In my undergraduate years, by day I studied classical music at the University of Texas at Austin. By night I played in a big-haired rock band. Having the freedom to move between these two musical worlds, I noticed something interesting. The most talented musicians of either style, classical or rock, tended to appreciate the widest range of music. Exceptionally talented musicians were less “defensive,” less urgent about defending their particular musical turf. It seemed easy for them to hear the good in a Beethoven piano sonata as well as a noisy guitar solo or simple pop song.
When you feel good about your own abilities, you don’t feel threatened by the abilities of other people. You see others less as competitors, and more as peers. Criticism usually comes from a place of insecurity, a feeling of inadequacy. Criticism attempts to make you more by making others less.
Next time you’re interacting with a group of people, notice how conversation tends toward the negative. Most groups “bond” by criticizing other groups. A group of workers at happy hour complain about their supervisors, or even their fellow workers who happen to not be present. But this isn’t real bonding. In fact, it ultimately increases insecurity. You realize that, were you not present for this happy hour, this same group would likely talk negatively about you as well.
What would it be like if, in social situations, you only spoke positively about others? Would the people you spend time with welcome this change? If not, then you may want to re-evaluate the social groups in which you participate. Insecurity breeds insecurity. Confidence breeds confidence.