Growing Into Our Humanity, Part 2: The Myth of the “Bulletproof Life” | Steve's Quest: The Animated Musical Web Series

Growing Into Our Humanity, Part 2: The Myth of the “Bulletproof Life”

Once upon a time, my goal was to lead a life that was completely criticism-proof.  Once I had the “right” job, credentials, relationship, and so on, no one would ever accuse me of falling short in any area.  I’d get nothing but respect from everyone I worked with and knew.

Of course, this plan didn’t quite pan out.  As wonderful as my job and education may have looked to the world, and as hard as I worked, there would always be someone who’d come up with ways to find fault with me — whether it was a client, boss, intimate partner, or someone else.

“Spiritual Bulletproofing” Didn’t Work Either

So I tried another approach.  I decided that, instead of trying to create a life no one would ever criticize, I’d make myself immune to criticism.  I’d find some spiritual practice, or personal development tool, that would help me grow a skin so thick that nothing would ever get through.

Unfortunately, this didn’t work either.  As it turned out, no amount of meditation, going to men’s groups, forcing myself to do scary stuff, or anything else completely took the sting out of people’s jabs.  It became clear that, probably, I was never going to feel completely okay with getting ridiculed, condescended to, and so on.

This seemed like a depressing discovery at first.  But eventually, it led to a valuable realization:  If there will always be people who criticize me, and I’ll never be 100% “zen” about it, I might as well just do whatever I want with my life.  How liberating it felt to give up my painful quest to build a “bulletproof life,” or numb myself to the pain of people’s putdowns, and just live the way I wanted.

It’s Okay To Get Hurt

This points to an area where a lot of personal development ideas, in my opinion, go astray.

On one hand, so many tips and tricks out there are meant to help us avoid criticism — ways to ask questions in a job interview to make sure we don’t get rejected, things to say when talking to the opposite sex to make sure we don’t get “shot down,” how to deliver a presentation that won’t bore anyone, and so on.

On the other hand, on the more “spiritual” side of personal growth, we see many practices intended to get rid of the “ego” — the part of us that gets attached to our status, relationships, possessions, and so on.  Once the ego is cut down to size, the thinking goes, we won’t get offended or hurt so easily, and we’ll feel blissful even as our significant other is yelling at us.

Unfortunately, I think, neither of these approaches can get us what it promises.  There will always be people out there who can hurt us with things they say.  Getting hurt in that way, and in other ways, is just part of the human experience.

I’ve come to believe that self-growth, in its highest form, is about accepting that we’re nothing more, and nothing less, than human.  No matter how developed or enlightened we become, we’ll never be fully rid of our neuroses, hangups, and sensitivities.

The big paradox here is that, the more I accept that getting criticized and hurt once in a while is just part of life, the less I’m bothered by things people say, and the freer I feel to forge my own path.  Living is much simpler and easier when I can embrace my humanity, in all its perfect imperfection.

13 thoughts on
Growing Into Our Humanity, Part 2: The Myth of the “Bulletproof Life”

  1. Patricia

    “I’ve come to believe that self-growth, in its highest form, is about accepting that we’re nothing more, and nothing less, than human. No matter how developed or enlightened we become, we’ll never be fully rid of our neuroses, hangups, and sensitivities.”

    Chris this is so spot on and I just so enjoyed reading this segment of your article… I was so criticized in my life by parents and teachers, I just cringe when I hear the word LAZY, and I went through feeling superior when I learned about dyscalcula and that meant the other was ignorance on their part – but I kept on working harder and harder to prove I was just as smart and just as capable. what did it get me = illness.

    To be human is a powerful thing and we desperately need diversity in our humanness to create a just and wonderful world.

    Thank you for you good insights and sharing.

  2. Sara

    Chris,

    Your posts are always so full of wisdom. I love reading them. This one was good to read. I used to so sensitive about criticism, especially regarding writing. I’ve written all my life — stories, journals, poems, etc. For ages, I would show anyone my work for fear I would be criticized or it would be rejected.

    With blogging, I’ve found a freedom I never had before and as I began to explore more creative writing ventures, I am slowly recognizing the value of criticism, when it’s constructive. I’m also better at just ignoring the nonconstructive criticism. It still scares me when I put up a creative fiction story, but I’m more willing to take a chance.

    Part of that is due to people, like you, who give me these wise words to absorb and learn from. I really do appreciate your wisdom and thank you for sharing it:~)

  3. Chris - Post author

    Hi Patricia — that sounds like valuable awareness to see that you’ll sometimes work really hard for the sake of not being called lazy or criticized in some other way, as opposed to working to get what you actually want. I imagine that help to free you to pursue what you actually want to do.

  4. Chris - Post author

    Hi Sara — thanks, I’m glad this post was valuable to you. I can definitely relate to being reluctant to show my work to people, and I’m glad to hear you’ve been taking risks with the writing you put online.

  5. Anita Sanz

    Chris…this was such an excellent post! I’ve learned over the years that when I receive criticism from someone, about 10% of what they say has a “kernel of truth” that I need to listen to or evaluate, and the other 90% tells me more about the person criticizing me than it does about me. It’s never easy to hear criticism, but sometimes it can be helpful to learn something about yourself you didn’t know before…and how else are you ever going to learn it? Thanks for posting this!
    Anita

  6. Jason from Skyward

    Chris,

    First time here man, found you from the Change Blog. Love what you doing….great vibes!

    What I love about this post is how you address the paradox of non-attachment vs “real life”. I think the key is in understanding that nothing anyone else does or says can add or detract from our innate value….ya know?

    Great Post Chris, I’ll be back!

  7. Hilary

    Hi Chris .. it’s that realisation .. that everyone is like me .. and therefore we all have foibles and none of us is perfect .. I love Patricia’s and Sara’s comments .. this is what is so valuable about being on line and connecting – is that we learn so much from others, and about ourselves .. the links, ideas and general support push us in appropriate directions — if we’re willing to accept.

    Great – thank you .. Hilary

  8. Chris - Post author

    Hi Anita — good to meet you, and I apologize for the delayed response — I seem to have had the urge to take a blogging sabbatical. I think I’ve had an experience similar to yours when it comes to criticism — for me, it hurts for a while when the criticism reaches into an area that people’s critiques of me haven’t “explored” before, but I think feeling that hurt, for better or worse, is the way to grow.

  9. Chris - Post author

    Hi Jason — thanks for coming by. It sounds like you get that spiritual practice can serve as a trap sometimes — among other things, it can become a club that we can beat ourselves up with, for not being non-attached enough, or getting angry, or something along those lines. Recently, the conclusion I’ve come to is that accepting that we’re going to be hurt and angry sometimes, and that we’re human, is one of the most powerful spiritual practices.

  10. Chris - Post author

    Hi Hilary — I like the way you put it — “everyone is like me” — I think realizing that other people have their foibles and quirks as well is such an important way to put our own into perspective, and let go of the need to be something more than human to make someone else happy or live up to their standards.

  11. Chris - Post author

    Hi J.D. — I like “hurt happens” as sort of a mantra to repeat to ourselves when hurt comes up — it’s a lot like something I say to myself a lot, which is that “growth hurts.”

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