Criticism: Managing It So It Does Not Manage You

Receiving criticism is unavoidable.

People may criticize us directly, by giving advice, teaching us when we do not require it, comparing us negatively to someone else, correcting us or focusing our attention a single fault.

Sometimes it rolls off our back or we manage to take it with good grace. Other times, it is piercingly painful and really does stick like glue. However, the most damaging part of being criticized is not what is said to us, but the additional shame and rumination that we inflict on ourselves.

Managing Criticism Wisely

Whatever emotions the criticism triggers, it is important to use your logical, rational mind to determine the intent behind the criticism and whether it carries any truth. Here are a few steps to calm yourself:

  1. Take some deep breaths and slow your thoughts down instead of letting them run off with your initial emotions.
  2. Take a few moments to remind yourself of people who care about you, remember the good you have done for others at different times in your life and think of your positive qualities or strengths.

Assess What Really Happened

  1. Remind yourself that criticism is frequently based on limited information. The criticizer may not know you in the larger context of your history, environment, family, sufferings, struggles and accomplishments.
  2. Remind yourself that criticism often reflects the insecurities of the person giving it, and that many people put others down to build themselves up.
  3. Sometimes criticism reflects a difference of values or preferences. Instead of sharing a personal preference, someone might express their own wishes by criticizing the way you are doing something.
  4. Some individuals will attempt to help by trying to “fix” you. They do this by pointing out what they see as faults or mistakes, then tell you how to do things correctly. After giving it some thought, you may realize there is nothing that needs fixing. Or, you might decide there is an element of helpfulness in what was said, but that does not mean you have done anything to be ashamed of.

Make Up Your Own Mind About the Criticism

It is vital that you make up your own mind about the validity of the criticism given you. If it were unwarranted or misplaced you may decide to let it go, or you can share your thoughts and feelings about it with the other person.

If it turns out that some or all the criticism is valid and truly helpful, any lifestyle or behavioral changes you make because of it will enhance your health, relationships and self esteem.

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