how to take criticism

How to Overcome Taking Criticism Personally

For many years of my life, I had this problem of taking what people say to me personally. It didn’t matter if their intentions were good or not, for some reason my ego would take control my thoughts and I’d take offense to it. This negative thought pattern I had was on auto-pilot. I’d get offended even if what that person said to me was true. Which actually made it hurt even worse.

Most of the time I wouldn’t say anything. I would just feel the negative emotions inside and bottle it up. Which made it worse because the rest of my day would be affected by it, for no rational reason what-so-ever.

I’m not a person who likes confrontation, which is why I wouldn’t really say anything. But when the person who says something which you take personally knows you, and knows you well, you can’t hide it. This person is my wife, and I can’t hide anything from her.

My wife has nothing but good intentions and would never say anything to intentionally upset me. However, I would get upset when she would do things to try and help because for some reason I thought I didn’t need any help.

Reversing The Habit

Like everything else, taking what people say personally is a habit. It took me a long time to realize this. I would never had even considered this problem had my wife not mentioned it too me. One day she said “You really shouldn’t take everything so personal.” And it struck me deep.

I knew she was right.

I didn’t want to accept it at first, but she was, and I couldn’t deny it. From then on I decided to take responsibility for myself and dismantle my ego, who doesn’t like its territory stepped on. And it does a very good job at letting me know that.

I decided the best way to reverse this habit was to start asking for my friends, families, and wife’s opinion on everything I do. It didn’t mean I had to agree with them, but the goal was to get their honest opinion and instead of letting it affect me personally, to thank them and actually consider it.

I decided to start getting their opinion on my blog posts prior to publishing them. I chose this way because my blog is my baby, it’s where I can channel all my best ideas and feelings creatively and share it with the world. If anything would trigger my ego, it would be them criticizing my writing.

Which is what I wanted.

And it stung at first. Here I was doing my absolute best, putting in hours of work, only to have every little thing picked out by my wife. She’s a very good reader and editor, so she can spot things which I cannot. And she’s ruthless about it, in a good way of course; she has no problem at all with voicing her opinion.

She would point things out, and for the first few weeks I would get that angry feeling inside. I had to keep telling myself that she means no harm, she’s only trying to help, and if I actually let her help me, it would teach me a lot.

After about a month of consistently doing this, the feelings of anger and frustration started to reside. I started to thank her for her opinion and actually took action on the things she’d suggest I do.

It carried over into what other people would say to me that I’d generally take personally. Instead of getting angry. I’d smile and honestly thank them for their opinion.

How it Made a Difference

The positive changes in my life after reversing this habit have been huge.

First, I eliminated a irrational source of negativity in my life. Something that would put negative emotions inside me for no reason at all. Which allowed for more positive emotions to take its place. It’s like the positive can’t come in until the negative has been eliminated.

Second, I learned that actually listening to what people are saying to me, when they clearly aren’t trying to offend me, gives me a whole new perspective. I would get new ideas, see better ways to explain something, see things from a different point of view. I would find new ways in which I could improve the things I wanted to be successful at. I started to see new area’s in my life which I could improve on, which I was previously blinded too by my closed mind.

I started to realize that I don’t know everything, and that what others have to say is valuable if I’m just open to it.

The rate of my personal growth skyrocketed.

My fear of being criticized faded.

My fear of what other people thought about me faded.

Because I found out that most of what I was in fear of, was all in my head.

Final Thoughts

This was a tough challenge for me. I sometimes still find those feelings coming on inside when someone’s giving me their honest opinion about my work. However, I’ve learned to control, and reverse it. It’s no longer something that I just give in to anymore, it doesn’t consume me.

I find much more joy out of listening and learning from others then I ever have. Even if someone really is trying to offend me, which doesn’t happen very often, I still listen and consider if they’re actually correct in their assumption. If they’re not, I just move on.

Like when someone sends me an email criticizing my latest blog post. Instead of getting angry and offended, I try seeing it from their perspective and learn from it. When a guest post gets rejected, I try and find out why and how I can improve it, instead of just getting mad at the world.

Have you ever had moments where you took what someone was saying personally? How has it affected you? Looking back, could you have learned from what they were saying? Can you still learn from it?

I’d love to hear your story in the comments section!

Sean Burrows loves to learn and discover new ways to improve the quality of peoples lives. He studies personal development and health rigorously, and shares his life’s lessons, creative ideas, and healthy recipes through his blog What is Personal Growth – You can also follow Sean on his Twitter page!

* Photo credit: Ciosuconstantin