Question: How can I handle criticism better?
Response: Criticism can be the worst. Just the other day…
I’d been on a low carb food watch. That’s code for “I’d been trying to cut out bread, chips and pasta, but still eating dark chocolate and drinking red wine.”
It was going so-so except for the part where having fewer carbs makes me what the Snicker’s commercials call “bloopy.” I’m not me when I’m hungry. My family likes to remind me of it.
One morning, I decided my son and I needed to mix things up a bit.
He is in 6th grade at a school where they mimic the college class model for elementary. Which is a fancy way of saying he only goes “to” school two days a week and works at home the other three.
(Now you know why we needed to mix things up.)
When he woke up and started talking about being hungry, I was hungry too. “Stomach growling like a gnarly bear” hungry. I asked him, “If you could pick anything for breakfast, what would it be?”
He smiled and said, “Ham and swiss crepes from Mimi’s cafe.”
“Done.” I said, “Go get dressed.”
In addition to crepes, Mimi’s cafe has these incredible muffins. Hot honey oat bran is my favorite and not part of my “only chocolate and red wine as carbs” regime. But I was feeling especially sassy for having suggested such an adventurous morning, so I ordered a muffin.
I slathered butter on top. My mom had joined us for breakfast and she eyed me as I ate my muffin. “Do you need that much butter?” She asked.
I didn’t need that much butter. Nor did I need the moist muffin, but I was splurging! I thought to myself as I glared across the table at her, “I’m never eating a muffin again!” I tossed the buttered chunk on a dirty saucer.
Now my mom isn’t typically one to say something like this. So besides pissing me off, it made me think.
It made me think of all the times I said something similar to my husband and my son. I am the food gestapo in our family. And being recipient of the criticism stung. I made a note to myself, “Do (not do) unto others as I would (not like to) have them do unto me.”
Later that day, I got an email from Quora. Someone had commented on an answer I’d given. Besides bashing my beliefs, the commenter said I was a hack and hurting people and should have my counseling license revoked.
No wait a hot second. I clearly typed before my answer-
Fair warning. I’m a therapist and this is a super nontraditional answer not meant to be misconstrued as counseling advice.
No matter. She came after me- hard.
Being on the other end of that criticism stung too. I pitched a tiny fit and fell in it, “I’m done! I’m never going on Quora again!”
But the thing is- I will eat another muffin.
I will go on Quora again.
So the first thing the criticism will not do is keep me from being me.
If I let the criticism of others make me shrink back, I will loose parts of myself that I’ve fought long and hard to find. To authenticate. To share.
Screw that. My primary goal is- to keep finding and becoming more fully who I am created to be.
The second thing criticism will not do is make me blind.
Often times conventional advice tells us to let criticism go and move one. But I don’t think that’s healthy either.
Because it’s hard to actually do that for real– let that sting go and move on.
Rather criticism gets buried alive and starts wounding us from the inside.
So let’s do something productive with it.
Because you and I strive to be self-aware.
No. We don’t want to swallow the insult whole. But maybe there’s a tiny bit of truth that can help us be better tomorrow than we are today?
It’s worth a look-see.
We can toss out what tears us down and integrate what makes us stronger.
That’s the litmus test.
What in this criticism tears me down? (Lose it.)
What has the potential to make me better? Stronger? More fully and fabulously me? (Use it.)
Sort it out, then lose it or use it.