How I Deal with Criticism

As I have a popular website which deals with new-age topics, I get a lot of feedback.  Most of it is nice feedback, but over the years I’ve received a bit of not-so-good feedback on my writings, opinions, and beliefs.

I wanted to write about it because for me it has been a really interesting journey putting myself ‘out there’ and navigating the feedback, especially as I am a very private person (believe it or not!) who used to be very sensitive to other peoples’ opinions.

Here’s what I’ve learned along the way.

1. You can distinguish quickly between constructive criticism and not so constructive criticism by examining the giver

I used to be so open to other peoples’ opinions and energy but now I consciously decide whose opinions to pay attention to based on the following: does the person know me? Do they care about me? Is it delivered with respect? Is it shaming or sarcastic? Does it come from a “you are flawed and I need to fix you?” place?

2. Don’t take it personally

(I know – easier said than done!)

This was so hard for me to learn, mainly because I grew up in a very critical family. So when I started out writing, it was very upsetting for me when I received negative feedback because I had no mechanism in place, psychologically speaking, to filter out criticism that wasn’t constructive.

But the non-constructive or mean criticism isn’t even about you.

I love this quote from Anais Nin:

“We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.”

Critical people are so secretly horrified by what they see as their own imperfections that often they cannot own them or accept their humanness. Instead they just constantly see their own flaws as outside of them. For example, if a person unconsciously believes something negative about himself, such as being lazy or greedy, but cannot admit it, he will constantly see that in others. He will project his own insecurities onto the world around him.

Therefore, the more cutting or shaming the criticism is, the more it speaks to the person’s own ‘stuff’ and insecurities. Critical people are usually frustrated or hurting about something that has absolutely nothing to do with you.

For this reason, if you are making a mark in any way whatsoever (especially online) you will attract criticism because you will be exposed to more people who can be triggered by you or what you do.

Everyone gets criticized – people at the top of their field especially. The more attention you attract and the higher you climb, the more you get criticized.  Extremely talented artists get called talentless. Philanthropic people have their intentions doubted. Beautiful people have their appearances criticized. There will always be someone who is cynical or mean. That’s why those people have to be tuned out – you don’t want to join them in their negativity.

Instead…

3. Be a good gatekeeper for your life and energy

I learned the hard way that if you have critical people or even one critical person in your life who thinks you’re not a good person or that you never do things right, it becomes impossible to feel good about yourself. Being surrounded by this type of energy is damaging long term. It can leave an imprint on your self-esteem and confidence that you could spend a long time overcoming. It can make you feel very self-conscious as you have this critical magnifying glass that shines on you and what you do.

It’s important to be a good gatekeeper for your life and keep out the toxic energy.

For me this means I don’t spend time around anyone who is critical or shaming, or who thinks I should be a better version of me. I also prefer to have an email gatekeeper (an assistant) so that I’m not completely open to all the energy and feedback that comes at me.

4. Remember who you are

When you receive a cutting criticism or negative feedback, it’s good to remember who you are and where you came from in that moment. That way you put it into perspective.

When I experienced  the Christchurch earthquake (I was on the ground floor of a multi-storey concrete building that was shaking violently) my first thought was “this building cannot fall on me because I still have things to do in this lifetime”. I didn’t think about how I wished I had been more acceptable to others or played it more safe. Instead I thought about the bigger picture, and none of it was about playing it small to please other people. That was very revealing to me – it shows what is important. I believe each of us has a purpose – soul gifts to share, lessons to learn, ways in which to inspire one another and it is good to hold onto that wider picture of who we are and why we do what we do.

Criticisms are just tiny blips along the way, irrelevant to your purpose and your life unless it is a constructive criticism that resonates with you.

5. If you have someone in your life who persistently puts you or your efforts down (even in a teasing way) consider the fact that you’re probably dealing with an emotionally abusive person

We may say something critical in the heat of an argument and then regret them later or apologize. But if someone consistently pokes holes in what you do and criticizes you, your life or your character, consider the fact that they are not your friend. They may be emotionally abusive.

Real friends don’t try to make us better people all the time, they take us for who we are. They accept that we are all on a journey and no-one is flawless.

How do you deal with criticism and negative feedback?

Please share your thoughts, wisdom and experiences on this topic by leaving a comment.

 

Meet Anna

Hi, I’m Anna Sayce! My purpose here on this website is to provide practical techniques and information to help empaths to understand, and fix the root of their energetic overwhelm & also to help sensitives to embrace and develop their intuitive gifts. I believe that developing our spiritual & intuitive side is very powerful and allows us to improve our own lives, and if we wish, even make the world a better place for others. Discover more >

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13 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Great article, Anna. The way I deal with negative feedback is I talk to you 🙂 🙂 As Im so sensitive often I need someone who knows me to help me filter out the energy that sticks. Not all of it sticks.

  2. Avatar

    Anna, I’ve always found your insights very constructive and I’m grateful that you have the energy to share them. They open up a realm of reality that I’ve only lightly touched and it’s good to see its beauty and importance through your eyes.

  3. Avatar

    Oh wow Anna! I had no idea you went through that here. I had to put those systems in place as an adolescent. I never have been the kind of person who fits in anywhere. This is actually a really great topic on self authority. We are not what other people think about us and it really doesn’t matter what other people think.

    I’ve found that friends and family can sometimes be the worst. Almost as if they want us to fail or want to protect us from failing.

    The one thing I’ve really been learning lately is what you mentioned above about projection. I ask “why is this showing up in my life?”. That’s karma, brilliantly at work! It’s so effective!

    The way I handle negative feedback online is by hitting the big fat delete button on my keyboard. I don’t tolerate negativity anywhere else in my life either. If my friends or family are being negative, I create really firm boundaries: “That doesn’t work for me” and “It’s not okay to talk about this topic with me”.

  4. Anna

    Hi AJ, I’m glad you are such a great gatekeeper for your energy!

  5. Avatar

    Thanks Kate. Yes, exactly. It’s a good strategy for me too (as you know!)

  6. Avatar

    Hi Anna,

    I’d be interested in your view about boundaries vs negative people – whether it’s others of yourself who is being negative. Lately I’ve been in a bunch of situations where someone has not done their job or been responsible and I’ve found myself needing to step up to the plate to inform them of this and ask for a solution or a change – and I feel completely guilty doing it! As if I am not entitled to criticize them. Or cannot do it in a kind enough way, maybe. I’ve noticed that some people have shown up who put their own foot down about poor behavior, almost as if they are modeling it to me (as I am just a bystander at the time).

  7. Avatar

    Some great points especially about how critical people see the world through their own flaws!

    As for dealing with critical people, I’ve found that if you switch tables on them it at least makes them realize how they are coming across. Some people don’t mean to be damaging and once they understand how it feels to be on the receiving ends they’ll realize it.

    A perfect example of this is my mother, she’s always been critical about how I’m not a neat person. She would tell me that I’m not living up to her standards. Well I had enough and I gave her an article on cleaning disorders and OCD and told her that describes her and that she has a cleaning problem.

    She didn’t like that at all and asked me to stop doing that. And then I said I will stop as long as you stop trying to make me a “perfect” clean person. That definitely got the point across and I’m happy to report she doesn’t bother me anymore.

    Great article!

  8. Avatar

    Please help me see how to apply your advice to a situation I’ve been running into at work (a tutoring business that I founded, own, and operate).

    Background:
    Sometimes, when a prospective client asks via e-mail for my help, the client will ask me to phone so that we can talk over the case and arrange a first appointment, and we will arrange a certain day and time for the conversation. When I call and the client isn’t there, I usually leave a recorded message with my phone number and ask her to call or e-mail back when it’s convenient. When this does not lead to a reply, I usually wait a week and then follow up with an e-mail or phone asking if s/he would like us to stay in touch. (Phone calls are reserved for those who have already stated that they would prefer to be phoned back, rather than e-mailed. These are usually the more interested clients.)

    Here’s the problem:
    Several times in my career (the third time was just today), after things got to the third stage (wait a week before re-contacting), the other person told me that she considered the above-described behavior to be “stalking.” (I specify “she” because all three of the people who said this were mothers. This may or may not be significant: in all three cases, they were mothers of children or teens with disabilities.) In one case, it was described as “autistic stalking of the needy and defenseless”— as it happens, I have Asperger’s syndrome (which is an autism spectrum condition) and this fact is publicly known through my media interviews, web-site, etc. (I am not sure, though, what “autistic stalking” means, because I am not sure how “autistic stalking” differs from regular stalking, of needy/defenseless people or of anyone else.)

    The objection is, apparently, that I follow up on phone calls. (I have learned through experience that neglecting to follow up is a bad idea: many of my happiest clients are, and have been, those I wouldn’t have gotten without following up. Conversely, I have lost clients at times when I couldn’t phone back as arranged, because of some emergency.)
    Or maybe the problem is how I interpret something like “Please phone me tomorrow at 2 PM — I have a solid hour free right then — here’s my cell-phone number.” This is not rationally interpretable as “Don’t call back.”

    Is there some special way to “just know” when a total stranger (who called for my help, who asked me to phone back, etc.) is going to use against me my willingness to cooperate?

    I said that this has happened three times … But, over the years, there have been other people who had called, asking to be clients, and who then suddenly/quickly broke off contact in very similar ways/circumstances (they skipped out on a contact they’d asked for) without giving a reason. Quite likely, they (or some of them) also classified follow-up as “stalking.”

    Advice, please!
    Should I just ignore these clients’ beliefs? What if they are sharing that belief with others, who may not want an alleged “stalker” for a tutor?

  9. Avatar

    I’m struggling with that right now. I got so badly criticized for a local paper I put that I eventually just shut it down. And all I was trying to do was try to get people to realize certain things about what could be going on – like your blog, only I had my own newspaper – it did quite well, I just could NOT understand why so many people were being so cruel with their comments. I even had people come to my house claiming to be Christians, yet cursing me out and calling me HORRIBLE NAMES! I couldn’t handle it anymore. Now I’m in the biggest rut I’ve ever been in. Its so hard to climb my way out WITH NO SUPPORT. But your article was so right on and correct. It makes me miss my writings, but I’m too thin skinned I guess. Blessings to you, and PLEASE keep your writing up – it gives me hope.

  10. Avatar

    What do you do when you’re living with that person?

    Unfortunately I’m in the position where I am living in a foreign country with a mother in law who thinks I’m the dirt beneath her shoes. She criticizes everything I do, complains about me non stop to the rest of her family and my partner (!!!), makes fun of the way I speak and look, and disparages all my choices. She basically told my partner that she can’t wait until my partner is dating someone else. She either ignores me or pretends to be nice to my face, but I’m quite emphatic so this experience has been not only draining but incredibly damaging to my sense of well being. Even though I don’t consciously believe what she says about me, my feelings are that I’m worthless. I tend to take on everyone’s view point as my own, especially the damaging ones.

    I can’t seem to get any work done anymore. I feel terrible about myself and the world. It’s a horrible position to be in and my partner and I just can’t afford to move out so I’m stuck living with this person who makes me feel everyday that I’m worthless. Does anyone have any words of wisdom for me? I’m at the end of my rope.

  11. Anna

    Hi Julie,

    I think if someone is paid to do a job, they need to do it to an acceptable standard, and if it’s not, then something needs to be said. It doesn’t have to be negative, the message can be delivered with respect etc. Asking for a solution sounds totally constructive and respectful.

    I have had the experience of having to fire someone. Once I did it very badly and learned from it, the other time I did it with as much respect and care for myself and the other person as I could muster, focused only on the facts, and it turned out OK. I think it’s a loving thing to recognize that someone might not be right for a role and their gifts can be better used in another context. Focusing on the facts of the situation is enough, I think! That’s what makes it constructive vs non constructive so no need to feel guilty.

    Non-constructive is beating someone up (figuratively speaking :)) adding into the dialogue lots of emotion or judgments about who the person is and why they are not doing what they should be doing, etc.

    My 2 cents. Not sure if that helps.

  12. Anna

    Thank you, Ron. Glad you enjoy the articles.

  13. Anna

    Hi Joey, that is a great idea for helping critical people to see how they come across to others.

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