Why Constructive Criticism Can Be A Game Changer
Growing up, I was notorious for being really bad when it came to taking criticism of any kind. My parents joked that our garage was nothing more than a graveyard for the more than six sports I tried and quit throughout elementary, middle, and high school. I had coaches all across the spectrum from supportive to demanding, but no matter their personality type, one thing remained true: I shut down every time I was either criticized or corrected. Something inside me seemed to break down, not hearing the words that my coaches were saying as helpful, but as a way to tell me that I wasn't good enough.
Over the years I've realized that the way I channel criticism is always directly tied to how I am feeling about myself.
If my confidence and self-worth are high, I can handle criticism and, in fact, I often crave it as I find it to be incredibly helpful. However, if I feel down on myself and have rather low morale, I crumble under the words of others. I dig into this dark place and allow even constructive criticism to further compound the negative thoughts I'm already having about myself.
Our perception of ourselves works as a translator for the words of others. If we feel good, we'll see the best in others. Conversely, if we feel poorly about ourselves, we'll adopt a belief system that assumes the worst in what others do and say, especially when directed towards us. Self-worth is a lens through which we see the world around us and it colors each and every interaction we have with others.
With this in mind, I quickly came to understand that in order to form a consistent practice of seeing criticism as a positive, I first had to form a deep love for and belief in myself.
The best thing we can do is become a cheerleader and advocate for ourselves. Through believing in ourselves, we accept the truth that when others are criticizing, correcting, or offering advice it is because they, too, believe in us. Constructive criticism is another way to say, "Hey, I think you are incredibly capable, and because of that I'm going to offer you advice on how to be even better."
The deepest and truest reality of constructive criticism is that following it can be the fast track to becoming your best self. When we open ourselves up to vulnerability and advice, greatness ensues.
And while constructive criticism can be a game changer, berating ourselves with criticism can have the opposite effect.
It's important to create a differentiation between criticism geared towards growth and criticism designed to belittle us. Our negative self-talk is not our friend and there is a definite distinction between telling yourself, "I procrastinated and began this project too late; it's not my best work and I will begin earlier next time," and "I'm so stupid for not starting this earlier; I should be ashamed of this work." The former leaves room for personal growth, offering a solution to procrastination that will improve your work in the future, while the latter is simply self-deprecating and cruel, offering no solutions to improve your work. Shame is never a vehicle for growth.
So how can you be sure to utilize constructive criticism to your advantage? Remember that it is a tool for becoming your very best self. Channel the wisdom of those around you, even when it is hard, to positively transform your life and live into your deepest truth.
What are your tricks to tackling constructive criticism? Share with us in the comments.