Criticize: (v) to act as a critic; to find fault with; to consider the merits and demerits of and judge accordingly
If you’ve ever been criticized, you know how hard it is to bite your tongue and refrain from becoming defensive. Whose business is it to judge you, anyways? But alas, you will be criticized throughout life, so long as people feel entitled to overshare their thoughts about you or your lifestyle, your choices, your actions. Good luck trying to change those people.
It’s even harder to not let said criticism fill your head for days, months, or years to come, putting unnecessary value on someone else’s opinion – opinion of you! I’m incredibly guilty of doing this, so much so that I’ll put more weight into what someone else thinks of me than what I think of myself. Like that time four years ago when an old acquaintance just out of the blue posted his opinion on my Facebook wall for all the world to see: “I hear you are working at the newspaper. Why don’t you get a real job?”
Ouch. “Why don’t you get a real job” was a criticism of the major I chose, the career path I pursued and the months of looking for work in the journalism industry. It was absolutely a real job, so he was wrongfully criticizing a number of things that have nothing to do with him but everything to do with me. It was hurtful, it was offensive, it came out of nowhere and, sadly, it made me question my choices. Which is stupid! So I did what any normal person would do — I cried, bit my tongue, deleted the comment and went to work the next day. Some criticism hurts, but you aren’t going to change the life you made for yourself because of what someone you don’t even know thinks. Try not to spend another minute fretting over someone else’s opinion of you.
Having said that, other times a criticism can be the exact words we need to hear; a mirror reflecting how others see us. While I’m not suggesting you or I change for a single soul if we don’t feel it’s right in our heart, I do feel that those who know us well (that’s the critical part) are trusted advisers. Many times our family members, significant other, and even our boss will share something about us that could change our perspective. It might sting like any criticism, but depending on how you take it, it can be productive feedback that can help us get out of our own head… out of our own way.
Here I’ll share some of the best criticisms I’ve ever received from those with opinions that do matter to me.
You are too nice
Who said this: My editor, at least a half dozen times over the course of two to three years.
Why I needed to hear it: In journalism, reputation is important but it’s not a job requirement to be friends — or even friendly — with anyone. My editor often had to remind me of this when dealing with difficult interview subjects. Yes, it is important to be truthful and professional, but as a people pleaser, my desire to ensure strangers had a general good feeling about me made my job harder. The same is true for life outside the journalism sphere. It’s like that famous quote, “If everyone likes you, you’re doing something wrong. Popularity is overrated.”
The lesson: Although it hurt to hear that putting kindness so high on my list was hurting me in my job, I knew it was true and it stemmed from worrying what people thought about me.
You dwell on the negative
Who said this: My parents and, just recently, my boyfriend.
Why I needed to hear it: Because it’s true. I hate to say it, but sometimes I can be “wound so tight,” as my boyfriend said to me last week. This means, whether it’s work or errands or simply planning my weekend, I stress and plan and try to control all the unknown factors. Although I’ve been told this from a young age — like dwelling over a messed up note during a piano recital or falling off the balance beam — hearing this criticism recently made me realize I’m still not doing enough to just let things be.
The lesson: Nobody likes to be around a person who sees the glass half empty. Life is just too short for that.
You are the most self-critical person I know
Who said it: A coworker, two weeks ago.
Why I needed to hear it: Because I knew this, also, was true but didn’t know it was so true that people at work could pick up on it. In the few months I’ve been at my new job, I’ve tried to come across as competent and confident. So this was a wake-up call. I was practicing a little too much self-deprecating behavior around the woman who sits across from me (she’s the one who made that comment). I know exactly the things I’ve said about myself that caused her to make this criticism, so I guess it was only fair. Now I’ll watch how I talk about myself and act like the confident girl I know I am.
The lesson: It sounds like an oxymoron to receive criticism that I’m very self-critical. But people will believe you are what you tell them you are, so be sure you speak highly of yourself, like you would a friend. If you don’t, who else will?
These are just a sample of the criticism I’ve received over the years that have had a positive effect. What is the best criticism you’ve received?
Photo credit Anonymous 3000 on Flickr.