Figuring out how to handle criticism can be a challenge. Let these tips for dealing with this stress help you pave the way through.
How To Handle Criticism
Criticism affects everyone. Whether it be constructive or projected, criticism never feels great – at least not right off the bat. Criticism has its benefits of course – we learn, we grow, we get motivated – but it also has its major emotional downfalls.
When you hear criticism, do you feel yourself bristle? Do you get emotional and insecure? Do you find yourself wanting to crawl back into that safe space of yours – with minimal social interaction – just because you’re afraid of facing judgement? You’ll come across critics at every stage of your life, and while running away from them and staying in your own shell may seem ideal, this approach doesn’t allow you to progress or grow as a person. There has to be a better way.
So, exactly how do you make yourself thick skinned and immune to criticism? You see other people (seemingly) live that way, so there must be a way to accomplish the task. Here are some tips that should help you get on the right track.
Find a Model
The simplest way to learn to get past criticism is to find yourself a role model who is able to do what you hope to do and able to be what you hope to be. Learn from them. You’ve seen this modeled somewhere, so find someone that you would like to emulate in this way and watch how they handle their situations.
Whether it be a family member, a celebrity, a historical figure, clergy, or an acquaintance, it is always a good idea to find a human being that you relate to. You want this to be a real life person, not a movie character or animation, as the point is to watch how they manage a difficult situation or present their point of view to the world.
This is not about being envious or wishing that you had a life like someone else’s. This is about finding someone who either shares your different perspective or through their behavior, manages to be someone in their life that you’d like to be in the long run.
When you are able to watch someone else managing all kinds of criticism, and move through it effectively, it is much easier to take the high road. You are able to witness a positive way of dealing with other people’s opinions and see what next steps are taken. It is always a good first step to have an example.
People who are resistant to their critics and/or learn to manage the criticism are usually happier, and they are better able to persist. Keep inspiring yourself and learning from your role model. Remind yourself that it is actually possible to not let the opinions of those around you matter so much. As we’ve talked about in the past, you wouldn’t worry so much about what other people think if you knew how seldom they do.
Reframe with Self Praise
One of the most empowering ways to avoid the negative feedback and criticism is to reframe it for yourself so that it can become constructive feedback. Try replacing everything that comes your way with a little self praise. If someone comments, “You always order the same thing when we come to this restaurant” you can think to yourself, “I’m consistent and dependable.” If someone says, “You really weren’t prepared for this meeting” you can think to yourself, “This was a rough day, but I’ve been very prepared in the past and will prove it again next time.”
Whether you are receiving this piece of feedback during a performance review from your project manager or a loved one, take a few deep breaths and try to see the critic’s intentions. Do they think they have good intentions, but it is coming off as a personal attack to you? Then the best way to soothe yourself is to learn to flip the script.
There are lots of reasons people provide destructive criticism and most of them have nothing to do with you. People who provide harsh criticism, even to a sassy comment you may have made, may need to work on their interpersonal skills. And whether your first reaction was a sense of hurt or even anger in the heat of the moment, reframing can go a long way towards lowering your stress response.
Try to maintain the balance of accepting your flaws, and at the same time, remembering that you are amazing as well. Nobody is perfect or fits the mold that other people are expecting, so give yourself a break. If it helps, make a list of things you are good at and review them whenever you feel your self-esteem plunge after receiving negative criticism. This can be anything from “being supportive” to “being a great cook,” but have them there so that you can remind yourself whenever you need.
Change Your Circle
If the people around you are a constant source of criticism, try to put you down, and/or make you feel like you are unworthy, you may need to change your circle. There comes a point in life where it is healthier to surround yourself with people who make you feel healthy and let everyone else go.
You are special and you are worthy, so when you surround yourself with people who give you alternative messages, you aren’t doing yourself any favors. It is time to find the people in your life who empower you, encourage you, and offer constructive advice.
It is not always necessary to receive positive feedback from those around you, but it is a balance. Constant criticism hurts and if you are not with people who have a positive attitude and they regularly give you a hard time, take control of the situation and start spending time with the right people.
What about my mother/sister/brother/father/grandparents/aunt/uncle/cousin who criticizes me, but also loves me, you ask? It can be incredibly difficult to alter these relationships, but it can be done.
It is about standing up for yourself in the least emotional way possible (getting upset won’t help), ending any conversations that trigger that kind of talk quickly, and adding a bit of distance in that family relationship. If you tell your loved one that you can’t talk to them as often because they make you feel badly when they criticize you about X, Y, and Z, they shouldn’t be shocked when you only take their calls once per week instead of daily. Set those boundaries.
Separate Fact from Interpretation
One of the simplest ways to work with criticism in a constructive manner is to learn to separate the facts from other people’s interpretations and assumptions about you. When you find out that someone has been gossiping about you or making negative remarks, remind yourself that the facts and the truth is what is most important – not the ideologies and assumptions of the people around you.
It is human nature for people to talk to each other – about the communities they spend time in, about each other, and about what they’ve heard. Many people do it respectfully, but others don’t. If you can carry yourself with integrity and have people in your life who know the real you – who you are and what you are about – you can disregard any silliness that people’s interpretations may create.
Ignore the Ones on the Sidelines
Sometimes, the best thing to do is to just blissfully ignore the criticism that comes your way. Not everyone on the sideline needs to be paid any attention. Remind yourself that the people who really don’t matter in your life (trolls on social media, former friends, ex-partners, former colleagues, etc) really don’t matter anymore. Wish them well and let them go. Any energy that you give being upset about something that they have said does two things: blights your happiness and feeds any power that you are allowing them to have over you. Make the decision to let it go.
There will be lots of people who criticize you throughout your life, whether it is well intended or not, and you need to decide whether it is worth listening to. Try to distinguish whether the person commenting is offering constructive criticism or just trying to offend you. Do your best to decipher who in your life really knows you and has your best interests at heart and take advice and suggestions from those you can trust. Everyone has an opinion, but that doesn’t mean that you have to listen to it – or let it invade your peace.