How Do You Handle Criticism?
Do you ever have a hard time accepting criticism, even if it supposedly “constructive”? If you are anything like me, you might take it personally when someone says or does anything to show that they don’t fully approve of you or how you do things. It can be hard to take and very damaging to our ego. I seem to have been born with a bit of pride, wanting to believe that I am as close to perfect as possible, yet knowing that I am very far from it.
I often allow the voices in my head to say such things as, “You are not good enough.” “You shouldn’t eat that- you’re too fat.” or “Why are you even trying, you know that you aren’t smart enough to do that!”.
I don’t like these voices, and have come up with many ways to combat them, but hearing such comments directed toward me from another person is an entirely different story. For most of my life, when a person criticized me in any way, I would take offense, and coil up like a snake- anxious to either retreat or strike back. I would try to seek revenge, or in the very least find fault with them in my mind- I mean, how dare they find fault with me- just who do they think they are anyway? These critics usually leave me feeling defensive or depressed.
I don’t know why it seems so much easier to take my own criticism as compared to others, but it just is.
Older and “Wiser”
Well, the older and “wiser” I get, while I try to recognize my true greatness, I also seem to realize how much I really don’t know. You’ve probably heard the saying,
“The more I know, the more I realize how much I don’t know.”
Well that has totally been happening to me. I feel like the more I learn, the more overwhelmingly massive and incomprehensible the universe feels. It seems like it would take many lifetimes to even come close to mastering just a few of the things that this world has to offer. People spend decades of their life becoming a master of a craft or specific niche, while others, like me, seem to be content with knowing just enough to get by with as many topics as we can. I used to call myself a “Jill of all trades.” I can do a lot of things, but I am not super good at any of them- and I am okay with that.
Anyhow, back to the criticism thing. Call it pride, call is insecurity, or call it downright having a complete lack of self-esteem, either way, whenever someone would tell me that I needed to improve on something, I would usually act like a victim and either quit doing what they told me I needed to improve on, or just get angry and keep my distance from that person. There are times when we can avoid the criticizer, and times when we cannot. However, I have learned that more often than not, the person doling out the criticism is doing it because they “love” me and either don’t want me to be embarrassed and are trying to save me from myself, or they are just telling me a way I can improve, believing that they are helping me.
A Little Humility Goes a Long Way
About three years ago I started a journey of self-improvement. I became obsessed with not only reading about how to become better in every aspect of my life, but then applying what I learned. The book, “The Miracle Morning” by Hal Elrod helped me to accept criticism and recognize it for what it really is. Although I had already been doing what Hal suggested we do in the wee hours of the morning, I benefited most from his advice at the end of the book. He said that as an executive, he found that by seeking critique or asking his co-workers, friends, neighbors or anyone that knew him to give him advice on how he could improve, he became more successful. He explained that when we seek advice and show vulnerability and humility, we can better learn about ourselves- and others really like someone that will take advice and not be offended. Being teachable makes for a great leader! Hal Elrod suggested writing an email to all of our close associates and people that knew us best, asking for honest reviews of our character and how we could become better.
For me, that was extremely hard. I felt vulnerable and yet empowered at the same time. I was both scared to death and looking forward to hearing how I could become better. I didn’t want to hear how bad I was or what others saw as my truest character flaws; but I did honestly want to be better. I sent the email to about 30 people and heard back from about 4. I guess that is typical. I remember opening those emails with a pounding heart and sweat in my armpits (what happens when I’m nervous). I was grateful for those four and found that most of them had good things to say, and a few rather personal insights that helped me see myself through someone else’s eyes. I was so happy to see that I could not only survive criticism, but learn to see it as a good thing.
They Are Only Trying to Help
I learned that when we look at criticism as a way that others show us love and help us, it is a lot easier to take. Most of the time, the people that we think are ruining our lives are actually allowing us to grow in ways that we couldn’t do without them. Obviously, there are extreme cases in which criticism should not be considered good or acceptable. Abusive relationships and nasty bosses should not be tolerated, but that is not the kind of criticism I am talking about here- those bullies are not trying to help you, but themselves.
If we can recognize that other people see us from a different viewpoint and are usually trying to help us, we don’t get as offended or defensive. We can take their criticism like a champ rather than a victim. We can use their advice to grow and become better, rather than to canker our soul and make us bitter and defensive.
I have recently had to deal with one of the biggest blows to my ego ever. This time, as with the email I sent out years ago, I sought for advice and was shocked to see the responses. To read about it, follow this link for the rest of the article Taking Criticism Like a Champ- Part Two
What about you? Do you have any great ways that you deal with criticism? If so, write your ideas and thoughts in the comments below. Also, if you like this article, please post it on your pinterest feed!