Because I put myself out there in public ways, I’m subjected to a LOT of criticism, both on the internet and in person. Some of it is the kind of vicious, violent hating that cowards love to spout amidst the safety of being anonymous on the internet. Some of it is pure projection. People don’t like what they see of themselves in the mirror I hold up. Some of it is totally valid constructive criticism delivered in a respectful, helpful, balanced way.
No matter how criticism is delivered, the ego hates to be criticized. It likes to respond to criticism with defensiveness, anger, or self-flagellation. But if you’re able to receive criticism as your Inner Pilot Light, rather than as your ego, there are ways to let criticism help you. Whether the criticism appears from anonymous people on the internet or from people close to you, it’s possible to receive criticism in a healthy way and let the criticism allow you to grow and learn. Most of the criticism I receive on the internet I ignore because I don’t know the people who are criticizing me, so it’s hard to discern why they’re criticizing me or whether I can trust that they are safe people with my best intentions at heart. However, I invite the people I love to criticize me. It’s how I see my blind spots and grow into a better person.
Here are a few tips for how to receive criticism with grace.
1. Assess whether the person criticizing you leaves you feeling emotionally and physically safe.
If this is someone you trust, who you know has your best interests at heart, invite the criticism. If this is someone unsafe who does not have your best interests at heart, it’s okay to set boundaries around uninvited criticism. You don’t have to sit through a violent verbal attack. If you have a history with an unsafe person who wants to criticize you, it’s okay to ask that person to save the criticism for when you can have a mediator present, someone like a therapist. It’s also okay to refuse to listen if you’re not wanting to keep a relationship. But it very worth inviting criticism from the people who are really trying to help.
2. Listen generously to the person who is criticizing you.
I was about to lead a teleclass in two minutes, when the phone rang.
I could tell by the tone of his voice that something awful had happened.
His name was Dan. He asked if we had a puppy named Bezoar, and after confirming that we did, his voice broke when he confessed that he had just accidentally killed her with his car. He was sitting by the side of the road right behind my house, holding her, waiting for me to come get her.
I bailed on the teleclass, and, heart racing and body shaking, dashed out to Highway 1 to wrap my arms around the 6 month old puppy who just joined the family in July, shortly after our beloved Grendel died prematurely in June.