People who tend to blame themselves when something goes wrong or when something is challenging, oftentimes take in too much feedback. As we discussed in our last blog, it’s important to be open to feedback (especially during therapy) and really try to see yourself in ways you haven’t before.
However, it’s possible to be too open to feedback or taking all feedback so seriously that you let it define you.
Let’s talk about the negative impact this can have and how to fix it.
Taking in too much feedback and letting it make you feel like you are always at fault for everything can come from experiences early in life, especially when trauma was present. If you’ve always been told what you are doing wrong or how you can be better, then you may come to think of all feedback as a finger pointing at you and placing blame on you.
But the truth is, feedback is not always negative and doesn’t require taking on blame. Feedback is a tool that can be used to help you critically think about situations or behaviors from a different perspective. You may come to the conclusion that you just didn’t understand something because you were viewing it differently.
Your therapist is trained to provide feedback in a way that is beneficial to you and will help you understand things from a different perspective. Once they get to know you, they will know how to deliver feedback in a way that is easier for you to receive.
However, outside of your therapy sessions, you may have other people in your life offer feedback that may not be beneficial or maybe not delivered in a helpful manner. Knowing your circle of friends and family, and where you can receive clear and helpful feedback is important. You don’t have to listen to what everyone has to say about the challenging situations you are facing because everyone will not understand you or the situation, or how to give objective and supportive feedback..
So if you are receiving feedback from unhelpful sources and it is triggering negative emotions or making the problem worse, it might be helpful to take a step back and remind yourself that all feedback is not good feedback and refrain from internalizing it.
The Square Squad
Brene Brown is a research professor, lecturer, author, and podcast host who has spent the past two decades studying courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy. In her book, ‘Daring Greatly’, she talks about the struggle people face when they are negatively judged by others and how you shouldn’t stop caring what people think BUT you shouldn’t let what they think define you.
She suggests having a ‘square squad’. This is when you take a one inch by one inch piece of paper and write as many names as you can of people who truly care about you, will give you honest feedback and want what is best for you (This is a really small space and you won’t be able to fit a lot of people’s names on it…that’s the point, this group of people should be small). Then you use the square squad to help you work through any negative feedback you receive from other people. If someone gives you feedback that hurts you, confuses you or makes you feel like you are the problem; share it with someone in your square squad and ask them if they feel the same way.
“Too much criticism can paralyze you from creating the life you want. But to work in a vacuum cuts you off from valuable insights that could make all the difference. Look for a happy balance of feedback and execution and you’ll find it easier to go after what you truly want in the world.” (Medium.com |PERSONAL GROWTH |Brené Brown’s “1×1 Index Card” Trick Could Permanently Boost Your Confidence And Focus – Find your “square squad” and hold ’em close; Nick Wolny, August 30, 2021)
Sharing with people that you trust keeps you from automatically taking feedback from others to heart, and helps you to understand it and determine if it’s true or helpful.
The responsibility is not all on you.
Taking on too much responsibility
Sometimes it can be harder to accept that you are not always responsible when something bad happens. When something goes wrong you may tend to think about all the things you could have done or should have done that would have made the situation better. You may feel like somehow you should have done better, that you are responsible.
When you get feedback that is not positive or not what you want to hear, it can bring you down and make you feel like you are responsible. Allow yourself to think through the feedback first, and not automatically feel responsible or that you are in the wrong.
Look at the context around the feedback because there may be other things that are off. Sometimes personalities just clash and someone may give you feedback based on a personality trait they possess or they may just not understand your personality and your behaviors. For instance, some people are very literal and they see everything through a lens that is black or white. Maybe you see things in a spectrum and are more flexible in your perspective. The feedback you receive from this person who has an opposite personality from you will be based on how they perceive things, which may not be aligned with your beliefs.
It’s also possible that others are projecting, or attributing their own thoughts or feelings, onto you when giving feedback. “Through projections, we communicate “You” statements directed at others that are actually intended for us. Simply, we are not willing to take personal responsibility, and therefore, we blame the other person(s). It’s as if we are an actual projector – a machine – re-presenting our experience onto a screen – the other person.” (AbigailStason.com | TURN OFF THE PROJECTOR WHEN COMMUNICATING AND GIVING FEEDBACK)
This is when it can be helpful to use your square squad to see if maybe someone is projecting or if there is actually a problem you need to address.
There are so many things that can contribute to how you take in feedback and why that feedback is given in the first place.
It’s important to take the time to really think through how you process feedback, when you need to take action and when you need to cut yourself some slack. If you feel that you take in too much feedback or you don’t handle feedback well, contact us and let us help you develop a positive way to handle it going forward.