Monday, July 15, 2024

The Primal Instinct of Criticism

By Genno Gabriel Rabaya | September 14, 2023

Elbert Hubbard once said, “To avoid criticism, say nothing, do nothing, be nothing.”

Dating back to the Paleolithic age, primitive humans were primarily geared to be more instinctively aware of danger and discomfort as a defense mechanism. As writer Nigel Nicholson put it, humans have a fight-or-flight instinct that hardwires them to look out for danger better than spot comfort and stay alive from peril.

This function eventually evolved into a sense of hyper-awareness toward critiques in modern times. Rather than finding comfort in praise, humans tend to possess the common habit of focusing more on negative judgment. 

But would that explain why we are so bent on allowing ourselves to simmer in criticism more than positivity?

Being human means facing criticism. In many aspects of our lives, we constantly hear comments on ourselves from anyone.

As children, our parents criticize us on our studies, the friends we make, the food we eat, and who we are as people. Deep down, we know they mean well, but we sometimes can’t help but feel hurt.

As students, we expect to receive criticism for every bit of our work, papers, performances, articles, and outputs. Though we privately shed blood, sweat, and tears through countless sleepless nights, at the end of the day, all that matters are the digits that grade our performance. 

In my experience, when I stepped on the Mr. Hibalag stage, I championed my advocacy under the banner of the Kapunungan sa mga Mass Communicators. It was then that I realized how hard it was to put myself out there, allowing every critique to be thrown at me because I knew what I signed up for. I signed up for criticism because of how I look and dress. I signed up for criticism for how I put my advocacy into action. I signed up for criticism for every photo posted, outfit worn, and answer I gave out. 

Subjecting myself to a lot of judgment eventually took a toll on me. 

I couldn’t focus on how well I was doing because all that was in my head was the exasperating worry of what everyone would think of me—rather, what everyone could criticize me on.

We allow ourselves to simmer in negativity rather than the praise and positivity we get. The compliments will always fall on deaf ears when we hear a single negative comment.

We allow ourselves to be judged on our leadership styles.

We allow ourselves to be judged on our art and beauty.

We allow ourselves to be judged on our intelligence.

We allow ourselves to be judged on our humanity.

In an era where comments from people we barely know run rampant, it is best for us to take the time to pause and pull ourselves out of the boiling pot of negativity. We don’t have to let ourselves be ruined by one negative comment because, in the end, it doesn’t even matter. 

To be human means braving endless criticism of ourselves—but we should never give it the power to dim our light.


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