“Trying to get everyone to like you is a sign of mediocrity” – Colin Powell
Wouldn’t it be fantastic if when we made a concerted effort to better ourselves, or others, it were met with adulation and encouragement? Such uplifting positivity would only strengthen our determination to do something admirable and laudable. However, I’m sure that many of you in the pursuit of your dreams have been met with negative, sometimes outright hostile, criticism.
Criticism is a fact of life, you’ll be faced with it at home and at work, from those near and dear to sometimes complete strangers. The bigger the ambition, the bigger the criticism. So if you’re like me, and have visions of yourself being world renowned, expect a LOT of flack. But even if you just want to make your high school basketball team, study abroad for a semester, get into a certain college, get in shape, read more, or hell, ask a certain someone out on a date, there’s still a chance that the claws of criticism will attempt to drag you down from your ambition.
And truth be told, criticism can be downright crippling, stifling even our strongest desires for success…but only if you take it personally, and run away from it. This is why it’s not just important, but essential that you have at least some idea on how to handle this beast because with the proper understand how to handle even your most staunch critics, you’ll have the ability to toss out the purely negative criticism, and identify the constructive criticism that can help you flourish.
1 Consider the Source
Before you get all angry and heated (or brush things under the rug, saving your fuming hatred for another time and blow up on an unsuspecting victim probably completely unrelated to the criticism itself)
FIRST, consider the source.
Who is telling you that you need to “get over yourself” and that you think too highly of yourself? Is it the same person who is a doormat, who they themselves allows themselves to get walked all over, who gets poor grades, who is out of shape, who, themselves, has given up on their dreams? Is the pot calling the kettle black? Is a fat person telling you that you live an unhealthy lifestyle?
Or is a health expert telling you that you live an unhealthy lifestyle? Is your English professor telling you how to improve your essay? Clearly, WHERE the criticism is coming from matters, and considering the source is the important first step in identifying what is worth your mental energy and what is simply a projection of another person’s insecurities.
2 Consider the Intentions
Considering the source is not the end all be all of what is worth your time because sometimes those “beneath” us can actually be giving sincerely constructive criticism, and it’d be a shame if we overlooked it. For example, a fat person can still be right that we live an unhealthy lifestyle. (see step 3 – Objectively Analyze the Criticism)
However, before we get to step 3, we must use another filter as an essential step in handling criticism: consider the intentions of the criticizer. Does the language or tone indicate that the criticizer was simply trying to bring you down? Here’s an example of criticism from one of my YouTube videos on AmanJohnK “I’m Smarter Than You”:
“:o BUUUUUUURN IN HEEEEELL YOU F*CKING PIECE OF SH*T !!! YOU CAN HAVE MORE MONEY THAN ME, YOU CAN BE SMARTER, YOU CAN HAVE THOUSANDS OF GIRLFRIENDS BUT YOU CAN NEVER HAVE MY RESPECT !!! MAY THE DEVIL SUCK THE MARROW FROM YOUR BONES F*CKING RETARD !!!”
This step may seem like a redundancy, but it is not. Imagine if you found the above comment written on one of your papers by your English professor! Your English professor probably passed the first step, Consider the Source, but they may not have the best intentions in their criticism because maybe you are dating their daughter, or something more benign like having an opposing political opinion.
Sometimes, even those who we would expect to have our well-being at heart criticize us in ways that can hurt. The key, however, is to not allow yourself to be hurt! Ask yourself “did my mom MEAN to hurt my feelings?” Most likely not, and this most likely also holds true for your friends as well. However, if they DID mean to hurt your feelings, do you think they have the best intentions in mind? Should you consider their criticism seriously if you believe they only spoke to tear you down?
What’s important in this step is to pick up on tone and/or language, as this is very helpful in determining whether the criticism is worth our time or is simply an angry troll barking obscenities. However, considering the intentions is not a license to just ignore the criticism the second you find yourself getting slightly upset, in fact, this is why step 3 is the most essential step in handling Criticism.
3 Analyze the Criticism Objectively
While steps 1 & 2 are essential in handling criticism, even if someone has no authority and/or ill intentions, they could still be giving you valuable information! Consider a fat person who eats McDonald’s morning, noon, and night (you ever see the documentary “Super Size Me”?), and what if this person is jealous of your not as fat waistline, and has no intention of actually helping you. What if they tell you that you’re a disgusting mess and need to change your lifestyle, couldn’t they still be telling you the truth? What if besides eating at McDonald’s morning, noon, and night like your criticizer, you only ate their noon and night…you may very well be a disgusting mess and in need of a lifestyle change!
I know that all of this may seem extremely silly, but it’s essential that you understand my point! You have to be willing to take a step back and OBJECTIVELY analyze your criticism regardless of how it makes you feel, and sometimes, even regardless of who says it!
Without an ability to be objective when dealing with criticism, you simply will not be able to identify opportunities for personal growth via constructive criticism, and you will cling to the negative criticism that cripples ambition.
Let’s take another comment I got on my AmanJohnK video “I’m Smarter Than You”:
“But honestly you sound a bit preachy in this video, like you think you have it all figured out. You need to get over yourself a little haha”
First, let’s consider the source. In short, this is a comment I got on YouTube, a website where people hide behind usernames and face no social consequences for the words they choose to share online. This being said, there is an opportunity for both malice AND candid honesty.
Second, let’s consider the intentions. They’re not yelling racial slurs, and seem to at least try to come across as honest, as noted by the “honestly you sound …” – they even throw in a wink and a “haha” to play things off as light hearted. I could just discredit this as one of the countless marginally stupid, ill-informed, comments that I get on a daily basis, but not until I look at it more carefully.
Third, let’s analyze the criticism objectively. I sound preachy? What does preachy entail? Am I telling people what to do in this video? At the end, yes I do! I address the audience directly a couple of times:
“what REALLY matters isn’t how great or how many resources you’ve been endowed with, it’s how resourcefully you use those resources.”
“What I take out of all of this is that there’s no point looking around at what you don’t have, it’s better to focus on what you do have because with whatever that is, I promise that you CAN be great at something, you just have to figure out a way”
Okay, so if this is considered preachy, then I can live with that! I think I made solid, encouraging points, but most important TRUE points. As long as I’m saying the truth, I don’t mind how it comes across! Sometimes people call the truth hearsay and will have you killed! I can live with preachy.
I have it all figured out and need to get over myself? While it’s usually a bad idea to comment back to these sort of comments, I did, so allow me to illustrate exactly what I said:
“….did I make a video about life and claim to have that all figured out? No, I made a video detailing that I used to be nothing academically,_ but then went on to reach literally every single one of my academic goals….clearly…I “have it all figured out” in this area, and I’m excited to share with people what that is, hence why I made a youtube video!…. LOL the lack of logic in some comments is truly a treat =)”
the last sentence was probably not “necessary” but you gotta let me have a little fun, eh?
4 Take Action or Move On!
Once you’ve taken the time to work through the previous 3 steps in deciding whether or not the criticism that you’ve received is even worth your time and has merit, it’s time to either do something about it, or put it behind you.
Suffice it to say, that if you believe the criticism can benefit you, or includes some grain of truth, it’s worth at least some of your consideration. This is your chance to grow as a person.
But if the criticism has no merit, then don’t stress! Stressing about such meritless criticism would be akin to some kid telling Michael Jordan how to be a better basketball player, it’d be ridiculous and completely unwarranted!
Don’t allow the negative to fester in your mind!
Remember that people love to criticize confident people and people who dream big! It’s even been said that “If you are really effective at what you do, 95% of the things said about you will be negative.” – (Scott Boras)
Humans are much like crabs in a bucket…the second a crab tries to reach out, the other crabs pull him/her down. The nice thing about criticism is that only YOU can allow yourself to be pulled down, and hopefully, with the help of this article, that’ll never happen!
“Criticism is something we can avoid easily by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing” –Aristotle
- Aman John