How to Overcome Your Fear of Criticism
Receiving criticism isn’t exactly a fun experience. Whether it’s from mentors or peers, teachers, colleagues, or friends and family, being told that what we’re putting out there is less than perfect (or even good) can really sting. But getting feedback from others is how we learn and grow. Constructive criticism can help us see things in a new perspective and think outside the box. It can spark creativity, encourage critical thinking, and drive us to push further than we might have gone without it. Being comfortable taking criticism is important for artists and creatives, entrepreneurs, students, and in many other professional spheres. So how do we make it less scary and stressful?
Don’t take it personally
Remember that when somebody critiques your work, that’s all they are doing – they aren’t commenting on your essential nature, your worth, or your right to exist on this earthly plane. It’s not about you. But for many of us, criticism can trigger some of our core wounding, which makes it difficult to distance ourselves emotionally from it. That’s especially true of projects or roles that we pour our heart and soul into. Next time you receive criticism, write down all of the negative things it made you feel about yourself – maybe that sounds like “I’m not enough”, “I’m too much”, “I’m stupid”, or “I’m terrible at this”…whatever nasty things that are coming from your own filter, because someone pointed out an error on one of your projects. Write a response to those self-criticisms with positive opposites, like “I am enough”, “I am brave”, “I’m learning and growing”, or “I’m proud of myself for trying”. Now you can go back to the criticism with a clearer head.
See it as an opportunity
Life is one long learning curve, and the lessons never stop. In many contexts, criticism is useful and can be harnessed for your highest potential. Be humble about all the things you don’t yet know, and try to be grateful that somebody has taken the time to look at your work. They might have gone out of their way to put thought into their feedback, so thank them and be heartened by the fact that they think your work is worth refining. Mentors usually offer criticism because they recognize your potential and can see that you’re falling short – so it’s a sign that they believe in your talent. You might not find that the critique resonates or feels fair, but your gut might tell you there’s something in it that could be worked with – it might even inspire you to take a creative direction that neither you nor your appraiser had even thought of.
Choose what to take on board
Listen carefully and absorb what’s being said to you. If you feel angry, upset, or hurt, try to put those feelings aside so you can process them in your own time. Avoid the urge to react or respond (other than to thank them for their comments, perhaps) and don’t explain yourself away. Just sit with the opinion that’s being presented to you, or ask questions. Try to understand why they think what they think, even if you don’t agree. Then you can decide if you want to take it on board and act on it, stick to your guns, or find another solution. Some people – such as people-pleasers, or highly sensitive people – can react badly to criticism due to their nature. If you were emotionally triggered by any criticism, explore the feelings that came up – did it remind you of the time you were told off or dismissed as a child? What limiting beliefs around your worth and capabilities can you now decide to let go of?
Invite criticism from different people
The best way to get comfortable with receiving criticism is to keep working that muscle. Ask different people for their honest opinions – if you’re working on a novel, find another writer to do a critique swap, or buy dinner for a bookworm friend in exchange for their constructive feedback. Remember that everybody has different tastes, so think about who you want to cater to.
But finally, be sure to maintain strong boundaries around criticism itself. There’s a world of difference between constructive feedback and trolling, or destructive criticism or bullying – and building up your self-esteem can help you know where to draw the line. We shouldn’t put up with snide remarks or abuse, but we also mustn’t be so afraid of being criticized for our actions that we don’t even give ourselves a chance. After all, even the most beloved rock stars and respected leaders aren’t loved by everyone, and they definitely aren’t perfect. Take any criticism with a handful of salt, and see it as a sign that you are doing something right – that at least you’re out there, giving it a go. Bring it on.
Want to learn how to improve your self-confidence, so that you aren’t just better at taking feedback, but you can also learn how to better tell the difference between constructive and destructive criticism – and how to not let it ruffle your feathers when it shouldn’t? Take our course on How To Build Self-Esteem, hosted by renowned psychologist and self-esteem expert, Dr. Virgil Zeigler-Hill!
All of the content on our website is thoroughly researched to ensure that the information shared is evidence-based. For more information, please visit the academic journals that influenced this article: The Power Of Feedback Revisited: A Meta-Analysis Of Educational Feedback Research; Criticism & Society; To What Does Perceived Criticism Refer? Constructive, Destructive, And General Criticism; Countering The Effects Of Destructive Criticism: The Relative Efficacy Of Four Interventions; Negative Effects Of Destructive Criticism: Impact On Conflict, Self-Efficacy, And Task Performance.
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