Coping with Criticism

There are two kinds of people when it comes to criticism: one type of person will enjoy any kind of criticism, whether constructive or not; the other will take criticism as a reason for self-pity and self-blame. However, whether you are the former or the latter, you can cope with any type of criticism if you just remember what criticism is: it is how others think of you, and your reaction to this will determine how those outside opinions impact your well-being.

We have all seen at least one person in our lives who “doesn’t care what other people think” of him or her. This is the type of person who will wear whatever is unfashionable in public, and won’t even stop to think about all the eyes that probe his or her outfit.

On the other hand, almost all of us have probably experienced, at some point in our lives, a resentment for criticism, even if it may appear to be constructive. This because people don’t want to hear what is supposedly “bad” about them. And, this is also one reason why words are sometimes more dangerous than actual, material weapons.

You might have been the person who hated your teachers because they criticized you too much. Or, you might have thought that they criticized you in a way that wasn’t constructive. Again, this is all relative (or, rather, subjective). Think, for one moment, what constructive criticism really means to you. Now, whatever definition you come up with will probably be different from the next person’s definition. That doesn’t matter. What matters is that criticism, at any level whether positive or negative, comes from other people.

The people who “don’t care about what other people think” are actually thinking in the right direction. In some instances, they will have to care, but when it comes to trivial things, like fashion or writing or how they speak, they won’t care.

People who have stopped thinking that way are subject to all kinds of harm. Again, free speech is a victim to this sort of “political-correctness” and politeness that we have to invent in order for everyone to feel good about themselves. If a person is wearing unfashionable shoes, we can’t just go up to that person and say, “Maybe you should have gotten another pair of shoes, because those don’t look good.” Doing that would merit some sort of quarrel. Yet, nothing is stopping us from doing so. We can do it, but if we are kind, uncaring people, we won’t do it. If we did do it, however, and the other person just shrugs it off, we can commend that person’s ability to “just not care” about how we think about their shoes. That is the type of person who is able to keep his nose high even if our trivial criticisms are attacking him on all sides.

So, the best way to cope with criticism is to listen to it, and then decide how we will react to it. We can either react to it negatively and make ourselves look bad, or we can say politely, “Thanks for your advice, but I’m doing my own thing.”