Triumph and Disaster
This morning I read, “Don’t be thin-skinned. Take criticism as well as praise with equal grace.” This was in a book of short sayings by H. Jackson Brown called The Complete Life’s Little Instruction Book. It is a cute little book and filled with truly wise advice, given by someone who appears to have learned some of these lessons firsthand!
This quote reminded me of one of my all-time favorite poems. I remember the first time I ever heard someone recite “If” by Rudyard Kipling. When she got to the line, “If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster/And treat those two imposters just the same” I felt something resonate deeply. Every line of that poem inspired me!
They say feedback is a gift, and if that’s true, then Christmas comes fairly often to me! I have always been the recipient of a lot of feedback. Whether it is the quality or style of my work, my hairstyles, or my mannerisms, people seem pretty comfortable just telling me whatever they think.
On the one hand, I take it sort of as a compliment. I am not so thin skinned that they shrink from sharing their feelings. On the other hand, it is a bit tiring. However, the same can be said about a lot of positive feedback. Sometimes you can tell it is disingenuous. Sometimes you can tell it is being handed out without discretion and is meaningless. In both cases, I just try to smile and move on from it.
The same can be said for moments of victory or failure. I was so pleased with myself when I completed my first half marathon, but by the next day, I had moved on to the next goal. I was very disappointed the month after that when I didn’t get the promotion that I wanted, but I took a moment to lick my wounds and then moved onto the next big plan as well. In both cases, neither victory nor defeat proved to define who I am.
It helps me to remember that whatever people think is only just their opinion, and they are fully entitled to whatever it is. Whether they think I’m great or incompetent does not need to weigh on me or define me. Same with circumstances; whether I win or lose, it is a moment in time and not any sort of illustration of my destiny.
Kipling’s Triumph and Disaster are two pretenders…one lulls us into complacency and a sense that we do not need to keep trying, while the other makes us insecure and believe we can’t succeed anyway. Both of these prevent us from reaching our full potential.
We should be proud of our achievements and learn from our mistakes, but give neither the reins over our lives. We should be able to take criticism and praise equally, applying both to move us in the right direction. As the poem states at the end, with Kipling speaking to his son, then he will be a man. And man or woman, we should all strive to reach that level of maturity.