I’ve always said that I really don’t much care what other people think of me. Fairly frequently, people will respond with, “Oh, come on. You have to care.” When I think about it all the way through, I guess there are times when someone else’s criticism of me can sting a little. I’ve since changed my mantra from I don’t care…to, as long as I’m true to myself, then I really don’t care what anyone thinks of me. That’s the key. Are you doing your best? Are you putting on airs? Are you going out of your way to please others to avoid criticism? These are all things you have to answer for yourself, honestly. If you give honest answers to yourself and you like the way you’ve answered, then criticism from others shouldn’t matter one whit.
I believe that as we mature, we come to realize that life is actually very short. There really isn’t a whole lot of time to put ourselves into situations where we know we’re gong to be miserable. I would include putting oneself into social situations one doesn’t want to be in. If I’m invited to a social situation where I may like the person who’s invited me, but I know I’m going to be spending time with a number of people I don’t care for, I’ll politely decline. The last thing I want to do is hang around people with whom I have nothing in common and, thereby, actually inviting criticism. It’s a waste of my time and a prescription for misery. Again, life’s just too short.
Here’s a specific example. I am not a very snappy dresser. I have been quoted as saying that, I can’t , for the life of me, imagine anything on God’s green earth less important than clothes and fashion. Therefore, if someone calls me a slob, it really doesn’t hurt. All I can do is laugh it off and say, “Yeah. you’re right.” But, since it doesn’t really matter to me, the criticism is meaningless-except to the person who intiates it. Likewise, music has a great meaning to me. If I’m spending time with someone who only listens to top-40 radio and I mock their tastes, they shouldn’t really care what I think.
On the other hand, if I’ve done something I know was wrong, any criticism I may receive may probably be deserved and it is going to hurt. Let’s say I’ve slighted someone in some way. This is out of character for me. I’ve always tried to live by the golden rule and tried to be respectful of others. If I’ve fallen short of this goal and someone points it out, I’m going to take the criticism to heart and feel badly. But, the criticism itself only hurts, because I know I deserve it to begin with. It’s all a matter of perspective. The more meaningful the flaw is to me, the more meaningful the criticism from others is going to mean to me.
Coping with criticism really isn’t that difficult if you are true to yourself. It is often said that people who are overly critical are putting others down to lift themselves up. If the critical statement is true, but you aren’t real concerned with the core value behind the statement (i.e., for me, fashion), the criticism should just roll off your back. If true, and it has great meaning to you, the criticism may hurt, but it only hurts because you know it’s true and deserved. You address that by changing behavior. In the end, though, criticism can only hurt as much as you let it. The key to the whole thing is to be who you are.