Handling Criticism and Praise
Most people enjoy praise and appreciate helpful, constructive criticism. Few, if any, enjoy condemnation and harsh, vindictive criticism. Unfortunately, both influence your self-esteem. There are those who would say, “Ignore the criticism and bask in the praise.” This is not a healthy attitude. You either have to accept both praise and criticism as a learning tool or reject both as un-useful to your life.
If you only accept the praise, then you are cheating yourself out of valuable lessons that can be learned from constructive criticism. Constructive criticism is advice that is useful, practical, and valid. It is criticism that is backed up with facts, experience, and knowledge. An example of constructive criticism is when someone says, “Your presentation was well written and verbally sound. However, next time, try using a PowerPoint graph slide to show the audience how much growth the company has experienced.”
An example of harsh, vindictive criticism is, “I don't know who told you that you were a speaker or who let you make the address, but you embarrassed us all.” There is nothing to be learned or gained from the latter.
But It Hurts
Why must you accept constructive criticism? Because if you only accept praise, you stunt your growth and you become complacent with mediocrity. This does nothing to help you build healthy self-esteem. A person with truly healthy self-esteem welcomes the constructive criticism as much as the praise, because together, they are a part of our learning process.
“I forgive myself for having believed for so long that I was never good enough to have, get, or be what I wanted.”
— Ceanne DeRohan
You have to be very careful, however, not to overlook the praise and wallow in the criticism. So many people with unhealthy self-esteem have taken this route. You can receive 100 accolades and one criticism and you go home thinking about the one piece of criticism. You let it overwhelm you. You let it consume your thoughts and actions.
The best way to deal with constructive criticism is to own it and learn from it. If it is vindictive criticism, ignore it and move on. Depending on the circumstance, you have to choose which is most appropriate.
How Do I Know It's Right?
If your supervisor constructively criticizes your work, ask yourself, is his or her criticism valid and truthful? Look inside your heart and mind and answer that question truthfully. It is only when you refuse to answer that question truthfully that you run into problems. Did you do your best work? Did you follow procedure? Did you get it in on time? Was it formatted correctly? Were there any mistakes?
You must own your truth here. If the truth is that you did not do your very best and you were constructively criticized for it, then accept it, learn from it, and move on. There is nothing more that can be done with it. It is finished.
On the other hand, if you are criticized for your work and you know in the deepest reaches of your being that you did exactly what was expected, met the deadlines, formatted the document correctly, met all of the other specifications, and your boss is just being vindictive, then the only alternative is to ignore the criticism and move on. Dwelling on it will only damage your self-esteem.
There seems to be as many influences on our self-esteem as there are stars in the heavens. From parents to friends, from music to teachers, from criticism to past mistakes and glories, all play a major part in who you are today and how you choose to live your life.
These influences are like a closet full of clothing. When you approach the closet to decide your daily apparel, you have a choice. You can either choose a ragged, torn, damaged, dirty outfit tired from the wear, or you can choose a crisp, starched, brightly colored outfit ready for a new day. You can't choose or change your past, but you can choose what you allow to influence your decisions, your thoughts, and your actions. You can choose chains or wings. This is the essence of healthy self-esteem. Choice!