The leading up to and aftermath of negative criticism is a state so common that it’s one of the most uncomfortable and relatable states to experience. It’s a state of embarrassment, awkwardness, even shame, just to name a few. The effects of criticism on our egos and our feelings can be so powerful and sometimes jarring, that our whole day or worse, our whole lives are negatively impacted.
I don’t know if there is a root that if pulled, would make it so that you never fear criticism and it never hurts you. If getting rid of the feelings we have when we deal with negative criticism was like getting rid of weeds in a garden, I’d be right there with you pulling up roots! Even without knowing the specific reasons we feel hurt by negative criticism, we can still find ways to deal with it. Our reasons are unique to our individual experiences, of course. But I suspect that a big reason we respond adversely to negative criticism is because each of us has a protected well of positive characteristics. And when that well is taken from, we feel that loss.
It’s why you can be afraid to mention something in a meeting or be afraid to perform at your best. Because you worry about losing face. It’s why it hurts when someone insults you or doesn’t approve of something that you do. Because there’s the potential to lose self approval and the approval of others.
It’s because of that sense of loss that negative criticism hurts.
But the opposite is true as well. For instance, you may have a thought that boosts your self esteem and that positive thinking, unconsciously goes into your well of strengths. It fills you, instead of taking away from you. Over time, these thoughts can accumulate along with other positive thoughts and create positive characteristics. Like being a good person or having great judgement. These things add to your well of greatness and makes it harder to drain or feel loss.
But the more someone takes away from your inner well, the drier it becomes. Sometimes a negative criticism not only takes away from your well, but poisons it.
That’s exactly what you feel happening when you face negative criticism. If your well was not full from the start or it does not replenish itself, each new criticism leaves you feeling depleted or drained and sometimes muddied. That well within is so precious because it holds our confidence, our self image, and what we believe to be true of our world. Our inner well, that provides us with the energy we need to stay positive in life, is a wonderful and vital source and could be better guarded.
Those who do guard that source of inner energy and self replenish, handle negative criticism gracefully. But not all of us know that no one can truly take away from us what is in our hearts, minds and souls.
I want to share with you my 3 Ways to Handle Negative Criticism.
These three ways can help if it’s someone intentionally attempting to put you down or even it if it’s just a fear of what others may say or think of you. These ways definitely aren’t the only ways to handle negative criticism. But for me, they’re the most calming ways that require the least effort.
The Map is Not the Territory
This phrase is the standard principle in NLP. As a practitioner of Neuro Linguistic Programming, I’ve found this to be a really comforting notion. NLP is all about how the language you use with yourself, along with your senses and perceptions, can affect how you experience life. The map is not the territory means that your view of the world is not reality, it’s your perception of reality.
Your map is how you see your life and your journey within it. And the same is true for everyone. One person’s map may have a clear indication of mountains on the path, but your map may show the obstacle with many paths to go around it… Each person’s life experience is different depending on their map, although we share the same world.
So, if someone is negatively criticizing you, they are sharing their map and how they see it. But how they see it, does not necessarily make it your reality; your truth.
Their criticism is based on how they see the world. It isn’t necessarily right or wrong, it’s simply their point of view. Which means the path that they think is best is simply so according to their map or view of the world. You can decide to learn from their map or stick to yours. Ultimately, you create what your map looks like.
Learn from it
If you’ve just experienced a heavy dose of negative criticism, you’re probably feeling a bit wounded. Maybe it was shocking, left you speechless or it just sucked! What do you do with those feelings now?
Learn from what happened! Ask yourself, was the criticism true in any way? Ask yourself, what could you have done differently? Ask yourself, did I learn something about who they are or who I am? Review what happened or is potentially about to happen and take what lessons you can. Simply allow yourself to be curious about its positive lessons.
Love and Approve of your Self
When we face negative criticism or are afraid of it, the well we drew from for positivity and strength, seem vulnerable. But when you give your self extra love during these times, you can feel confident to know that you can refill and restore that positive inner energy.
It is possible! And you do have the power to remind yourself of your best qualities.
Remind yourself that you’re doing your best and if you aren’t you can start now. Remind your self that the only words that make the biggest impact on you are the words you say to yourself. So make them loving! Go ahead, tell yourself, “I love you no matter what anyone says!” Even if you don’t believe that initially, keep saying this to fill your well.
If the negative criticism has notes of truth in it, aspire to be your best self. Hear the potentially good intentions and advice. Use these as a mirror for your personal self reflection. And learn to love what you see now and your potential for future growth.
Criticism can offer great insight into who the critic is and who you are. It’s all just information. Work together if possible, love yourself no matter what.
What does your spirit, your inner wisdom, your highest self say about this? Close your eyes, get quiet and listen…
*Bonus Insight* To be perfectly honest, there is one more amazingly helpful way to handle negative criticism… Find support and have a good cry! Reach out to your truest friends, your most comforting family members, or find support with Me!