Handling Criticism
Ep. 158
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This week on the podcast, we dive into one of the most crucial life-skills we’re never taught. Handling criticism.

If you instantly get defensive, angry or hurt when someone points out a “flaw”, this episode is for you. I take you through my step-by-step process to understand why you get defensive and how to get over it. 


Show Transcript
We're so defensive because we have thoughts about ourselves and about them and about them pointing it out and what it means. And so we haven't even listened to what they said. Like, have you ever been in a situation like that where somebody is like saying something super small and you lose it because I have.

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Hello friends, welcome to another episode. I am so excited you are here. I didn't really mean to make this a series and it's not an actual series but today's episode does go in line with sort of the last two episodes. So I figured I would just continue talking about one aspect of having other people kind of disagree with you or really the impact that other people's opinions have on us. So two episodes ago, my husband was on and we talked, you know, from the perspective of a spouse and a partner through this process. Last episode we talked about not needing other people's approval in order to make the jump or do whatever it is that you want to have. And rounding out this series today I wanted to talk about how to handle criticism. Because I get a lot of questions about this and I know that this is a really difficult thing for most of us. And I think that part of needing other people's approval, the flip side of that is because when they don't approve, it feels very similar to being criticized. And most of us have no idea how to handle that so it's a pretty useful skill. And I want you to learn how to not be so affected by other people's opinions of you. So let's talk about how to handle any type of criticism. This doesn't necessarily have to be in relation to your decision to jump. It could be in your current work, it could be with your family, but it's such a life skill to be able to listen to other people when they have something quote, unquote, negative to say about you because most of us shut down and get super defensive. Okay? So here's the thing: a lot of us become super defensive as soon as anything that we perceive as negative is uttered about us. We feel very wounded. We feel as though we have to protect ourselves. And so it can really escalate very quickly. A lot of us can become really defensive. It can lead to fights. A lot of us might just shut down and we tend to overcompensate for whatever it is that we view as our own quote, unquote weakness in an attempt to never be criticized. Right? We have decided that the only way to not feel terrible is to try to avoid all possible criticism. And so we go into this like hyperdrive of making sure that nobody can ever say anything bad about us. And so that is where a lot of like our people pleasing or perfectionism or other kind of maladaptive behaviors come from, because if we can either make everybody happy or make them like us or show that we're perfect or just compensate for whatever we might feel that we lack, then we become bulletproof to criticism, or we like to think we do. And obviously you can't ever be bulletproof to criticism because we all have weaknesses. And so we exhaust ourselves, we create so much stress and resentment and frustration all because we can't handle hearing what we consider as something negative about us. Okay. And we also miss out on actually hearing constructive criticism, right? Maybe being able to take in what somebody else sees that we don't see. We really miss out on deepening relationships where we can be honest with each other and we don't have to constantly try to act perfect and we can show up as our full selves and handle whatever it is somebody else might want to say about us. And so it creates a lot of problems. And it's actually in my view, now that I've kind of learned mindset work and I've been doing this, once you understand this it becomes so much easier to handle criticism. So that's what I talk about, like what are the steps or what do you have to do to not be so reactive and so defensive and so wounded when somebody says something about you that you don't particularly like.

Okay, so let's jump into how to do this magical thing. The first step is really understanding that it's all your ego, right? I don't have to tell you that we all have weaknesses, right? I think intellectually everybody understands this. We know that nobody's perfect. We know that we're not perfect. It's not like a surprise that like we have some strengths and then some weaknesses or however you want to view it. There's some things that other people are better at or there's some things that, you know, we all want to be better at and we fail at. Maybe we're very quick to get angry. Maybe we are overly emotional and you don't even have to really look at that as like a weakness, any of this stuff but what I'm saying is there are things that we wish were different about us, or we were better at than other people, right? So I think we all are on that page. And yet, even though intellectually we understand it, if it is pointed out, we believe that that means there is something wrong with us, right? That's like a flaw. And we attach that to our worthiness or how good we're allowed to feel about ourselves because we have this like flaw. And I don't know if we realize that we're doing this, but if you think about it, like why is it problem to have a weakness, right? Why is it a problem that something you do is not, you know, the best way to handle something or isn't something that you even are working on changing? Like why is it a problem to admit that like, yeah, you know, I tend to want control and be neurotic about plans or I tend to get really angry and I'm trying to like, get a handle on my temper. The problem becomes in like what does that mean about me? What does that say about me? There's something quote, unquote, wrong with me. And when we feel like we're not good enough because we have this flaw or we're not worthy or other people are going to look at us as though there's, you know, whatever something wrong, then of course you have to protect that, right? You have to make sure nobody else sees that weakness. You have to try to overcompensate in other ways. You have to beat yourself up like why can't you just be better? And this is where self-acceptance comes in. I've talked about that I think ad nauseum on this podcast, but really just understanding that no matter what you do, no matter what your quote unquote flaws are, you’re a hundred percent worthy. There's nothing you can do about that. There's nothing any of us can do about that, right? We're all born the same amount of worth, deserving the same amount of love and respect and everything else, regardless of what different personality traits we have. And if you knew that, if you truly understood that and you knew that you could love yourself no matter what, no matter when like sometimes you lose your temper or sometimes you don't pay attention to details and you forget things or, you know, like sure, you're going to do things that maybe sometimes will even hurt people. And that doesn't mean that like you don't have to apologize or work on certain aspects of yourself or you know, whatever, like come to an acceptance. But it just means that like here's nothing to protect. You’re a hundred percent worthy and you have some weaknesses and you have things that you want to work on. Both things are true. And if you can get to that place, there's nothing that needs protecting anymore, right? There's no need to try to prove to people that you are good enough. The only reason that we need to kind of hide these weaknesses or get super defensive or try to prove our point and prove ourselves is because when you feel as though like that is what hinges on whether you're good enough or whether people are allowed to love you or not, or whatever, then of course you’re desperate to prove that that that thing they're saying is not actually true. But when you know, it doesn't matter if it's true or not, could a hundred percent be true and you can still love yourself and still have your own back. You can fully accept yourself. Or you're just a mortal human, just like the rest of us with flaws. Like that's a particular one that you maybe want to work on or maybe you don't and we'll talk about that. But just really understanding like what is my defensive? Why am I getting so bent out of shape when someone points out something that I may not like? What is the need to try to prove them wrong? Why do I even have to explain myself? Could they just think that thing and me be okay with it, right? When I know I don't have to like protect that part of me where I know like it's okay to even admit, then there's just no need to get defensive, right? It opens you up to listening to what other people might have to say, maybe you'll learn something about yourself, maybe you'll see a blind spot you haven't seen before. And so the first step is understanding what it is and what's happening. The second step is just listening to that criticism. Byron Katie has a quote that it says defense is the first act of war. And what she means by it is that if it's just one side saying something and you don't get defensive or you don't even respond, right, there's no fight, it ends. That person says a statement and then it's over, right. It becomes a war when you defend yourself, right. When you like start arguing back and you just whatever. Now that's not to say that you should never defend yourself. Of course you can. And it's just wise to know like when you want to start that war, right? Like pick your battles wisely. Or maybe you just decide that you don't want to battle at all and it can be one person saying statements and you listening. But before you even decide whether like it's worthy of you kind of getting involved in this back and forth, you have to listen to what they're saying, right. I think so often before they've even said anything, we're so defensive because we have thoughts about ourselves and about them and about them pointing it out and what it means and it brings up all these different thoughts about our childhood and all this other stuff. And so we haven't even listened to what they said. Like have you ever been in a situation like that where somebody is like saying something super small and you lose it? Cause I have. You get super defensive because it's bringing up all these thoughts. That person was like just making a comment and the problem is like we don't actually listen to hear like what are they saying and why are they saying it? So one thing I like to do when I perceive that I'm being criticized or somebody is saying something that is hard for me to hear and I started noticing it, like ugh I'm getting defensive, right? I want to just start explaining my side. I want to get them to change their mind. I just stop myself and I just ask in what ways are they right? What am I not seeing? How is what they're saying maybe right? Like they might they may be totally be right about something. And just asking that question like in what ways is this person what they're saying right, before I respond, let me just see if I can see it from their point of view. It starts opening me up ,one to like where they're coming from, right. So let's say your boss starts telling you like, you know, you're not paying enough attention to detail. Let's say you're having a review and they're like, yeah, you need to pay more attention to detail. Oftentimes we want to get really defensive and prove that we do pay attention to detail. Sometimes if you just take a step back and be like is that true? Are there instances where I didn't slow down enough to pay attention to the details? Is that what they're talking about? Maybe I can see that like yeah, they're totally right. I don't like paying attention to details. That's not my strong suit. My strengths are in big pictures, things and ideas and coming up with a vision that most people can't see. But I don't actually like worrying about like the nitty gritty. That doesn't mean there's anything wrong with me. It means like I need to get clear on what roles I should be in. Right? Like what types of jobs I'm going to thrive in. It's not that I can't work on paying more attention to detail but I can start seeing like, yeah, totally right. That has been my problem my whole life. I just don't like getting bogged down with the details. And when you see that like maybe that's just my, the way my brain works. Either way, just good for me to know, like okay I can hear that, you're right. That is, if I'm going to stay in this job, that's something I need to work on. It doesn't mean I'm a bad employee. It doesn't mean I'm hopeless. It doesn't mean I'm not a hard worker. It just means like that's one area where I should probably work on, right. And a lot of times when you can see that, you can start like changing it. Like I said, like if you see like it's not your strength, you can start deciding like I don't want to spend a ton of time working on that weakness, I'd rather work on my strengths. I'd rather go into a role where I don't need that because like that's not what I do well. I don't have to keep trying to like put a square peg into a round hole.

I've talked a lot about how I've had a really hard time with like the story about being lazy. It's sort of been like the joke in my family about how lazy I am. And it wasn't until like honestly a year ago or two years ago when I was really doing this like thought work. And the thing is is I was never like doubtful that like I agreed with them. And obviously I was ignoring a lot of things that in ways that I'm not lazy but part of it really came to like, what ways are they right? Like, they're totally right. Unlike a lot of people, I have just never understood the badge of being busy, like I don't think there's a badge of honor and like making things as difficult for yourself and constantly creating work and constantly trying to hustle. It's just never been my MO and now I see that as such a blessing for myself. It's such a huge like positive in my life, right. When I stopped trying to prove that I wasn't lazy and trying to make myself feel better, that like no, you're good enough, you do things. I was like yeah, I totally would rather lay around, like I would rather lay and read a book or watch TV or just not do anything on a weekend than to fill up my day with like a million different plans. It's just what I would prefer. It doesn't make it wrong. It doesn't mean being any less valuable or like a bad mother or whatever. I was just like yeah, that's totally the way I am. And it's such a blessing. And it's such a strength in my mind now because I'm like, hey, I always try to figure ou t like what is the easiest way possible for me to do this? I just make my life easier, right. I'm like do I want to put all this effort in or do I want to hire someone to just do this for me? Yeah, it looks like I'll hire someone. How do I build this business to create the most amount of rest and relaxation every day? Do I just take some time and then a day to lay around? Yes I do. Am I now like so proud of the fact that I can take time to take a nap or to take a week off every couple of months or whatever the thing is. And it just depends on how you look at it, right? Like for me, I'm like yeah, they're totally right. I was living lazy and I love that about me. And so part of it is like you can look at it and decide they’re right. And still decide like that's okay, I love that. Or you can decide like okay, that's something I want to work on. But once you realize that you can agree with them and still have your own back then it frees you up from taking that criticism so personally anymore. Once I could see like I totally see where this comes from because like I come from a family of people that like are nonstop, like don't like sitting down apparently. Just like get up from the morning and just go go go go and it's just never been my thing. And like that's okay. They can be like that. And I get to be like me and I get to still have my own back and I still get to love myself. And so it's okay when they point it out and they may even be pointing out in a negative way but that doesn't mean I have to take it that way. It doesn't mean I have to convince them that I'm not lazy. I don't actually care. Like I don't want to waste my energy, right. Like I don't want to create that war. Yeah, I guess I am. I'll take my, you know, lazy behind with my successful multiple six-figure business and live my happy life, right. And though sometimes it might be things that you do want to change. So maybe like let's say like I was saying like you don't pay attention to detail or let's say you're quick to get angry or you’re too loud whatever. Once they see that and you're like, yeah, I can totally see that like I lost it back there and that's not the person I want to be. Now that doesn't mean that I don't get to love myself. And I get, don't get to like, understand that I'm a fully lovable worthy human being that has never had the tools to deal with my anger. And so I've always had a temper or maybe I just talk too loud because that's just what I've always done and I want to change that a little bit. I can see that, yeah, you're totally right. We don't have to argue about it. So once you can do that where you can kind of look for like where are they, right? There's no resistance anymore. Like you're totally right, I was being way too loud at that party. I was just having way too much fun. And you know, maybe I'll try to work on that next time. Once you can do that, then you can also look at like where are they wrong, right? So like when I'm saying this I'm not saying you have to agree with everything they say. Maybe you can look at like for me, with the laziness example, I don't necessarily characterize it as laziness, like we were just talking about it. I just think that we've all been sold a lie about productivity and hustle and needing to prove that you're worthy and I just don't buy into it anymore. And so I choose to like follow ease. I don't have to prove that to anyone. I don't have to keep explaining it. And just like that's what I'm going to choose for my life, right. And now even when like let's say they say something that you think is wrong, like, let's say an example where your boss said that you don't pay attention to detail. You can look at that like in what ways is that right? Right. Maybe there was one time that that happened. But you can also look at like that's just the way my boss is, he likes to like belittle people, right, in order to feel more powerful. Or I've watched this person, he's not a great leader. Like other people have their own issues. They bring their own agendas. They have their own blind spots. And so somebody could be criticizing you in a way that you fully don't agree with. And you might think like, yeah maybe I pay a ton of attention to detail. Maybe that was just one oversight. That's okay. Okay, I made a mistake, it’s a one time situation. I will prove it through my work. I can just like be like yeah, you're right, I won’t make that mistake again. Or you can even see, like I don't even know what he's talking about. It's just like this is this person's view of whatever. So like, okay, I'll see how I can show him that I do pay attention to detail. I don't have to sit and get a huge argument over it. It doesn't require you to explain it. That's the thing that I want you to see. Like, even if you don't agree with it, you know, Byron Katie's quote. Again like you can decide to be defensive and you can pick that war. But you also, even if you don't agree with it, you don't have to. Somebody can say like oh, you're being too loud and you don't think you're loud. That's okay. You don't need to spend an hour explaining to them how you're not loud and how it's a normal voice and how they have sensitive ears or whatever. Cause they're allowed to think what they want and you're still allowed to think what you want. And guess what? None of us are ever going to have the same thoughts. And so the real work doesn't come in like getting them to change their mind. The real work comes in like accepting that like maybe everybody won't see you the way that you want them to. First of all, they never will anyways. But like maybe your energy isn't best spent trying to convince them of that. And so maybe you decide like even if they say something, like maybe they say you're too loud and you can either see whether they're right or you think that you aren't too loud or you just decide that you like that about yourself, right. Somebody might say something like again my example with like the laziness, I can see exactly where they're coming from and I love that about myself. Let's say somebody says that you're too loud, right? And it's like hey I get super excited about life, I want to show up fully and like I'm not going to be for everybody. So if somebody else doesn't like that, that's okay. It doesn't require me getting them to understand and accept that about me. It gets me to like accept that about myself, right? They can think whatever they want.

And when you can drop a lot of that defensiveness or the need to explain yourself, the need to get everybody to agree and not ever have a bad thought about you, it frees you up to live your life, to make really conscious decisions of what you think about you. And the last part of this and I mean, we talked about it in the beginning, but the only way this works is if you choose to have your own back always, right? If you choose to realize that regardless of what your weaknesses are, what people's criticisms are, what people's thoughts about you are, is that you are always allowed to love yourself fully. Acknowledging a quote unquote flaw doesn't make you any less worthy of love, especially your own love, right? And oftentimes we're seeking that love from other people and so we see their criticism as like a direct block to that love that we're so deeply craving but the sooner you realize that, you give that to yourself, right? Like when somebody else can love you fully, it again helps you love yourself. It helps you see like, yeah maybe I am worthy of that. And you don't need that if you can see that like you're allowed to love yourself, you're allowed to have your own back, regardless of what anybody else sees, then you don't have to convince people. The ones that are going to see it will stick around and the ones that aren't will leave. And I understand that that is an easier thing said than done. I mean, well, all of this is easier said than done, like people always love to tell me like how difficult it is. And I'm like yeah, it is difficult. But you know what else is difficult? Getting super defensive and having to try to convince everybody that you're perfect. That's also a really hard way to live, feeling super wounded and like replaying fights in your head over and over again and feeling stuck in this way that like you're giving all of your power to somebody else. They get to decide whether you get to feel good about yourself or not. The sooner you can stop that and realize like you get to have whatever thoughts you want about me, it's totally fine, I still get to love myself. And I can hear you out and we can have a discussion about it and I still get to decide what I want to think about myself. It starts opening you up to a completely different life, right? It starts allowing you, just by having your own back, just by being able to love yourself through the flaws, through the weaknesses, it gives you the strength to work on whatever it is you want to work on. Because when you work on it from a place of like I have to fix this or I'm not good enough, I'm not worthy enough, there's a desperation, right? If you end up failing one time, let's say like you're working on your temper and you end up still like yelling at your kids one day, then you associate the amount of like shame and judgment and guilt. You're more likely to actually stop trying because it feels so horrible. But when you realize like you're a flawed human that is a hundred percent worthy and you get to love yourself whether you've yelled or not or whether you've made a mistake or whatever, then it's like easier to work on it. It's like hey, I still didn't do it. Like maybe this week I worked on this issue like 20% of the time, maybe next week I'll work on it 30%. Regardless, each week I get to love myself. It actually like helps you start working towards those goals and changing and becoming the person you want. And deciding who you want to be from a place of like what is it that I actually want? What is something that's worth me working on because it actually is like an important thing to me? And what am I just doing in order to try to get other people's approval? What am I doing in order to just feel good enough or get them to love me so that I can feel like I'm lovable? And that makes all the difference. So I hope you first learned to just have your own back and love yourself regardless. Second, I hope you start understanding there's nothing to protect. It's okay that you have flaws. It's okay that you have weaknesses. It's okay that you're not perfect. And it's okay if somebody else points that out. You're allowed to listen, see where they're right, see where they're wrong and decide what you want to think about yourself. Hope this helped and I will be back next week with another episode.

Thank you so much for listening. I can't tell you how much it means to me. If you liked the podcast, please rate and review us on iTunes, it'll help other people find the show. If you want to connect or reach out, follow along on Instagram and Facebook at Lessons From a Quitter and on Twitter at QuitterPodcast, I would love to hear from you guys and I'll see you on the next episode.