How I Have Learned To Respond To Criticism
Isn’t criticism the worst?
To me, words are the language of love. A kind word from someone was always the mortar that held me together and kept me strong. But just like words could be used to build me up, they also became the chisel that slowly tore away at me until I crumbled.
The criticism I received growing up would often become a wedge between my family and me. The words would freely flow, and I would retreat to my room unable to accept them–even the valid critics. With the door closed and my body tucked beneath the covers of my bed, I felt safe from the unwanted words behind two layers of protection. Never once did I stay long enough to see that some of the words were coming from a loving place.
When I got married, my response changed. Barricading myself in my room wasn’t effective because it was now a place I had to share with my husband. So I learned to fight. Yelling and screaming became my first defense instead of my last resort. The person I was becoming seemed foreign, but I was willing to become a monster to shield myself from the criticism I feared. I was familiar with my imperfections but buried them in the sand. The idea of someone else seeing and saying them aloud felt like he was giving life to what I was trying to ignore.
But seeing who I was transforming into out of fear and denial showed me that my journey of “criticism avoidance,” was causing me to miss out on sound advice and opportunities for growth. I was stagnant and setting myself up for a life that never colored outside the lines. Continuing this pattern, my dreams would stay dreams, motherhood would only be by the books, and development in my writing was not on my radar because writing breeds criticism. I was putting a cap on my life and dimming the light inside of me.
My whole world would be rocked if I changed the trajectory of my life to accept criticism, but I knew I had to. My perspective needed to change, and slowly but surely, I was ready.
The first thing I needed to learn was that, in some cases, criticism could be used to positively build up. Instead of viewing criticism as a chisel ready to slowly break me down, I started looking at the chisel as a tool used to engrave, carve, and design. With this view, I started to see how criticism could help me self-improve because I was more likely to work on my imperfections when they were no longer hidden.
I also gave myself permission to pick and choose what criticisms I was going to allow to permeate me like arrows. When I became a mother, criticism shot at me from all sides. Everyone else knew best. Sure, some words hurt, but I had the power to shield myself. A “word sifter” was put in place to weed out the angry, demeaning words and only allow positive criticism through the cracks–the kind that made me a better mother and person — not one who doubted if I was enough.
And finally, I slowly but surely changed my response. Instead of fight or flight, I needed to sit with certain criticisms. Back when I first pursued writing, a dear friend of mine offered to be my second set of eyes. This offer was well-intentioned but required criticism. She saw my worth and my writing gift, but I needed her to act as my chisel that made my written words more beautiful. She breathed life into my writing by correcting grammar mistakes that served as a distraction. She knew without critiques my words would never become anything.
Never once have I doubted whether or not I deserved criticism, but what I did before was allow words to control my life. I still struggle with this, but I have grown by leaps and bounds!
I hope this message will remind you that you have the power over any criticism you receive. Don’t fear it. Change your perspective, use discernment to let some of it in, and respond to the critiques that will help you grow!
Tell me in the comments, how do YOU respond to criticism?