dealing with criticism

Criticism, the disapproval of someone or something based on perceived faults or mistakes, can be so damaging that it can be considered a cancer in the mind.This cancer of criticism can launch different thought processes that initiate stress reactions and negatively impact both mental and physical health. We all are subject to criticism — even so, it can be challenging to overcome. Criticism is double-edged: it can be used to cut through waste and misdirection, resulting in a better, more established path. On the flipside, it can be a means to tear down and destroy the target.

Criticism can cause feelings of humiliation and evisceration -Anger that can be destructive and threatening to the balance of emotional well-being. Criticism comes in many forms. Beyond expressions of disapproval, it can also be the analysis and judgment of the merits and faults of our work. Breaking it down further, we have three main types of criticism: destructive criticism, constructive criticism, and instructive criticism.

Constructive and instructive forms of criticism are the most helpful of the three. These forms of criticism are great tools to build authentic relationships and reach a common goal. They are based in altruistic honesty, for the sake of building and creating for the long term. Criticism can be applied in a way that is positive and kind. One example is labeling a criticism as a “tip” and not making it personal. This generalizes how the information is given and presents the message as a tool that is used by many others.  

As for destructive criticism, we see it every day in this age of the internet. A good example is the comment section of social media accounts with large followings. Such corners of the internet are oftentimes bloodbaths of criticism from internet trolls. These people aim  to demean, lessen, and possibly destroy others solely for entertainment.

This is the world we live in today. To survive, it’s crucial that we have a toolbox to navigate such rough waters. 

1. Allow yourself time, and assess

Process the emotions. When your thoughts reach the point of plain rumination, dwelling on negative thoughts or feelings, often to an unhealthy degree, it’s time to seek answers and clarification. The best way to do this is to remove yourself from the event to obtain as much objectivity as possible.

2. carefully consider whether the critic may be correct. 

Visualize a scenario in which their perspective was true and what should happen if it were. If it makes sense, you can use this information as a tool for growth.

3. Implement cognitive defusion

    Realize that you don’t have to listen to the critic’s words. Finally, tell your critic how they made you feel. At the same time, understand that this is not always possible and they may react negatively. We cannot all think and act the same. Still, having the conversation is not futile. It may even prove fruitful in developing your relationship with the other party, or at the very least additional knowledge of conflict-handling.

    4. Focus on self-care

      If you feel wounded and disrupted, it’s time to heal and re-collect yourself. Self-love is different for us all. It comes in a multitude of forms: pampering or treating yourself, journaling, creating something from your heart, and sharing with your support system. It’s crucial to learn from the event, identify new perspectives, and plan how to move forward.

      We can learn many things from criticism. Criticism leads to self-examination and discovery. In our day-to-day lives, when there is little interference, we are in danger of living a life of complacency. Criticism disrupts this complacency and presents a valuable opportunity to discover and further build our identity. When applied appropriately, it can be a catalyst for growth and change in the routines that may have veered towards stagnancy. It also helps us to weed out the unhealthy and unproductive relationships that we have in our lives and pursue paths that we are better suited to.

      The truth is, we are often our own worst critic, some of us more than others. Anything I say to myself is much worse than anything another person could say to me. What if you are self-critical to the point it’s affecting your life in a negative way? What if you are mentally-hindered, and unable to feel the thrust and gusto of pursuing your dreams? 

      There are many ways to overcome self-criticism. Start by questioning: why are you criticizing yourself? What aspect of your being is causing you to go down this path? Where does this critique resonate from?

      Next, be mindful. Take time each day to sit quietly with yourself and your thoughts. Examine where your mind takes you and why, without judgment. If you find something ugly there, be compassionate with yourself. Give yourself grace. We all have demons in the closet. Boost your psyche with positive affirmations. Make this a daily practice because we become what we believe. Human beings are fluid and malleable. We are not meant to be static. Our core makeup is meant for change and evolution. If these strategies don’t help and you continue to suffer, a counselor may be helpful too.

      In closing, criticism can lead to positive growth and change if utilized from the appropriate perspective. Criticism is a part of life and communication. In a perfect world, we would always be brave enough to wield the sword of criticism to our own benefit. If you can, find the courage to closely examine the criticism. Look for truths within the words, if any, and learn how to utilize the truths constructively. May the tools that you obtain navigating these experiences aid you in this journey called life.

      2 thoughts on “dealing with criticism”

      1. Dear Julie Stern,
        Thank you for replenishing “the thrust and gusto” of co-habiting criticism. As you point out there is balance when the forge is fanned with the billows of grace. Trusting us and ours to hope, health, happiness and harmony.


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