How to spot constructive criticism over insults, and how to deal with both.
Knowing how to deal with criticism is a tricky ol' skill to master as a grown-up. I know it's something I've personally struggled with (mainly due to my perfectionist tendencies and feeling CRUSHED if someone ever saw an error in something I did).
But the good news is, being fearful of criticism is actually overcome-able. Oh yes! Believe me. If I can learn to turn digs into constructive criticism and be in the head space I'm now at, then you defo can.
So my friend, do these sound familiar to you:
- Are you afraid to ask for that raise/try for something you want for fear of being criticised or shot down?
- Are you terrified of not pleasing most people/all people in your life?
- When you get negative feedback from someone, do you tend to blow it way out of proportion and context in your own mind, and then proceed to endlessly beat yourself up about it?
- Do you always remember something sh*tty someone said about you, and can't remember, for the life of you, something nice someone said about you?
- If someone points out an error of yours, do you jump down their throat with all kinds of reasoning and rationale in your defence?
Sorry to remind yourself of all these yack feelings btw, but it's a good thing that I'm bringing them out in you – 'cause it means you're in the right place 👊🏻
So now we've covered that all those horrible feelings are stopping you from doing all kinds of stuff that could help you grow and/or change your life for the better. Next is to decide if you really want to spend your existence saying nothing, doing nothing and being nothing? (Because that’s the only way you’re going to avoid these feelings, fyi). If you feel something inside you just knows you’re capable of more, almost like a persistent pecking in your head that never goes away, but it's just the fear of haters stopping you 👉🏻 read on cutie patootie ;)
First thing's first, you need to work on being less obsessed what people think of you.
We can’t control what people may say to us or how they might say it, that's for certain. But we can decide how we respond to it, and we get to choose to take it, or not take it on board. That's right. You DO NOT have to carry someone's opinion around with you until the end of time. So the next time you're confronted with criticism, ask yourself if you can learn from what they’re saying. Is it constructive criticism? Is there an element of truth that you can actually listen to and grow from? Could it even help you see things a little differently and benefit your personal growth? Or maybe you don't feel it's particularly valid – might they be struggling with something themselves, and you just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and unfortunately caught the brunt of it? Step back and give it some context.
Either way, you get to choose your response, internally and externally. They don't get to control your response. Their opinion is just that, an opinion. A viewpoint. Something that someone thinks. It's not what the world thinks, and most importantly, if it's not what you think, then just adult-up and agree to disagree. It doesn't have to eat you up if you don't invite it to. Using up your time stewing over what someone said, genuinely wastes time that’s waaaay better spent dealing with it and/or growing from it. If they hit on a truth, work on it. Thank them for it. And crack on with your day grateful that you've gained an extra bit of wisdom as a bonus.
Secondly, you need to accept that the bigger your dreams are, the more you'll get criticised.
And this is NOT a deterrent for aiming high and having big dreams btw. This is intended as a useful piece of knowledge and experience that I want you to pack in your back pocket for when you set off on your journey to achieving them. And the fact you're reading this to try and get better at being criticised, means you'll be just fine! 🙌🏻 But anyway, take Michael Jackson for instance, what an epic legend he was (in my eyes). He dreamed and achieved BIG, there's no denying that. He was, and still is adored by a bazillion fans across the world, but man did he get his share of criticism too. On a monster scale. There are very few humans who can even fathom the scale of success he achieved, or the criticism he endured, but my point? He didn't let it stop him, and it shouldn't stop you either. He was still following his dream and creating magical music until he passed. Like I said. LEGEND.
The baseline human fact is, not everyone’s going to like you and what you do. This is something you need to understand and be okay with, because it IS okay for people not to like you. You don’t like everyone and e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g. everyone else in the world does, do you? It’s just a human thang. No reason to bring yourself down because of it. It's not about you. If you have a dream and your family and friends just don't get it, maybe they feel they need to shoot you down, criticise your plans and play devil's advocate to protect you – that's 100% okay too. It's actually kinda sweet in fact when you think about it. But if you're intent on your dream and you believe in it, there's no way you should let their or anyone's criticism stop you. If anything, it should be a catalyst for your determination to make it happen and prove them wrong even more. You've gotta do you boo.
Thirdly, stop and take a look at who's criticising you for a second.
If someone's dig, insult or critique has really struck a nerve, hit right on your insecurities and got you all paranoid and doubting yourself, always make sure you look into who you're listening to. Are they someone you respect who's done something with their life? Are they somewhere in their life that you'd aspire to be in yours? If they are, maybe look into that criticism and see what truths they've brought up. Sure it stings, but can you learn from them? Is there truth in their criticism that could help you readjust and improve?
Or...has this person really not got much to show for themselves? The low-level kind of critique-givers generally tend to have too much time on their hands, they're not likely to have achieved much, and they've doubtfully been bold enough to create something of note themselves. Which is exactly. why. they're. criticising. you. They themselves are insecure. It's an overused cliché, but their insults don't define who you are, it legit defines who they are.
The former type of critique is usually rare, mainly because these people have been brave themselves, they've put themselves out there and they know how challenging it is, whatever they do say tends to be of value, so listen. The latter type of critique is way more common unfortunately and way more irrelevant. And where you really need to hone your criticism-taking skills, scan it to see if it's a comment worth considering, and if not, just shut them out. It is that simple. I don’t like mushrooms but it’s not because I want to hurt mushrooms, I just don’t like them! Don’t take it personally.
I guess the key takeaway for you, is that it's crucial to know it's more than okay to be flawed and imperfect. News flash: WE ALL ARE. If someone notices those flaws and imperfections in you occasionally, that’s more than okay too – they’ve kindly highlighted an opportunity for you to grow and improve. Score. Thank them for it. If you can begin to accept that you could do some work on strengthening your weaknesses (which we will always need to do, forever until the end of time btw), and realise you’re not a bad or a weak person for always having this room to grow, you’ll instead jump immediately in the realms of happiness, confidence and success. And never look back.
Do you know someone that has the hardest time with criticism? Be a badass friend and show them this using the share links below.