How To Deal With Criticism

Posted by on Mar 9, 2012 in Career Management | 13 comments

Receiving negative feedback can derail even the most positive person’s day. I know because I consider myself a positive individual and I was recently knocked out by unnecessarily harsh criticism. Like a fighter down for the count, I was so stunned I was initially unable to move forward. I spent several days turning the words over and over in my head.

I knew no good was going to come from my blenderhead state, and I reached out to my mentor for guidance. Perhaps if I had been thinking more clearly, or more productively, I would have taken my own advice from the start. Oh right, I’ve experienced criticism before.

Talking with my mentor helped me shift my focus from the other person’s unkind words to my reaction and response to the criticism. I don’t control what anyone thinks, says, or does and taking personal ownership of someone else’s opinion never ends well. I was reminded of important lessons I’ve learned before and I realized I needed to be mindful of those lessons to make the best of my present situation.

Here are a few wisdoms I’ve practiced to deal with criticism through the years:

Just because someone said it, it doesn’t make it so.

Other people’s opinions are just that- opinions. Opinions aren’t facts. No one’s opinion defines me. My behavior, my attitudes, my values define me. When I receive criticism I have learned to use it to inform, not define. It is, after all, only someone else’s perspective, not my truth.

Just because it’s true, it doesn’t mean I’m wrong.

Any kernel of truth within the criticism doesn’t define me, either. We all have our own values and goals and mine are just as valid as anyone else’s.

If I did err in this situation, chances are I didn’t have the knowledge, information, and resources I have now to do it differently. Every day is an opportunity to do better.

I’m a whole person, with talents and strengths and a lot left to learn.

My weaknesses are just part of a whole, and that whole is pretty awesome overall. One setback, even a handful of setbacks, doesn’t make me any less awesome. It actually makes me more awesome because as a perfectly imperfect human being there’s always room to learn and grow. I’m evolving in this moment and it’s pretty amazing, if you ask me.

i'm awesome you're awesome(You are awesome, too!)

I can’t move forward if I’m holding myself back.

I have the opportunity to make the best of my mistakes, but it’s hard for me to do so when I get stuck spinning over someone else’s words. It is oh-so-tempting to hold myself hostage with other people’s opinions- don’t we all want to be liked? Liked or not, I can’t make the best of my life if I’m giving up my voice to criticism.

Dealing with criticism is never easy, but you can face it with dignity and grace. Even if  take it, you don’t have to take to heart. You are awesome today and you have the opportunity to be awesome again tomorrow. If you let criticism get you down, you can get back up again.

I love your comments! What’s the hardest part for you when you are criticized? How do you deal with critics and criticism?

Image courtesy of Brett Patterson

13 Comments

  1. Hi Chrysta, Your post is so valuable, as im still recovering from some pretty shocking “constructive feedback”. Its amazing that there are people in this world who would say almost anything to hurt/destroy someone else to feed their fragile egos. Your take on such behaviour is something i will keep close, Just because someone said so does not make it true. I shall also imagine these pitiful people with a pile of shit on their faces.. a new highlight to my day. Thank You !!!!

    • Thanks for your awesome comment, Shirley!

      I’m so glad my post was helpful for you, I only wish you hadn’t had to deal with harsh criticism in the first place. Of course we all have to deal with it at some point in life; I expect this is an experience we can all share.

      I have seen people lash out at others when they are insecure. It’s so unfortunate when anyone uses their experience to try to tear others down and I imagine we all want to relate to others and if we feel we are inferior then we try to relate by bringing others down to our level.

      I applaud you for trying to find constructive ways to manage this situation instead of taking your frustration out on someone else in this same manner. It sounds like you’re able to have a sense a humor about it and that’s great!

      I wish you patience in your future dealings with this individual. Have a grateful day!

      Chrysta

  2. This is an excellent, honest post. I think criticism is hard to deal with. A lot of times it takes a step back…sometimes the other person is right and other times you know what you need to do to make it better.
    Sara Broers recently posted…Universal Studios: OrlandoMy Profile

    • Thanks so much for your awesome comment, Sara!

      Criticism is especially hard for me to handle when it comes from a family member, friend, or authority figure. Unfortunately my boss is the one that triggered this particular post with some unkind words. I’m all for constructive criticism, but some criticism is just judgmental and not constructive!

      No matter the type of criticism, I agree that taking a step back is a healthy first step to dealing with criticism. Often when I get perspective on a situation it is easier for me to recognize my choices.

      Have a grateful day!

      Chrysta

  3. Criticism sounds harsh, so we put “constructive” in front of it. The reality is that this is the best type, and we need to understand and act on this feedback. After all, feedback – or constructive criticism – is what will enable us to get better as we advance our life.

    We need to ensure we are analyzing the criticism correctly so we don’t ignore the real feedback or embrace destructive criticism.

    Essential things to think through and move forward in renewed manner.
    Jon Mertz recently posted…Automatic vs. Manual – Putting It in GearMy Profile

    • Thanks for your awesome comment, Jon!

      I do think there is a difference between criticism and constructive criticism and, as you said, we need to analyze the criticism itself to determine if a change is needed or if the criticism is destructive and the best we can do is our best to let it go.

      Positive and negative feedback is so important for professional and personal growth. Even negative feedback can give us insight into ways to improve, as well as providing clues when we are in unhealthy work and personal relationships.

      I love your suggestion to move forward in a renewed manner. This idea is how I live my life almost every day- renewed and forward-moving. :)

      Thanks for joining the conversation! Have a grateful day!

      Chrysta

  4. Hi Chrysta,

    You really are one of the most inspirational people I know! What an amazing post.:-)

    Criticism sure can be a difficult one. You have explained brilliantly what it really means and how we can deal with it.

    The first point you made about just because someone saying it, doesn’t mean it is so, resonated with me a lot. This was a big one for me and one that I had to work on for years.

    People’s opinions are not ours. We don’t need to take anything personally. We can just be informed as you said, and leave it at that.

    Your post just made me think of what life might have been like if I had allowed people’s views, and advice to really govern my life… It’s not a very nice thought.

    I’m sure glad I ignored them! :-)
    Hiten recently posted…7 Links Challenge and 7 Random FactsMy Profile

    • Thanks for your awesome comment, Hiten! I appreciate your kind words!

      Criticism was a crutch for me for many years and fortunately today I have many tools to use when I get stuck taking other people’s words and behavior to heart. I agree we don’t need to take anything personally and I have found that 80% of what others say and do really has nothing to do with me at all.

      Like all people, we all sometimes take our own frustrations and insecurities out on others, often without realizing we are doing it. When I keep this in mind it helps me not take things personally, reminding me that it’s probably not about me, anyway!

      When someone gives me constructive criticism and it falls in the 20% of the time that someone else really is providing feedback that is about my behavior, I find I still do not need to take it personally when I remember their feedback is about my behavior, not about me as a whole person.

      Have a grateful day!

      Chrysta

  5. Criticism can be very painful for many. I have seen the ugly side of it many times and can only say this – it will influence you only to the extent you will let it to. Yes, that is the only thing that can work the best. Let it influence you in a good way – whether it is good criticism and helps you make your work better and put yourself in a better position. Criticism doesn’t have to be painful always. It can be something we can use to work out.

    But yes, for ugly criticism, don’t let it make things worse. Some people will just say things because they have no other better work; believe it or not but some people just like going the nasty way. The best you can do is not let it bother you and you turn nasty yourself. Let it go and move on. If you go on doing better; the critics will have their answers already. Action will speak louder than words!
    Hajra recently posted…Will they call you over for a Bloggers Party?My Profile

    • Thanks for the awesome comment, Hajra!

      It’s true criticism only influences me as much as I let it. The challenge is to recognize and exercise my responsibility for my own emotions, ideas, and behaviors, not just where criticism is concerned but in all areas of my life. I’ve been raised in a culture that generally does not advocate taking responsibility for oneself and I learned well as a child that all my problems were really someone else’s problem making me a victim. Of course this viewpoint is only true if I believe it to be.

      I consider myself fortunate to have learned when I was still young that I am not a victim if I do not choose to be, and I began taking responsibility for my own well-being and happiness. The more I take ownership of my own life, the better and better it gets!

      Of course I slip sometimes and temporarily blame others for my experiences and reactions and in those moments I usually feel pretty unhappy. Then I remember I am the only one responsible for my happiness and I feel almost instantly happier!

      I love what you’ve shared about using the information in good or bad criticism to make yourself better and this is absolutely one of my practices in life. Taking responsibility for my reaction and my life is what allows me to view the criticism as simply information I can use as I see fit.

      Thanks for joining the conversation! Clearly your response sparked additional thoughts on my part- I love that!

      Have a grateful day!

      Chrysta

      • We all slip you know; there are times when criticism just forces me to want to curl up and stay like that for eternity. But then, do we want the bad critics to be the winner; I ain’t going down without a fight! :)
        Hajra recently posted…Will they call you over for a Bloggers Party?My Profile

  6. Criticism is so tough for most of us to deal with. Mainly because we believe it. But it’s not so much that we believe the content, but we trust the less-worthy judgments, projections and opinions that come with the criticism.

    It’s a challenge to deal with critique because it tends to trigger us emotionally. However, I have learned to step back from my emotional reaction and ask questions like these:

    “Is the critique fair (outside of the drama of how it was presented)?”
    “Is it true?”
    “How can I use this?”

    Another technique I personally use is that I imagine those presenting the criticism as rear and side view mirrors for my life. THey can help me see things in my blind spot.

    This takes a great deal of discipline because it takes the ability to discern my “junk” from theirs. It also requires a refusal to accept their junk.

    A friend of mine once told me, “You’ve taken the monkey of their back. Give it back to them. It’s their monkey.” Made me laugh but, it was relevant.
    Steve Rice recently posted…Excuses Are Bullshit. You Should Get a Refund!My Profile

    • Wow, thanks for the awesome comment, Steve! I love everything you’ve shared here!

      The questions you ask to step back from your emotional response are spot on and excellent questions to help anyone be more objective about criticism.

      I LOVE the analogy of critics as rear and side mirrors, helping you watch your blind spots. This is such a wonderful analogy and it allows me to to take criticism less personally and view it instead as information.

      Lastly, discerning my junk from someone else’s junk is a skill that is handy in daily life! I once heard a woman talking about dealing with a difficult family member and she said, “it’s like they hand me a steaming pile of shit and I take it and rub my face in it!” That image made me cringe and laugh simultaneously and ever since then I visualize people handing me a steaming pile of shit and remember I don’t have to take that shit and shove my face in it just because they hold it out to me or tell me it’s mine. No, thank you- you can keep it! ;)

      Thanks for joining the conversation! Have a grateful day!

      Chrysta

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