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INFJ Criticism

I can dish it out -- but I can't take it!
                       -Vicky Jo

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Catalysts are very vulnerable to criticism.  And, of course, they get it from all sides:

Everybody has a self-image, a way they want to see themselves to be seen by others.  But Idealists [Catalysts] are devoted to their self-image to a degree other types of character are not.  This is a way of saying that they are more self-conscious, more aware of themselves as objects of scrutiny and sanction than others.  From early on in their lives they seem to grant to others in their circle the right to pass judgment on them, while other types, especially the Rationals [Theorists], reserve that right almost exclusively to themselves.  And the Idealists [Catalysts] take these judgments very seriously. ....[I]f they were not praised and encouraged as children to be true to themselves and were punished or criticized for their strange ways, then they have problems maintaining high self-esteem as adults.

Presidential Temperament, by Ray Choiniere & David Keirsey

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Thanks to the power of our inner critics, most of us have a very poor opinion of ourselves. Yet self-contempt merely keeps us miserable and stuck in our mediocrity.

If we were to make only one change to transform the quality of our lives, we might try sending a little love our own way.

"If you had a friend who talked to you like you sometimes talk to yourself, would you continue to hang around with that person?"
                      -- Rob Bremer

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"A critic is a legless man who teaches running."
                      -- Channing Pollock

"Unkind criticism is never part of a meaningful critique of you. Its purpose is not to teach or to help, its purpose is to punish."
                      -- Barbara Sher

"You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection."
                      -- Buddha

“We tell ourselves so many lies and half-truths ... We listen and are duly impressed by these inner voices that turn into unseen judges that nag at us. We give each of these judges a seat of honor in our minds, all the while hating their guts and their never-ending supply of judgments ... We give the judges permission to accompany us on each journey of life, never daring to realize that we can park them, at least momentarily.” 
                      -- Eloise Ristad 

“The Inner Critic makes each of us a child. As we become the child in our relationships, we lose our sense of self. We are no longer self-contained, self-respecting adults. We look to others for validation. Our self-worth is based upon their opinion of us. Thus, everyone around us becomes a mother or a father whose support and approval is desperately needed to protect us from the constant criticism of the Inner Critic.”
                       -- Hal and Sidra Stone 

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The ironic thing to know for INFJs is that they relish dishing out some kinds of criticism.  So the paradox arises in that they can be downright vicious with criticism and yet are so easily wounded anytime someone criticizes them.  Moreover, they don't spare themselves from criticism -- INFJs are extremely self-critical.  That introverted Thinking in the "eternal child archetype" of the third favored process just loves to sink its teeth into anything it can.

In fact, the best advice I can give an INFJ is to let up on the criticism of themselves, and in so doing, they are likely to ease up on others.  When they ease up on others, it's less likely to come back their way.  This is tied to that old maxim about "what goes around, comes around."  INFJs are most afraid of getting a dose of what they themselves easily dish out.

Here's the ideal quote to help INFJs stay mindful about their criticism:

"Criticism should not be querulous and wasting, all knife and root-puller, but guiding, instructive, inspiring."
                       -Ralph Waldo Emerson

When INFJs take care to convey their criticism in a way that is "guiding, instructive, inspiring," it allows others to hold the criticizing lightly rather than resent it.  And, in turn, the INFJ may begin to treat themselves better too.

Here are Eleanor Roosevelt's thoughts on criticism:

Eleanor Roosevelt believed we all face two kinds of criticism: destructive and constructive.  "To be really constructive, criticism must come to us from people whom we know and whose judgment we trust and who we feel really care, not only for us as individuals, but for the things which may be affected by the actions or attitudes which we take," Eleanor wrote.  "Destructive criticism is always valueless and anyone with common sense soon becomes completely indifferent to it."

You can take control of situations that may open you up for criticism.  You may feel insecure and question your choices, especially when you're under the gun, but you don't need to back down.  Eleanor listened to her critics, sometimes she learned from them, but she never let them stop her if she felt she was right.  You can allow attacks to exaggerate, inflate, and inflame your worst view of yourself, but you can also choose to see attacks as an opportunity to reevaluate your course.  Perhaps you'll make some changes, perhaps your best instincts will be reinforced.  Either way, you will have maintained your control and power over the situation rather than losing faith in yourself.  As Eleanor said, "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent."

-Excerpted from Leadership the Eleanor Roosevelt Way,
by Robin Gerber

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"Develop a skin as thick as a rhinoceros hide!"
                       -Eleanor Roosevelt

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The only gracious way to accept an insult is to ignore it.  If you can't ignore it, top it.  If you can't top it, laugh at it.  If you can't laugh at it, it's probably deserved.
                                                              -Russell Lynes

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As far as giving criticism goes:

Criticism Destroys Relationships

When was the last time someone you were criticizing said, "Gee, thanks"?  Even though the most common cause of criticism is disappointment over unmet expectations, criticism still seems like an introduction to spar.  It does not feel like it is about solving problems together.  Criticism tends to rob relationships of trust.  It undermines love and connection.

When a person does something that rankles you, it may be necessary to mention it rather than letting your feelings fester.  But you will get a better response if you couch the criticism in positive feedback.  This is old wisdom, but we forget because life is competitive and we are in a hurry:  Sugar-coated medicine goes down more easily.  First tell the offender all the good aspects of what has occurred, then mention the offense, almost as an afterthought.  That way he or she will be motivated not to offend again.

It is also important to distinguish between the behavior and the person.  As we've all read in parenting and relationship books, say "me," not "you."  Describe the feeling the person's action stirs up; do not go for the jugular.  For example, say, "It hurts me when you ogle other women," versus, "You disgusting pig."

From time to time it seems convenient to concentrate on other's foibles instead of our own shortcomings, and this may be when criticism occurs. But it's unproductive and unfair to ask the people around us to suffer our misplaced antipathy.  This neither corrects the situation nor mitigates our own hurt.  It just empties our lives of love.  Make sure criticism is merited before you unload it.

Think Like a Shrink, by Emanuel H. Rosen, M.D.

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Never should anyone attempt to correct another person. Instead of correcting, offer another point of view.
                               -Bob McAlpine

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