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*NOTE* Because criticism can often be something used as a control tactic in violent relationships, the content in this blog is designed only for instances of criticism involving family, friends, work related relationships, and yourself. If you are around someone who is criticizing you often and in ways that are meant to hurt you, physically or emotionally, please reach out to the National Domestic Violence Hotline (800-799-7233) if it is safe for you to do so.
We’ve all dealt with criticism. In fact, most of us deal with criticism every single day. What is criticism? Can it really be “constructive” and who is most likely to criticize us? Read on to find out and don’t forget to comment anything you’d like to add!
Criticism is defined as the expression of disapproval of someone or something based on perceived faults or mistakes. Using this definition, it’s immediately clear that “perceived faults or mistakes” is an entirely personal and situational based projection. So, does someone’s criticism of another say more about them than it does the person they are criticizing? Let’s say you enjoy burnt toast. If someone were to criticize you by saying you “burnt their toast”, is that not a perceived fault based on someone else’s personal preferences? Sure, it could be. Or, what if you find something you enjoy that’s not exactly conventional, like starting your own business. Any one person could perceive this as a fault or mistake, and then criticize you for that action. What do you do from there?
There are lots of words that we could use to describe someone who is able to handle criticism. Thick-skinned. Criticism-tolerant. Certain. Sometimes, though, it’s hard to be those things; especially when you feel like the criticism isn’t deserved. If you’re not someone who you would consider “thick-skinned”, here’s a few ways you can handle criticism while not getting down on yourself.
- Remain calm. This might be hard to do, especially if you’re someone who gets angry relatively quickly. Remaining calm in the face of a situation designed to irritate you is not only a power move (let’s be real) but it also allows you to resolve any possible thoughts you might have about yourself later on.
- Actively listen to who is criticizing you. Let them say everything before responding, since this will help you not respond to the negativity and instead with a constructive, solutions based response.
- If you need time to think, let the person know that you need that time. Tell them that you will take their words into consideration and set a time to talk later on. If you don't need time, that’s okay!
- No matter when you respond, your response should consider the intent of the person who criticized you. This is going to allow your response to not be a further attack on that person, since sometimes when we are attacked we automatically will feel offended and naturally want to respond back in anger.
- If you don’t believe there’s any positive outcome to a conversation with that person, or one hasn’t been found despite your best efforts, consider that the person who criticized you is probably projecting. Talk to someone you trust about this and get their feedback. Maybe someone else will be able to present it to you in a way that is less harsh or maybe there is no merit to the original criticism to begin with.
- Do something you enjoy. That’s it! Hearing information about ourselves that goes against who we believe we are is hard, so you deserve to do something that makes you happy.
That applies mostly to outside sources that are criticizing us. But what about our biggest critic of all? Ourselves. Tackling our own self-criticizing voice is a huge part of what we help with in our Patreon based coaching programs.
First, take a few days to write down every thought you have about yourself. Good or bad, write them how they pop up into your mind. Since these thoughts are pretty automatic, most of us aren’t even aware of them. But, our thoughts influence our actions, so this is an important first step.
When you’re frustrated or find yourself thinking negative things about yourself, it’s totally okay to distract yourself. Do something that excites you or helps you take your mind off things. There’s this really toxic idea that we have to immediately act in the name of “self-care.” Distraction IS self-care in some cases.
Once you find yourself in a relatively okay mental state, sit down and look at what you wrote down in step one. Are those things true? What are some examples of when they were true and some examples of those things not being true? Remember, you’re a human being and are allowed to be fluid in your actions. For example, maybe you tell yourself that you’re impatient, but this is only SOMETIMES true, that’s more than acceptable. Start thinking about the times you’re most likely to be impatient, what is usually happening during those times?
Next, there’s a huge difference between toxic positivity and excessive negativity. It’s again a very popular tactic that for-profit coaches use when it comes to mindset. They will tell you to “be the light” and “think positive” but we encourage you to think realistically. Don’t say “I’m ALWAYS impatient.” Instead, try “when I have a really tight deadline, I get super impatient with people around me. If I work to recognize when I’m most likely to be impatient, I can explain before an argument or disagreement happens that I just have a tight deadline and need to focus.”
Lastly, always be working on you. That means allowing yourself the time, whether it’s 5 minutes a day or an hour a day, to reflect on you and what your personal life, personality, and surroundings look like. One way we’re working to improve self-confidence is with our 30 Day Confidence Challenge starting April 1st!
Register for this free challenge HERE, and comment below anything that you might want to add to this article or just your thoughts!