Criticism can be really painful, even when it isn’t intended to hurt, especially if you’ve been in any type of emotionally abusive relationship now or in the past. However, it is possible to learn how to handle criticism without letting self-doubt and insecurity creep in. Here are eight tools to help you take criticism like a pro and stay confident.
Criticism Hurts, Handle it by Letting Yourself Feel What You Feel
Feel it. Acknowledge it. Express your hurt with an “I feel” statement. Journal and process. Cry, or punch a pillow if you need to. After you have had time to process and feel your feelings, decide how long you want to stay in that emotion. Remember to have self-compassion, and not to rush the process. Once you’ve allowed yourself to feel, take some extra time to care for yourself. Do things that help you feel happy and motivated. After you’ve allowed your emotions to move through you, it’s easier to take action from an aligned and inspired frame of mind.
Handle Criticism by Wrapping Your Faultfinder in Love
People often criticize when they are projecting their pain onto you.
Sometimes people criticize others when they have had painful experiences or fears themselves. For example, someone once told me that I would never succeed in business. After caring for and healing from the hurt I felt from these words, I later realized that this person was projecting their own fear of failure onto me, and was trying to protect me from the pain they felt about failure.
Other times people criticize others because their shame is triggered. They may feel insecure because you have a different opinion or way of doing something than they do, and they may subconsciously be feeling the need to defend themselves.
It is helpful to recognize this and have compassion for the naysayer. Their criticism may really be a reflection of their own pain. This doesn’t mean you have to continue to subject yourself to their painful words or dismiss the pain they caused you. In fact, acknowledging the harm that has been done first is actually a very important step in releasing your emotional ties to what was said or done to you. When you feel ready to release the pain, it will become easier to feel empathy without failing to set healthy boundaries. And remember, there is no timeline on this. Let yourself feel in order to heal.
If there is someone in your life that is overly critical, controlling, or who doesn’t know how to hold space for your feelings and desires, it’s going to be important to learn how to care for your needs and protect yourself from damaging behavior.
Here are 5 steps for setting boundaries around criticism.
- Drop into your body and observe your feelings. What is coming up for you when this person approaches you this way? Where do you feel this emotion in your body? What does it feel like? Name it, and journal about it.
- Consider what you need to do to care for these feelings. Maybe you need time to process, maybe you need to journal or repeat affirmations to validate yourself, maybe you need to surround yourself with people that build you up, etc. Become clear on what you need to do for yourself, and set aside some time for self-care.
- If needed, make a request of the person that is criticizing you. Share your feelings. You might say something like this: “I feel… when you… It would help me a lot if you could do XYZ. Would you be willing to do that?” Maybe you might want to suggest that it would be helpful if they gave feedback in a more balanced way, of if they gave you some forewarning before having this conversation, etc. Identify and ask for what you need.
- If this person is not able to listen with empathy as you express this or is unwilling or unable to fulfill your request, decide what actions you need to do to care for yourself now and in the future. For example, you may want to walk away when you are feeling criticized, you may choose to limit the time you spend with this person, etc. Remember, a boundary is about what you can do for yourself, not about what you’d like them to do for you.
Value Your Own Opinion About Yourself Above Anybody Else’s
It is possible for people to give feedback with love. Sometimes considering someone else’s criticism can open your eyes to something inside yourself that needs healing.
However, after you have weighed their opinion, ask yourself if YOU agree…not if others agree…if YOU agree. If you struggle with deciding whether this criticism is valuable to you or not, check out this article for more tips.
At the end of the day, you will never be able to please everyone, and you shouldn’t have to. The most important thing is to follow your own intuition.
Keeping an open mind is good, but once you have done some consideration, one of the healthiest things you can do is feel confident in your decisions and have your own back. Plus, changing your mind in the future is always an option if your heart begins to open up to other ideas.
Consider if Criticism is Triggering Shame Inside of You
Sometimes we may feel criticized when someone does something as simple as expressing an opinion that differs from ours, or maybe kind and constructive feedback may still be hard for us to hear. Do you feel angry, or want to hide when this happens? Has this triggered a fight, flight, or freeze reaction inside of you?
This sentiment may have triggered a feeling of shame. Shame is a feeling that makes us want to hide, run away, or defend ourselves. If shame is triggered, it is normal to feel defensive, angry, depressed, or afraid.
If you are feeling shame, it can be helpful to open up to a trusted friend, someone that knows how to hold space for your feelings and listen without judgment. It can also help to take some extra time for self-care to work through the feelings, and recenter yourself. For more ideas on self-care to practice, read this post.
Try Using Gratitude to Help You With How to Handle Criticism
Criticism can feel draining and defeating. Gratitude is the fastest way to lift your mood when you’re feeling down. Something that I learned recently was that it is important to really take the time to FEEL gratitude, rather than just acknowledging something and saying thank you. Something that helps me do this is expressing what I am grateful for about the experience and WHY. It is then helpful to stop to really let that emotion sink in for a minute can make a huge difference as well. Take it a step further and write down what you are grateful for in your very own Spiritual Self-Care Planner.
Ask Clarifying Questions to Understand the Criticism
We might feel hurt by something even if that was not what was intended. This doesn’t make that hurt any less real. It can be helpful to ask clarifying questions like “This is what it felt like…is that what you meant?” This can help clear up any misunderstandings and save you from unintended wounds.
If the Criticism Feels Constructive, Don’t Make Yourself Wrong
If you hear this person’s feedback, and it rings true to you, try not to make yourself feel wrong. Self-compassion is key here. Opportunities for personal growth are a great thing. We all need them! Think of it as a baby learning to walk. You wouldn’t scold them when they fall down. You would clap for them for trying, and encourage them to pick themselves back up and get going! Remember to do this with yourself too. You are just as valuable now as you were as a child. Treat yourself with compassion and care. You may have heard people say things like “you should be ashamed of yourself” when you’ve seen someone make similar mistakes, but the truth is, shame does nothing to promote healing. Working through your own emotions makes it easier to show up with empathy and understanding for others, and it will make your apologies go further too. Self-compassion promotes true healing. If you need to apologize, or right a wrong, you can do that sincerely without any shame.
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