There are many ways to respond to criticism. Old adages and sage advice can help soften the blows life deals us. Phrases and incantations which make us feel more or less able to regain our balance, composure and some semblance of our self-esteem, and move on.
Whatever your particular pearl of wisdom, it’s important to realize two things:
1. Criticism is a valuable, necessary and sometimes incredibly beautiful part of life. Often it is something that you need to hear, that will help you to grow. Treasuring criticism as a true gift in your life, a way to become stronger, smarter, better at what you do and how you do it will allow you to continue moving forward and take away a good deal of the shame which may surround the criticism.
If your parents, teachers, employers, friends and significant others never addressed anything with you which needed adjustment or growth, you would not develop. It’s simply not possible to learn everything you need to learn without trying and coming up against things you need to do differently, and in this regard, criticism is your ally, it assists you.
2. Criticism is, especially as you grow older, yours to do with what you will. As a child and teen, and even as a young adult, we react rather than respond to criticism. We feel emotion about it, we either hurry to correct or become defensive. In either case we don’t turn it over or toss it out very easily.
As we grow and mature, it becomes both easier and more important to use our own best judgment when a criticism is thrown our way. We can ask ourselves certain questions, such as “Is this criticism being tossed over at me for the genuine, authentic purposes of really helping me become better at what it is I’m doing or not?” We begin to see that in certain instances we simply don’t agree with the criticism and choose not to incorporate it into our routine.
For example, if you are a hairdresser and your latest client complains because you “never listen to what I’m telling you,” but, seriously, you know you always do, that the bangs are really the bangs she asked for, and that she has switched hairdressers thirteen times in the last year due to the same complaint of no one “listening” to her, you may want to take that criticism and tuck it away into the “This isn’t something I need to work on” department of your personal growth file.
In any case, here are some nuggets to help you through the day, and through the sticky spider web of criticism which can catch you and trap you as often as it can lead you on your way to bigger and better things:
• Take it with a grain of salt
• That which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger
• Water off a duck’s back
• Sticks and stones
• Live and learn
• It’s not the destination, it’s the journey
• Process, not product
• If we were perfect we wouldn’t be here
Aimee Boyle is a regular contributor to EmpowHER
Edited by Jody Smith