Written by Dr. Eric Perry, PhD
“Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain, but it takes character and self-control to be understanding and forgiving.” ~Dale Carnegie
My fiancé can’t stand the way I drive. I, of course, do not agree with her criticism and defend my driving skills as if I am a professional formula one driver. I am not special in regards to accepting criticism. No one likes to be criticized, but it is part of my existence unless I become a hermit who lives in a cave. In the current age where criticism is only a “Yelp” away, being able to accept criticism, whether it is fair or not is both necessary and vital for growth.
Here are five easy steps to accept criticism:
1. Don’t let a knee-jerk reaction make a jerk out of you
Don’t be reactive. When criticized we may want to respond with anger and defensiveness towards the person who we feel is unjustly on the attack. It is important to learn to control these initial negative reactions so things don’t spiral out of control. Take a step back and don’t personalize the criticism. Remember, the criticism is not aimed at you but at your actions.
Criticism is just a form of communication with a little more spice. Perhaps the person criticizing you is not using the right words. However, they are still trying to tell you something. Perhaps, if you listen carefully you will gain insight that can make you better.
Accept that you are not perfect. We ALL make mistakes. Be open to the criticism and see it as an opportunity to grow. Don’t waste energy holding on to ill feelings about being criticized. Imagine yourself holding the criticism in the palm of your open hand. Accept it. Release it.
Take the criticism that you see as negative and transform it into something constructive. The psychotherapeutic term for this is sublimation. High achievers are experts at sublimating negative feelings into positive actions. Learn to see every criticism as an opportunity to grow. Don’t forget to update the people who criticized you on your progress. Look for their eyes to light up when you tell them about the positive changes you made. Only then does it become evident that they really were just trying to help.
5. Lastly, say thank you
Once we put our ego aside, we need to remember we are actually learning the most from the people who criticize us in a constructive way. These individuals are going out of their way and opening themselves up to a potentially verbal attack just for the sake of honest reflection. So thank them for their courage and don’t hold a grudge.Once you accept this, you may actually go out of your way to elicit criticism from others to see in what areas you can improve. Remember the next time you are criticized, you are in good company and growth can’t happen in the comfort zone! Good luck!
The thoughts expressed in this blog post are my own and are not meant to create a therapeutic relationship with the reader. This blog does not replace or substitute the help of a mental health professional. Please note, I am unable to answer your specific mental health questions as I am not fully aware of all of the circumstances.
Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology
M.A. in Clinical Psychology
B.A. in Psychology
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