CRITICIZING YOURSELF MATURELY: A LESSON FROM BLONDIE
Over the course of the last few weeks I presented some lessons that aim to get you to think about immature and mature ways to provide negative criticism to yourself (see CRITICIZING YOURSELF: FIVE LEVELS OF MATURITY and CRITICIZING YOURSELF MATURELY: A COMIC STRIP LOVER’S GUIDE). As I’ve pointed out on many occasions, becoming a master at utilizing the higher levels of maturity takes more than just thinking about them on a single day. It requires some practice utilizing the concepts over several occasions. And so, from time to time, I insert a little practice session to remind you of the previously presented ideas and to give you a little practice utilizing them. Today, we will take a look at a Blondie comic example. There, you will find that after Dagwood gives Blondie a statue she sees as ugly, she criticizes herself. Please take a look at her response to her self-criticism, and see if you think she handled it maturely.
As you think about how maturely Blondie criticizes herself in this comic, perhaps it would be of help to look at the five levels of providing criticism that we discussed earlier:
- This level requires displaying one or more of the following:
- Cries without stating what the crying is about
- Physically attacks the person being criticized
- Damages property
2. This level requires displaying one or both of the following:
- The criticizer does not explain what the offending behavior is, but instead expresses displeasure with glares, insults, shouting, silence, or threats that do not involve bodily harm. (For example, someone might be making too much noise and the criticizer might turn to the noise maker and glare, or cry out, “Jerk!”)
- Threatens bodily harm regardless of what else is said.
3. The criticizer clearly states the criticism with enough detail so the criticized person, if he or she wills, can improve the behavior, idea, or appearance, but couples it with glares, insults, shouts, or threats that are not about bodily harm.
4. The criticizer states the criticism without bodily attacks, damaging property, glares, insults, threats, or shouts, and with enough details so that the criticized person, if he or she wills, can improve the behavior, idea, or appearance. If the person receiving the criticism becomes defensive or angry, the criticizer empathizes without returning, glares, insults, threats, or shouts.
5. When the criticizer provides criticism, he or she does so in a manner very similar to a level four response, but beforehand, the criticizer considers the person who is the target of the criticism, and the situation that he or she is in. As a result of such considerations, the criticizer may decide to alter the criticism.
Now that you refreshed your memory of the five levels, does any one of them seem to match how Blondie criticized herself? Think about this, if you will, and then you can have some fun comparing your thoughts with mine.
My answer: Obviously, what we see is not meant to display Blondie’s whole response, but there is enough here to hazard a guess for our educational goal of familiarizing readers with the maturity rating system.
Blondie frames her feeling as “terrible.” It would be a sign of higher maturity if she conceptualized her experience instead as “sad” and “a valuable emotion that will lead to her thinking more deeply about something very important to her—her relationship with her husband.”
We know from what we see here and from observing her behavior over the years that Blondie is a very caring person. So, perhaps she is the type to be compassionate toward her own limitations. She doesn’t hit herself, so she may not be at level 1. In the last box, she may be crying and this would indicate her response deserves a level 1 rating unless she also displays some set of responses that deserves a higher rating.
When Blondie calls herself insensitive, it comes pretty close to matching level 2. Admittedly, this is a tricky call. One reason for the difficulty is that she might not be really insulting herself at this point. Instead, she might be displaying the process of thinking through the best course of action for herself. That is, she might be laying out for her consideration the value of being considerate.
If she had obviously put herself down by calling herself a rat for example, this response would be easier to rate as a level 2. But the descriptor, “insensitive,” is very relevant to what concerns her about her actions. I like her concern for her husband. I view empathy as a sign of higher levels of maturity.
In the last frame, she is taking some time to deal with her challenging experience. Maybe she is actually using the “sensory focus” technique we recently discussed (see DEALING WITH EMOTIONAL PAIN). “Sensory focus” involves turning your attention to the physical qualities of the pain and observing the sensations you are experiencing. This can convert challenging feelings into a search that leads to ever higher levels of truth.
I think this is where we leave Blondie in the comic we are analyzing. Without being able to discuss this episode with her or to observe further how the events continue to unfold, I’m going to just take a very tentative guess that she is indeed trying to figure out how to respond in a sensitive way toward Dagwood, and that she will not really insult herself. In time, she probably would have displayed a response very close to a level 4 or 5.
Thanks for visiting today. I hope to see you soon.
Some people will enjoy reading this blog by beginning with the first post and then moving forward to the next more recent one; then to the next one; and so on. This permits readers to catch up on some ideas that were presented earlier and to move through all of the ideas in a systematic fashion to develop their emotional and social intelligence. To begin at the very first post you can click HERE.