It is helpful to remind ourselves about the basic guiding principles of Reality when we are dealing with the criticism of others. When we get reactive to criticism, we turn critical, just like them, and that only makes things worse.
One of the basic guiding principles tells us that those around us are mere reflections of our own mind, and in particular, they reflect our relationship with ourselves. What that usually means is that our critics reflect to us that part of ourselves that has judged us in a similar way as what they are criticizing in us.
I’ve come to see that criticism doesn’t have to be a problem, and that it’s ok even when they are right in their criticism of us (which if we are committed to truth, we will find that their criticism has SOME validity even though it won’t be true necessarily in the way they describe it!
We’ve passed a major milestone when we can hear criticism of ourselves without reacting negatively. To do so requires that we let go of the unrealistic expectation that we be right and perfect!
What criticism can become for us instead of a problem is an opportunity to model to others, and especially our children, about how to handle criticism in a way that furthers connection, rather than in a way that distances us. How else are others going to learn how to receive criticism from us, unless we model for them how it’s done!
Here are the steps for handling criticism well:
First: take a deep breath and remind yourself not to take their criticism personally. People say and do what they do because they believe what they think. Even when they think it’s about us, it’s not. Therefore we do not have to take on their story about us. We can choose to feel compassion for their compulsion to believe their unhappy thoughts about us (after all who suffers? Only those who believe the unhappy story!) How many times have we made ourselves miserable by believing unhappy thoughts about others?
Second step: when we do respond, we do it from a neutral place. There is nothing to defend when we don’t take on their story. We simply understand that they see us the way they do, and we empathize with the pain that seeing us like that brings… AND,
The third step is to look for and own what in their criticism is true for us! Even if we know that what they are criticizing in us is not true in the way they describe it, we look past their example to where their criticism DOES fit – very often, we find that fit in our own judgments against ourselves. This is the gift from our critics. They show us where we are out of harmony with ourselves.
Fourth step: remember to thank them for their feedback, we tell them that we can see that there is truth in what they say, and that we appreciate their willingness to be honest with us. These are not niceties … we mean it! We really are seeing how their criticism serves us, and we are grateful for growth however it come to us, even when it is framed in negative words.
I know this formula may sound radical. It is radical, in terms of what’s considered to be normal interaction between people these days. We are often afraid to admit our weaknesses, our mistakes, and our short-comings, for one thing, because we are sure that to do so renders us flawed, less than, unacceptable, weak, and vulnerable in the eyes of others.
I have found however that the opposite is true.
We teach people, and especially our family members, how to treat us. When we get defensive and reactive, we model that as being the way to respond. Then we don’t understand why our children deny, justify, minimize, and rationalize their own mistakes! Who taught them? Who taught you to react defensively when someone says something you don’t like?
Our job is not to blame these teachers, our critics, but to transform the model of receiving their feedback, so that we are able to turn criticism into working feedback, and show them how to do the same.
If you are interested in learning more about the basic guiding principles, read about them on my blog and for a step by step process of moving beyond victim consciousness, get me book: Guiding Principles for Life Beyond Victim Consciousness.
Hope this was helpful.