Criticizing Yourself

As much as we might find it annoying, criticism is all around us. Journalists write up editorials about hot topics in the news. Sports commentators discuss the ins and outs of the latest blockbuster trade. Moviegoers put in their two cents about the next film to hit the big screen. Our parents judge our every decision. Okay, the last one was more of a joke, but, not really.

Criticism is everywhere. However, that does not mean it is all right. There are two primary types of criticism- valid and invalid. Valid criticism identifies specific target areas that require improvement. It is relayed in an assertive, constructive, non-threatening manner (i.e. “You forgot to close the refrigerator door.”). On the other hand, invalid criticism holds little to no truth to its claim. It is often delivered in a hostile tone (i.e. “You always forget to close the refrigerator, you jerk!”).

How to respond to valid criticism:

  • Acknowledge that there is a specific concern being addressed whether it was intentional or simply a mistake.
  • Ask the individual questions to clarify details of the criticism.
  • Apologize, but do not overdo it. It takes away from the conversation and meaning of what was said.
  • Ask the person what you could do to change or make the situation better.
  • Develop a plan to make the change and inform the person that you are working on said change.

How to respond to invalid criticism:

  • Evaluate the situation. Gauge the individual’s emotions. Look around to see if you are in a public or private place to address the criticism.
  • Ask yourself, “Should I stay or should I go?”
  • If you decide to remove yourself from the situation, do so tactfully. Do not storm out. Simply let the individual know that this is not the best time to discuss the matter and that it can be talked about at a set time or later on.
  • If you decide to stay, engage in active listening and try your best to understand the criticism. Ask specific questions and clarify like you would with a valid criticism. State that you understand but that you do not necessarily agree with their statement.
  • Special note: Do not become hostile. Do not name call. Do not remain silent. Provide an appropriate response.

Time to flip this around and inward towards ourselves. Apply these concepts to your own inner dialogue. How often do you catch yourself putting yourself done or engaging in self-defeating thoughts? If you really sat back and looked at your self-critique, I can almost guarantee that there is little to no validity to it. You would be greatly surprised how often your own criticisms are downright wrong. Therefore, re-frame them using the above mentioned ideas. It will help you towards self-improvement, as you provide yourself with constructive criticism and how you respond to them.

“We are our own worst critics.”

-The Caring Counselor


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