Dealing with criticism and negative people is a part of life for all of us. How we react is the key to maintaining peace and joy and self-confidence. The next time you are faced with either of the two, consider my lengthy path of trial and error and what now works for me.
Find a legitimate reason to say thank you. That’s right. I am suggesting that you toss out the normal reactions: defensiveness, hurt, anger, hostility, contempt, disbelief and certainly feeling less-than. I am suggesting that you instead replace any of those with contemplation and self-reflection, followed by a moment of thankfulness.
It has been a long journey to get to this point. My father is an incredible man but he is also incredibly critical. I grew up with a tremendous amount of judgment around everything I said and did. I developed a “defensive defense” the moment I sensed fault-finding, analysis or assessment. I cringed and turned into a rebellious 13-year-old. And, whatever the words were – true, helpful or not – they stung and wounded my ego and happiness and flamed my eating disorder.
Having respect and a good reputation are favorable and honorable goals. Yes. Absolutely. At the expense of losing your identity, however? Becoming fearful of judgment and criticism can turn us into pieces of success based on who we are trying to impress and what we are trying to accomplish. Welcome to the not-being-good-enough syndrome.
Situations and relationships that are connected with emotion are the most difficult scenarios to reverse. But, dealing with criticism and negative people is all about perspective and context.
Why is someone negative and critical? Here are some of the main reasons.
- Upbringing and role models from an early age
- Need for control
- Perfectionistic and unrealistic standards
- Lack of self-confidence
- Lack of self-respect or worth
- Judgment avoidance
There is one underlying emotion that runs through all of the above.
Fear. Critical, negative and judgmental types are sourcing their energy from fear. They are motivated by self-protection. They don’t want to look bad or be embarrassed for any reason. They fear judgment on themselves. This begs the question, why be bothered or triggered by this person and his or her judgment?
If the “criticism” is done in a positive way, you have an entirely different list to think about because chances are that someone is responding out of concern, compassion or love, not fear.
- Is there truth in these comments?
- Is there truth that I need to finally acknowledge and own?
- Have I been gifted with clarity about myself or the person speaking?
- Will I grow and learn from these comments?
- Am I validated by these comments?
- Am I making progress or moving forward in my own life based on these comments?
Two different situations. Both are gifts on your path to living authentically and at peace with who you are.
Stop buying into someone else’s agenda if the feedback comes from fear and inadequacies, or even ignorance. Reassess your thought patterns, behaviors and habits if it’s the opposite.
Either way, gives thanks and move on. They nor you are the Judge of All People. No one is. We cannot begin to understand why or who or when or what. Allowing someone else’s (negative) criticism to affect your peace means you are operating from your ego. You’ve relinquished control. You’ve given someone’s opinion more importance than your own.
An abundance of love and acceptance awaits you. It begins and ends with your own. It is always there if you are speaking your truth and allowing others to do the same. Be at peace.