear-based judgments make our heads spin, contract our muscles into should-based giving, genuine self-love relaxes us into the giving that is our nature -- and our birthright.


Thus our critic, despite their pointed words, their blindness, their floundering around like a bull in the china shop of our soul, unwittingly invites us to love ourselves more.

We must be the translators of their words, however. We must be the discerners of what gets in, and what stays out. And we must - we *must* let self-love be our compass in this endeavor.

Not a desire to be "good enough," not a desire to win their approval, not a desire to belong and fit in and march hand in hand with the Joneses down the street.

No. We must be guided by love, and nothing less.

The next time the pang of unsolicited feedback hits, ask yourself, "How would unconditional self-love respond?"

"Does this piece of feedback invite me to love myself more, or love myself less?"

"Where are the places that I can love myself more upon hearing these words?"

"Can I let self-love alone guide me in discerning what to take in, and what to leave out?"

Because the *only* movement worth making is toward self-love, not away.

You thus just might find yourself saying, "No thank you" to your would-be benefactor, and rather than trying to shove one more "should" into the confines of your overstuffed soul, relaxing instead more deeply into the preciousness that you already are, and always were.


PostScript: If you're the one finding yourself itching to give someone advice, feedback, or criticism, that's the fodder for another memo. But the short version is this: keep it about yourself. The impact of their words and/or actions on *you*, rather than about your labels and judgments of them, which are stale, stagnant, and dead, unlike the life juice of your own internal experience.

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