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5 Tips for Handling Criticism

Criticism is something that's everyone has to face and deal with at some point. It may be that we come across it at home, work, school, church, or even amongst our good friends and family. Criticism can hurt a lot because it evokes the same feelings as rejection - it is someone disapproving of what we have done, and perhaps even of who we are.

Some criticism can be constructive, particularly when it is designed to draw our attention to a problem and to help us not to repeat a mistake, but when words are spoken simply to put us down or to make us feel worse about the problem, it is neither constructive or helpful. 

In both cases, here are 5 tips for handling criticism:

1. Try not to overreact.

Is there some truth in what they're saying? It is human nature to get defensive when we feel like we are under attack, but it is also important to consider where they're coming from. Someone who is truly trying to help you may have found it very difficult to bring up the topic, and most likely did so for your sake, not theirs. It may be hard to take at first - no one likes to realise their faults, especially if they've been giving their best - but in the long run it's better for us to know upfront than to continue in our mistake. Alternatively, you may realise that their motives are somewhat more malicious and without foundation, but by not overreacting, you can stop them from gaining any more power over you. 

2. Take from it what you need.

If the person is being critical for no other reason but to bring you down, don't take it all onboard or let it define who you are. Remind yourself of your true identity, and be secure enough to not let them shake your foundation (for more on being secure, click here). Even if they are attempting to give constructive criticism, don't change yourself unless you feel it is needed and truly want to. It's also important to remember your actions don't define who you as a person - by being able to separate the two, it becomes easier to accept constructive criticism without questioning ourselves and our abilities, which in turns helps us to remain open to help and to become a better person. 

3. Distance yourself from people who aren't going to lift you up. 

If people are only injecting negativity and destructive criticism into your life, respect yourself enough not to let them stay. There are other people who will provide a positive influence for you if you give them the room to come in. It's also important not to take on criticism from people who aren't qualified to give it. If you don't respect them, know them and/or you can see they're struggling with the exact same issue in their life, their advice is probably not going to be nearly as helpful as those who have experienced and overcome the issue before, and understand what it's like to be in the middle of it.

4. Remember, if someone's trying to bring you down, the issue is with them, not you.

If someone is being continually negative and derogatory towards you, know that it's most likely because of an issue in their lives and not because of something that's going on with you. As Joyce Meyer says, 'hurting people hurt people,' meaning that when people have unresolved wounds in their past or other insecurities, they tend to drag other people down in order to feel they have control and power over something. Don't judge yourself through their eyes, but neither accept the way they treat you: no matter what someone's been through, there's no excuse for them to treat another badly. 

5. Admit your mistakes.

If you have truly made a mistake and received constructive criticism as a result, then it's always better to admit to it rather than deny it or avoid facing it. Firstly, confronting the problem head-on shows strength of character and earns far more respect than trying to cover it up does. Secondly, it allows us the brilliant opportunity of starting afresh, where we can learn from the experience, draw wisdom from it, and try again with the support of those willing to help us and brave enough to be honest with us. 

Almost all of us know what it's like to receive criticism and how overwhelming it can be, particularly if we had no idea there was a problem in the first place, so it is always important to keep that in mind when we feel the urge to be critical of others. No one is perfect, and it is usually when people have made a mistake that they need kindness the most. If nothing else, receiving destructive criticism can teach us how not to treat others, while being open to constructive criticism can help us reach our potential.