song: sequoia by afterlife parade
read time: 5 mintues
i don’t know when it happened — but somewhere along the line i became what i call a “critical” person. i critique everything, almost to a fault. somehow, i always find something that’s wrong with any given thing, object, scenario, or [fill-in-the-blank].
if someone is public speaking, i’ll critique — i’ll find ways they could have made the delivery smoother or transitioned their stories better. if a band is giving a performance, i’ll critique — i’ll find ways their stage presence could have been stronger in order to have a more authentic engagement with the audience. if someone is writing, i’ll critique — i’ll find ways they could have communicated an idea better. if someone has designed something, i’ll critique — i’ll find ways the overall design could be stronger.
there, i said it. now you know, i critique.
i can remember driving home from church one day — my friend had said something about how the speaker did a good job. i agreed. then, said something along the lines of — “i wish they would have cut their story shorter, it didn’t have anything to do with the topic.” my mind froze. i was going at it again. as we kept driving, i processed aloud [which is a common occurrence], “why am i so critical?”
i didn’t have an answer for myself, but it was something that i was beginning to hate about who i was. i did it all the time, and i couldn’t shut it off. my critical thinking was like an assassin, and everything i saw or heard was its victim.
a couple months ago, i heard a story about a tailor. after years of being the best tailor in town, the tailor confessed to his friend “i hate that i am so critical, i find something wrong with everything.” the friend, stood there — shocked that his tailor friend would say this. the shock wasn’t from the fact that the tailor was critical, but from the fact that the tailor was angry with himself for having a quality that he needed in order to be a good tailor. the friend took a minute before responding to the tailor. when he did, instead of condemning the tailor for this character trait — the friend opened the tailor's eyes. the friend explained that in order to be a good tailor, it’s vital to find what is wrong with a pair of pants in order to make them better. the friend explained, “you wouldn’t take a pair of pants to a tailor that couldn’t see that the inseam of the pant was wrong or that the hem of the pants needed to be taken up. you would take your pants to a tailor that could see all the things wrong with the pants in order to make them better – to make them look sharp and fit it’s owner perfectly.”
what the tailor didn’t understand, was the very thing that he had been hating about himself for years, was the very thing that he needed in order to be successful at what he does. he needed to have a critical eye in order to be the best tailor in town. without it, he would be average, if even that.
this mentality changes everything.
my critical thinking wasn’t a curse, it was a tool. i looked back at my habits of critiquing — i wasn’t analyzing and critiquing to destroy, but i was critiquing to make something better, to make something stronger. while there wasn’t always opportunity for me to offer the “make better” solutions to people — i mean, c’mon i highly doubt security is gonna let a redhead stomp her way back stage just because she wants to “help the band with their stage presence” — my mind was preparing and training me for something greater.
all the time i had been critiquing and analyzing was actually making me stronger. it made me a better designer — without it, i wouldn’t have realized what makes a design solid and appealing to an audience. it made me a better writer — without it, i wouldn’t be open to changing sentence structures or different methods of communicating ideas. it made me a better public speaker — without it, i wouldn’t understand the importance of storytelling and vulnerability in order to connect with an audience. it made me a better business owner — without it, i wouldn’t have realized how to build a strong presence and flourish in my industry.
i made a three-fold promise to myself — to stop hating myself for critiquing, to accept my critical eye as a gift, and to put my critiques to good use to make things better.
we’re all human — we all have those little things about ourselves that make us ask, “why am i like this?”
but take time to think. can your little quirk, the thing you sometimes hate about yourself, actually be used to help you succeed?
it’s all about perspective.
we each have unique gifts, talents, and character traits that we have been given in order to help us succeed in bringing our dream into existence. perhaps your quirky fixation is to keep everything in order and have everything cleaned. maybe, it’s not being able to walk away from solving difficult problems or always needing to find a more efficient way to do something. it could be the deep desire to always do something different than everyone else. or perhaps, it’s the need to see everyone around you have fun. or maybe, just maybe it’s the need to have everything around you aesthetically pleasing. the list of little habits and quirks are endless, because, well, we’re all exceptional beings with unique personalities.
the point is this — you were made with intention. nothing about your personality is an accident or a flaw. God isn’t sitting up in heaven thinking, “dang it — i shouldn’t have made jane like this. she’s too much of a perfectionist.” you were designed and equipped with everything you need in order to carry out the dreams and goals you were created to live out.
so, right now. choose to stop. choose to stop questioning who you are, how you were made, and beating yourself up over your personality. instead, begin to see these quirks, habits, character traits as tools that you need and can use in order to help you accomplish the tasks in front of you.
so here it is — the time for your “ah-ha!” moment.
what is the thing you’ve been hating about yourself that you can use and re-channel in order to help you accomplish your dream? if you don’t know what your dream is — perhaps that trait is tied to it and will lead you along a path of discovery.
but whatever it is — make a promise to yourself to use this trait for good and to make life better. because, i promise, everything about you makes sense. make no apologies for who you are. you, and everything about you, has a purpose.