Does criticism tend to derail you? Do you live in fear of negative feedback to the point that you obsess over perfection in an effort to avoid it? Do you get defensive, angry, and scared when you know you’re about to discuss your performance?
If you want to significantly improve your ability to prepare for, gauge, and handle constructive criticism, then this is the episode for you. Today, we’re going to be discussing a powerful technique that will increase your criticism tolerance so that you can become more comfortable receiving it and maintain your confidence when implementing it.
When we fear criticism, we tend to minimize ourselves—we stay quiet, shun risks, and hide our true selves, all to avoid attracting too much attention.
Unfortunately, if you never take a chance, you’ll never truly be able to pursue what you want in life, and that will lead to a small, limited, sad life, filled with bitterness and disappointment.
The other route that we take is to be so perfect that no one will ever want to criticize us. We overwork ourselves, prepare for the worst, and constantly keep one eye open, and yet we still never feel totally secure.
Just like with any other fear, liberation from it can only be gained by facing it and taking away its power over you. But how do we do that?
Exposure and meditation.
Let me use myself as an example: one way that I’m criticized regularly is through the internet. Not only do I do these videos, but I’ve also written books that people can leave reviews for on Audible and several other sites. Of course, these reviews can range from amazingly supportive to downright nasty.
I’ll use one as an example (for the sake of time, I’ll just give you the highlight reel):
- “Showy and Unconvincing,” One star (the lowest possible rating)
- Starting with the superficial, I found the narrator’s (who is also the author) voice very unpleasant . . . immature, and not at all like that of a professional adult. . . . between that and the hokey performance, I couldn’t take him seriously
- At best, unimpressive, and at worst showy, amateurish, and unconvincing. . . .
- It really seemed like this assertiveness training was coming from someone trying to make an awful lot out of a little life experience. . . .
- Had I done my homework and visited Dr. Aziz’s website first, I would have steered clear of this book. It’s full of gimmicky self-promotion. Seriously, there’s even a swimsuit-clad picture of him and his wife locking in a cheesy oceanic embrace at the very bottom of the About page. Dr. Aziz appears to be the latest edition of well-educated self-help hacks trying to make a name for themselves.
Now, imagine if I’d had no experience with receiving and dealing with harsh criticism—I’d be a mess!
So often, when we’re receiving criticism, we forget about any good feedback we’ve ever gotten, and we hyper-focus on the negative. On that site’s reviews, for example, the majority are overwhelmingly positive: they explain how I’ve created a sense of hope for people, opened their eyes to logic they’d never considered, and helped many make giant strides toward greater self-confidence. Many even mention that they appreciate my more casual tone, which was lambasted in the review above.
Now, could I choose to let something like this completely derail my progress and keep me from helping those who have benefitted from my work? Yes, I absolutely could. But what would be the point of that?
I AM helping people, and frankly, I LOVE what I do and get so much out of it on a daily basis myself.
The fact is, however, that simply telling myself that will never be enough. Criticism can hurt, so we need an actual tool that will allow us to move past that pain and use the criticism constructively (or, at least, ignore it).
So, what do we do to aid in this transformation?
For me, the answer is meditation. I slow down, I close everything else out, and I go over the criticism in my mind. In the case of a bad review, I’ll read it over again, slowly, bit by bit; I’ll pay attention to my body and notice where any negative feelings start to pop up; I’ll take note of the kneejerk reactions that begin to arise (defensiveness, anger, retaliation); and I’ll urge myself to consider the issue objectively.
After meditating on it for a while, I always come to the same conclusion: it’s not about me.
When a person has a criticism about you—particularly a personal one—it is simply their perspective . . . and, frankly, that person is allowed to have any perspective he or she wants. What we have to do in order to stay sane in the presence of haters is to press pause on the impulse to try to change that person’s perspective.
At a certain point, we must simply surrender. It is not our job to convince anyone of anything.
Everyone is not going to like you, and fighting in vain in an attempt to get everyone to like you is an egregious waste of time and energy.
Eventually, you may even get to the point where you can appreciate the criticism. Take the review above, for example: once upon a time, it would have devastated me—now I’m able to see it for what it is. The writing is decent, it’s well thought out, it includes supporting evidence, and it’s wry. In fact, it makes me laugh.
What’s more is that I actually agree with many of the points. Do I like the picture that the writer references? No—I think it’s cheesy, and I did when we took it. But my wife (and marketing team) love it, so there it sits. Am I always 100% satisfied with my tone, rhetoric, and presentation? No. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to change everything about my brand, constantly question myself, and make myself crazy with self-doubt.
When it comes right down to it, I am who I am, and this person is who she is, and we’re not meant to work together. You can’t win ‘em all.
Is this kind of brevity going to exist for you right off the bat? Probably not. In order to find it, you’re going to have to put in the work and practice these meditations any time that defensiveness arises. In my own life, I’ve even taken the time to sit down and consider just about every negative thing a person could say about me just so that I could practice meditation and come to peace with my triggers.
In the end, this is all really about being ok with who you are—it’s about being confident enough in yourself to ignore the opinions of others.
Maybe you forget things once in a while. That’s ok. Maybe you curse a little too much That’s ok. Maybe you can sometimes be amateurish, unprofessional, too familiar, or brash. That’s ok. YES, someone is probably going to call you out on it at some point . . . but there is absolutely nothing you can do about it.
The more you can free yourself from the burden of their judgement, the saner, happier, and more liberated you will become. You do not need to protect yourself from criticism—you just need to realize that it isn’t about you.
So, what sort of criticisms are most difficult for you? How has meditation helped you? What other tips and tricks have worked for you? Please leave your thoughts in the comments below so that your peers can use your wisdom to learn and grow. Together, we can keep this community thriving and create a support system for greater success.
Until we speak again, may you have the courage to be who you are, and to know on a deep level that you’re awesome.