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We all need positive feedback!
I’m about halfway through a wonderful book, How to Think Like a Millionaire (the review will be up before the weekend). It’s one of those books where you find yourself, not only taking notes, but closing the book every now and again just to sort of soak everything in. After this morning’s reading, I was a sponge – I guess it made me Sponge Blogger No Pants (I still had my gown on).
I just finished a section on Positive Feedback vs Negative Feedback and the impact they have upon our subconscious mind and the absolute power our subconscious mind has over our lives. Everything rises and falls according to the strength of our subconscious mind, so keeping positive and life-affirming thoughts therein could make ALL the difference.
The Live-Changing Power of Positive Feedback
When I got up from reading to make my husband some pancakes, I was still thinking about what I read. I realized how, in my own life, positive feedback had a huge impact on me. My mom and dad were forever telling me what a “good” child I was, how they never had to worry about me getting into trouble, and so on. That early reinforcement, I’m sure, had a great deal to do with the fact that I never did get into any trouble. When I was in my 30′s, a few months before I lost my father – my dad told one of his nurses that the only trouble I ever gave him or my mom was one speeding ticket.
I told him at the time that it was because I was perfect – but I’m pretty darn sure that’s not accurate.
I believe that the same scenario plays out for kids who are constantly told that they’re “bad,” “difficult,” or “spoiled.” They live down to those words the way the lucky kids live up to the ones they hear.
As the pancake batter soaked up the buttermilk, I realized another area where positive feedback affected me. I believe that one of the reasons I ever fancied myself a writer had to do with things my aunt told me years and years ago. Penny (my mom’s sister and an aunt I’ve always been VERY close to) and her husband (Bobby – LOVE him!) had to move to another state when I was really young. It was really hard on all of us, but Bobby had an amazing offer in Ohio that he would have been a fool to say no to. He’s the master of corny jokes, but a fool he’s not!
When they left, I missed them terribly, so we started writing a lot of letters to one another – oh, to have e-mail then! When they came home for Christmas, she went on and on about how much my letters meant to her and Bobby. She said she always looked forward to them and saved each one. When she said they “made her smile” because they were like visiting with me, I began to associate true power with words.
Many years later, when I got married and we had to move to Kansas, I had a lot more letters to write. I still wrote to Penny, but I also wrote to my parents and my grandmother. Each one of them always told me how much they loved reading my letters, how they kept them and often re-read them. My grandmother even told me how she read them to her friends, and that they enjoyed my “way with words”.
Somewhere along the way, I came to believe they were right and I’ve had a fascination with words and writing every since.
When I handed my smiling husband his plate of pancakes, I was struck by yet another instance of positive feedback touching and shaping my life. Early in my marriage, I fell in love with cooking. I started collecting cookbooks and even began coming up with my own recipes. When he was in the Air Force, he’d often have his single friends over to our house for supper. I often overheard him talking about my “wonderful” cooking and it made me believe I was the greatest cook in the world. The fact that he and our daughters are always so complimentary about my meals, desserts, bread, etc. only makes me love cooking more and more.
I am very, very lucky that the people I love most in this world have always made me feel like I could do anything.
A Lack of Positive Feedback
I wonder if one of the main reasons people become discouraged and give up is because they don’t get enough positive feedback. Think about the stereotypical scenario of the couple who has been together for several years. She begins to feel he doesn’t love her or think she’s pretty simply because he has stopped saying the words. The positive feedback, early in the relationship, built her confidence up SO high that when the words stopped, she came crashing down, bewildered and even wondering what she’s doing wrong.
The same could be said of children, co-workers, and just about anyone you could name. Children often “give up” becaue they don’t feel appreciated. Co-workers and friends get to the point that they quit trying because nothing they do is ever “good enough.”
The Pitfalls of Negative Feedback
The only thing more dangerous than a lack of positive feedback is a steady stream of negative feedback. When a spouse, daughter, son, friend, co-worker, etc. only hears negative comments – they begin to believe the words and come to believe that they are as worthless as the comments say they are. Many even tune the negativity out to a certain degree, after all, who wants to constantly hear how worthless, stupid, wrong, irresponsible, or bad they are?!?! But it goes much deeper than them tuning it out. They begin to believe it. When someone believes the worst about themself, they stop even trying.
However, if they get positive feedback – even if it’s for the smallest possible thing – their confidence and self worth begin to grow. After they’ve gotten enough positive feedback, they begin to give themselves MORE of the same feedback, then… look out!
The Most Important Feedback of All
As important as the feedback we get from others is, it’s not the most vital feedback. That feedback is the one we feed ourselves. The words we say to ourselves, usually inside our own minds, determine how successful we will or will not be. We are, basically, what we think we are.
The words below are just some of the words we use to cripple ourselves:
- I’m too old
- I’m too fat
- I’m not smart enough
- I never catch any breaks
- I don’t have enough money
- Nobody loves me
- I’m lonely
- I can’t do anything
- I’m so depressed
- I am so sick and tired of…
- My live sucks!
When we feed ourselves words like this, we’re feeding ourselves poison, and we should kick ourselves. If we feed words like that to another human being, we should be stomped.
Start thinking more about the feedback you give to others and to yourself. The words you say to and about the people around you makes them better or makes them worse. If you beat them down, that’s where they’ll stay. If you build them up, that’s the direction in which they’ll grow.
Now let’s change the pronouns a little: If you beat yourself down, that’s where you’ll stay. If you build yourself up, that’s the direction in which you’ll grow. How far can you and I grow? As far as we want to!