Standing Steady Between Praise or Blame

“When we find our center and our balance in the midst of these opposites…. we can find our ease and our freedom in the midst of these changing winds.”-Gayathri Narayanan

Photo by Jean-Pierre Brungs on Unsplash

What does standing steady between praise and blame mean to you? How do you respond to praise and blame? Do you crave and seek out praise? Do you resist, ignore, or avoid blame? As an educator and a school leader, I was told to develop a ‘thick skin’ or ‘armor’ when blame and negative comments came my way. Alternatively, I was told to soak in all the praise when it came my way. I was not standing steady between praise and blame. I was being pulled from one end to another, placing my value and worth on other people’s opinions. I have realized that may not be the way to go and there are other options.

Many years ago as a school leader, I received survey results from my direct reports about my performance. When I received the results, I skipped to the few comments that I perceived were negative or critical and read them repeatedly. I ignored the positive comments altogether. I could not move forward to see the opportunity in all the comments and lost sight of the point of the survey. I was blown by the winds of blame and praise, rather than finding the center and listening for the growth opportunity. I was too busy protecting myself and trying to control factors out of my control. I lost sight of the opportunity to process feedback and stand steady.

Is there a benefit to listening to your critics? YES…AND…

I fully understand the importance and necessity of both types of feedback, praise and blame. We need to hear critical comments and have discussions. It is part of our work as leaders and one way we grow and learn. It is the resistance and attachment to these comments that lead us to connect our value and worth to what others think. I believe that when we approach with equanimity, we can reach more clarity. When we see blame or criticism with balance, we are more able to see the true opportunities for change.

These well-intentioned words of advice I received early on in my career relied solely on external feedback, it sent me from one end of a spectrum to another, and most importantly it attached my self-value to what others thought of me. It produced, what I now know as, resistance and craving. I grew resistant and fearful of the possibility of negative feedback or blame and hopeful and desirous of positive feedback and praise. None of which was in my control. I was attaching my worth and value to other people’s comments. Sitting in the middle of praise and blame and not hitching my value to either is powerful and freeing.

Stand Steady with Equanimity: Reflect

  • Identify and label the comment as it comes to you. Is it praise, blame, or something else?
  • Identify what happens to your body when you receive this type of feedback—tension in muscles, change in heart rate, etc.
  • Identify the stories you tell yourself when this feedback comes to you—self-doubt, confidence, feeling connected or disconnected, judgment.
  • Meet yourself with kindness. Free from judgment.

This is not a scripted or perfect practice. This is what I try when I feel swayed in one direction or another. Eventually, I gain awareness that allows me to see an opportunity or to to just let go. 

When we find our center and our balance in the midst of these opposites…. We can find our ease and our freedom in the midst of these changing winds.

Gayathri Narayanan

It will take much time, practice, and awareness to realize this sense of balance, steadiness, and equanimity. It may come and go in fleeting moments. In those moments, I feel freedom, ease, and balance in the wind.