There was a time when other people’s criticism really stung me. It brought all my insecurities to the surface. Other people’s opinions of me would cause me to question myself. I would experience profound remorse and regret. I would shame myself. I would isolate myself to avoid any further conflict. I would make myself small. I would give my power away.
The fact is, we all face criticism in our lives. There really is no way to completely avoid it. How can we deal with the criticism we receive? How can we respond? Here are some tips and strategies for coping with and moving forward from criticism.
Criticism is an opinion.
Opinions can be right, or they can be wrong. Don’t take them to be gospel truth. Criticism is only that person’s opinion of you. One person’s opinion of you does not need to become your opinion of you.
We are all stuck in our own perspectives.
You see and understand with your perspective. They see and understand with theirs. They may not see or understand what you were trying to say or do. They may have missed the point entirely. No one can see into your heart and mind. No one can know your intention unless you tell them. A lot of disagreements are born from misunderstandings. Communication is key.
You never know someone’s circumstance.
Maybe, that person is having a really crappy day. Maybe, what you said or did triggered them. Maybe, their reaction came from their own pain. Maybe, when they are lashing out at you, they are acting out their pain. Sometimes people misdirect their hurt and anger. The point is, you just don’t know what a person is going through. It’s better to be compassionate than reactive. You can still give a response, if you choose, but you could make it a compassionate one.
Two wrongs don’t make a right.
Your first instinct may be to cut the person giving you criticism down to size. I mean, after all, isn’t that what they just tried to do to you? But consider how much you just disliked what they said. Now, consider how much you would dislike yourself for acting in the exact same way. Don’t become what you hate.
Why are you emotionally attached?
If you feel defensive, get angry, offended, or disappointed by their criticism, stop and ask yourself why. Why are you emotionally attached to this? Is there an issue you may need to address? Do you need to engage in some self-care? Do you have a wound that needs healing? We have a choice as to what we emotionally attach ourselves to. We can hear someone’s opinion objectively. We can look at it for what it is without emotionally investing ourselves. This can save us a lot of trouble.
Know your intention.
Mindfulness matters. If you act with intent, no one can take that away from you. Even if the outcome is a complete disaster. We live, and we learn. We can apply new learning for the next time. We can’t undo what is done. If we did something with a good heart and with good intention, then obviously we did not intent to do anything harmful. By being mindful and remembering our intention, we can find peace and move forward.
You do not need to defend or explain yourself.
Recognize that you do not need to defend every action or every word. Ask yourself if it is worthwhile to spend your time and energy explaining yourself. Sometimes, people are very good at wasting other people’s time, either inadvertently, or intentionally. Not everything warrants an explanation. Not every relationship is worth fighting for. Sometimes we try too hard to hang on to people we will possibly never get along with. Ask yourself what you are investing your time and energy into. Is it productive, and does it serve you?
Don’t feed the negativity.
A good rule of thumb is to not respond to negativity with negativity. A person may have intended their criticism to be constructive. They may have had good intentions. They may be talking from ego. Or, they may actually have had ill intent. In any case, how you respond matters. Be the example. Rise above any negativity. You can be supportive and respectful to people you disagree with. Sometimes, we may disagree with someone but change our minds later. We are all learning, growing, and changing. It’s better to react positively than with negativity. Adding to the negativity doesn’t do anything to solve any problems.
Engage in self-care.
Don’t neglect yourself. Take time for yourself. Look after your well-being. Find and keep your inner peace. When you look after yourself you won’t feel as needy. When you carry around inner peace you will feel less volatile. Both can make you less reactive to what happens outside of you. Make yourself a priority in your life. Remember, you are the one person you will have to live with for the rest of your life. Invest into that relationship. Love yourself.
There will be times when you muck up, when you make mistakes. It happens. It happens to everyone. Are you going to cut yourself up for it? Are you going to beat yourself up over it? Or, will you take the lesson and move on. Forgive yourself and let go. Don’t allow regret to anchor you in the past. Stay present in the moment, because here is where you have influence.
Sometimes, someone gives you criticism about something you are struggling with. You may feel a bit exasperated about having it pointed out to you. Recognize that change takes time. Be patient with yourself. Keep investing in yourself and your self-development. No one is perfect. We are all a work in progress. Be easy on yourself. Allow yourself some grace. Be patient with yourself.
It’s important to accept and love yourself fully as you are. Don’t just accept parts of yourself you like. Love all of you. Discard the ideal and impossible standard of perfection. You can love and accept yourself and still work on yourself. The love and acceptance you have for yourself is not conditional on your performance. By loving and accepting ourselves, we can empower ourselves. Empowerment can allow us to overcome and achieve so much!
Do you have any tips or strategies to share which can help us to best move forward from criticism?