Accepting criticism, even when it’s constructive and sincerely meant for our betterment, can be really difficult to do. Many of us find ourselves shutting down, rejecting what is being said before even taking the time to seriously consider whether or not there is an element of truth. Depending on the circumstances criticism can be utilized just as easily as praise for growth, so it’s worth looking at why we tend to be so allergic to it and how to get over the hump.
Constructive criticism mirrors abuse in a lot of ways, and this is a key to understanding why we shy away from it, since perception plays a significant role in life. Confusing the two is easy to do. Some live with abuse when they shouldn’t because they are fooled into believing it is actually constructive criticism meant to help them, while others discard constructive criticism when they shouldn’t because they are highly sensitive to anything resembling abuse.
The existential definition of abuse is instilling doubt in order to maintain control. Doubt is going to rear its ugly head in the case of criticism too, so what you really want to do is take a step back and ask yourself if, on balance, the person relaying information to you is concerned with controlling most of your behaviors, whether you feel nourished or trapped by the relationship, and whether you generally feel nervous about voicing your own opinions and acting like yourself in this person’s presence.
Another hallmark of abuse is that it tends to try to cut you to the core, making you question who you are as a person, not just what you do. Ask yourself whether the remarks are specific or global, focused on one aspect of your behavior that is changeable or on deeper personality traits that are not.
With these ideas in place, you have one more tool in your belt to achieve some objectivity and decide if a comment is designed to help you improve or designed to hold you back, whether it’s constructive criticism or abuse. Criticism is always going to sting a little bit, but it stings a lot more when we equate it with fundamental flaws in our being. If you can achieve the perspective to see when this is really not the case, then you will be more likely to take what has been said in the spirit it was given and use it to better yourself.