How to Handle Criticism in 5 Simple Steps

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Unfortunately, most people’s confidence is completely dependent on the feedback they receive from others, which means a lot of people have their confidence crushed by criticism, hatred, and discouragement. Today, we’re going to talk about how to build your confidence in such a way that nobody can bring you down with criticism.

Criticism hurts… but why?

Some people are only hurt by criticisms from certain people, e.g. the person who has a particularly bad relationship with a parent who can always get under their armor and crush them. But they can get criticism from others without taking it personally. And then there are other people who get crushed by all criticism from anyone and everyone. A two-year-old could insult them and it will bring them down.

Either way, the reason criticism hurts is because you take it personally. You treat opinions from someone else as very serious and important. You attach a lot of meaning to it and you measure your self-worth in comparison with that information. That’s why it hurts.

Criticism can provoke a very uncomfortable or painful emotional reaction. People then backward-rationalize from that reaction. They think, “Well, that feeling was very strong and painful, therefore the thing that triggered it off must be important, serious and real.”

Maybe it’s not criticism that hurts

To begin creating a foundation of confidence that cannot be brought down by the criticism of other people, there’s something you first need to accept: criticism does not actually hurt you.

What really hurts you is your dependence on feedback from others.

This dependence comes from insecurities you have, either a) your need to be liked (the need for approval), or b) your need to get confirmation from others about how valuable you are (the need for validation). Most people have one or both of these needs, and it’s these needs that are hurting you.

The only reason criticism can affect you is because you need other people to approve of you or other people to validate that you’re worthwhile. Take a moment just now, stop and think: how is it that you seek approval and validation?

Here are some examples:

Developing a thick skin towards criticism actually begins with weaning yourself off those drugs of approval and validation from external sources. You don’t need to avoid criticism, you need to make your confidence immune to it.

#1 Stop seeking approval and validation

So step number one in the five-step process for developing a resilience to criticism is you’ve got to stop doing that shit. You gotta stop seeking approval and validation from other people.

You need to list out all the behaviors, all the examples of how you do this, and then you simply stop doing it. Some more examples here. For example, when I was a Nice Guy people-pleaser, I used quite a few different tricks, but my two main tricks were to be funny and to help people.

Being funny meant turning everything into a joke. This served a couple of purposes. One, it made sure nobody got too deep and close to me, so they couldn’t hurt my feelings. And the other thing is it just made people laugh (approval), so they thought of me as the funny guy (validation).

The second thing I did – helping people – wasn’t so much about being genuinely or altruistically helpful, it was about ensuring people thought that they needed me. It was about people feeling better because of me (approval) and thinking of me as a helpful person (validation).

So when I just stopped doing both of those things – I stopped trying to be funny and helpful – I was able to start weaning myself off that drug. Later on, I could still make people laugh or altruistically support others, but I was no longer doing it for their feedback. They could hate me – it didn’t matter anymore.

#2 create a new standard of self-worth measurement

What is ‘good enough’ by your standards? What are you trying to accomplish? What can you control versus what can’t you control? What would integrity look like even if nobody else knew about it and nobody else was watching? What do you think it means to be a ‘good person’ even if nobody agrees with you?

You need to set new benchmarks of measurement that you’re going to measure yourself with, so that you can switch your system from approval and validation seeking to genuine measurement of your integrity by yourself.

You want to get to the point that by the time someone criticizes you, they’re too late; you’ve already assessed the situation, you’ve already come to a value judgment on how well you did, and so on. By the time they critique you, it’s out of date, you’ve already finished that job.

For those of you struggling to design a measurement system for yourself, we recommend you join our BROJO self-development community (it’s completely free) and take our journaling course by coach Mike Wells. It will help you design your own independent measurement system so you can learn to critique yourself before anybody else gets involved. This will help you overcome your need for validation and approval from others.

#3 carefully manage your feedback sources

Simply put, hire a coach, get a mentor, get a few experts in your social circle that you trust, and only get advice and feedback and encouragement and critique from these people. Seek it from them and specifically ask questions on things you’re working on.

Everybody else needs to be cut off.

You need to carefully manage the information and the feedback that you’re receiving, to make sure it’s from expert sources who have your best interests in mind. They need to be people you trust, people you know are living a good life. They walk the talk. Generally, these are people you pay to be helpful, or those rare gems of people who want you to do what’s best for you. Family, friends and strangers are unlikely to meet these criteria, unfortunately.

Cut off all feedback from people who are hypocritical, who don’t have your best interests at heart, who have a hidden agenda, who are just filled with pessimism and negativity. Ignore all those people that give you very unhelpful feedback because they don’t even know what you’re trying to accomplish.

Here’s a little rule that can help you:

Never accept feedback from someone unless 1) you’ve asked for it, and 2) they are proven to be better than you at the thing you’re getting feedback on.

Anybody else is to be ignored.

#4 get skeptical

Even when you carefully manage your feedback stream, some people are going to slip through the net. There are people who are going to give you unsolicited feedback.

Instead of just taking that at face value, you need to challenge it. That should be your first reaction to every piece of unsolicited feedback you get.

You can and should be open-minded to feedback you get from a great reliable source that you chose and went to for help. But you want to be actually quite closed-minded to feedback from other people whom you didn’t ask and who aren’t in your inner circle of trustworthy mentorship and support.

You need to ask yourself some questions about the person that gives you unsolicited feedback. Who are they, really? Why didn’t they ask your permission before giving you feedback? What’s likely to be their real agenda? How much expertise do they have in the field that they’re giving feedback on? Are they doing better than you in this field? Are they someone that you admire and respect? Does their lifestyle reflect somebody who knows what the fuck they’re doing? And on and on and on.

Most of the time, you’ll find when you ask yourself these questions about people who give you unsolicited negative criticism, the answers are pretty clear. No, they’re not someone who has their life sorted. No, they’re not an expert. No, they’re not very helpful. No, they don’t care about you as much as their own personal agenda. And they didn’t ask permission because they like to control people like you.

And when you see those answers come out, you’ll start to ask yourself why the fuck do I care what they think?

#5 heal from the hurt.

Some feedback is going to get through your filters. No matter how much you build up resilience and confidence it’s still gonna sting. You didn’t see it coming, it was more personal than you could have ever expected, it found a hole in your armour etc. Some of it’s going to get in, and it’s going to hurt.

But instead of taking it very seriously, and trying to react to it or defend yourself or change yourself because of it, treat it like a random stranger just came and punched you in the face. It’s not your fault. They are an asshole. They shouldn’t have done that. It hurt. You wish that didn’t hurt, but it did. And now you need to heal and recover.

That’s all that happened – some dickhead got through your net and hurt you. That’s all that needs to be addressed here. What they said doesn’t matter. What they implied about you doesn’t matter. What advice they gave you is irrelevant. You can ignore all of that, put it aside, and focus on healing the hurt – i.e. treat it like you’ve been punched in the face.

Do something nice for yourself. Talk about it with some reliable mentors and coaches, make sure you get all your complex emotions sorted out. Block that person – keep them out of your life because they’re obviously not good for you. I mean, you’re not going to keep a friend who punches you in the face, right? So cut that person off, make sure they can never give you feedback again.

And then you’ve protected yourself, respected yourself, and therefore built more self-confidence.

No quick fix

Look, overall, this isn’t a quick fix. Confidence is never a quick fix.

If you’re someone who’s really crushed by criticism, this isn’t going to change overnight. But if you apply these five steps every single time you get feedback, and you apply the other practices (like journaling and measuring yourself and setting goals and being careful about who you get feedback from), eventually it’s like changing the climate. You will slowly improve over time.

But the key element here is you’ve got to take responsibility for this. No one hurts you with your criticism. It’s your insecurities and your neediness for approval and validation that hurt you. Those are the things that need to be addressed, and you address those by changing how you measure yourself.

Once you made that change, other people’s unsolicited opinions, critiques, hate, and discouragement become less and less important over time, until it’s not important at all.

Thank you so much for reading, I hope you found that helpful. If you’re a people-pleaser who really struggles with this kind of thing, feel free to get in touch and I’ll give you more personalized support.

And of course, if you enjoyed this post, please share it around and comment below. Subscribe to my YouTube channel and join up with BROJO – it’s completely free and you get tons of resources and content just like this as well as become part of the BROJO community, where you can talk about this stuff with someone.


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