Criticism – just words –

Constructive criticism is the process of offering valid and well-reasoned opinions about the work of others, usually involving both positive and negative comments, in a friendly manner rather than an oppositional one. The purpose of constructive criticism is to improve the outcome.


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I understand this definition, but why is it so difficult for me to accept?  Growing up and well into my adult years I have had a low self-esteem and therefore react to any type of criticism.  My reactions are the ‘fight’ in the ‘fight or flight’ response.  Criticism of any type, to me is a threat or attack to my self-esteem that in the past was beaten down by me.  From a very young age, I punished myself for not being a good person, I degraded myself, I abused myself and I belittled myself.  I criticized myself for not being a good person.

With help through therapy, support from others and myself changing my way of thinking; it has taken me decades to overcome this self-criticism, this low self-esteem.  But I still have difficulty receiving good and bad criticism from others.  I feel threatened, for that person with the low self-esteem continues to exist; he is just kept to a murmur in my brain and not allowed to control me any longer.  The threat from criticism is the fuel that will ignite the murmur to once again take control of me and try to defeat once again.

My conscience mind will not allow the murmur to ignite, so I fight the criticism, just not with a good positive approach.  What will it take for me to accept criticism and not react in a ‘fight’ response?  I know patience is required; then there is the ‘Golden Pause’, from

“I put my foot in my mouth.”  “I should have bit my tongue.”  “Why didn’t I keep my mouth shut? “

Any one of these self-statements points to one of the most simple and powerful listening tools being violated….the GOLDEN PAUSE.  It is such a simple thing to do, yet it requires tremendous amounts of self-discipline to make it a practice.

I do try to attempt the ‘Golden Pause’ as much as possible.  I am practicing this when criticism comes my way – stop, wait, cool down, and do not use the ‘fight’ response.



Remind myself bad criticism is just words and they cannot hurt me – remind myself constructive criticism is just words and they can help me.

21 thoughts on “Criticism – just words

  1. For myself I think that nobody really fits into that middle ground of “able to easily accept (constructive) criticism.” Because however you dress it up, it’s still CRITICISM isn’t it? Over the years I had that phrase tossed at me so often that I grew to despise the person(s) who’d use it. Because usually it was something (to me) that was so nit-picking, that it was a waste of time to mention it. My lack of patience came up often. Hmm. I think that to survive humans have to secretly think their efforts (in anything) are the BEST. That they are above reproach and without flaw. Of course it’s not true. And kudos to you for learning that “wait, breathe, respond” approach to something painful like criticism. I was told once that to give it 24 hours before responding was a reasonable amount of time to allow me to really THINK about what was said and not internalize it so much that I lashed out. It helps a little, but I still lash out, at least by writing something down immediately. Else I brood about it for 24 hours and get no sleep and wonder how the other person could possibly think or say such things about >perfect< little me. Yeah. I guess we don't grow if we aren't corrected and sometimes the nit-picking is given in a true spirit of wanting to help. But couldn't whoever is in charge of such things make that sort of thing a little less PAINFUL?

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    • I often still respond quickly without thinking – just actions. I practice the wait, breath, respond – but it is difficult. I think criticism is a good thing when used appropriately. But I agree, many times it can be painful. As always, thank you for your comments – I like them! 🙂

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    • I agree with you, my problem is I am quick to respond – when I should just go away for awhile and as you indicate learn from it. I keep practicing, and one day I hope to deal with criticism in a better way. Thanks for your comment, hope your day is going well. 🙂

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  2. First of all, a lot of bad criticism is disguised as constructive criticism “I’m just trying to help,” etc.

    Secondly, a lot of people who offer criticism of either kind are really overstepping their bounds by offering it in the first place. If it’s unsolicited, mostly people should just STFU. Unless it’s your manager or your partner, they’re probably being presumptuous assholes by offering up their judgement of you / your behaviour / your work anyway.

    Obviously I am not good at accepting criticism, haha! But mostly I resent the presumption behind the criticism. If I have asked for a critique of my work or an opinion about something I’ve done, that’s different; that’s opening the conversation. But otherwise? Sheesh.

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  3. Very nice post! I think it is hard for many people to accept criticism. After years of walking on eggshells in my own home and being criticized about everything I am always very sensitive and I back up and tend to not fight but to just move way back! It takes time to learn how to do this, accept! I like this post and it makes me think!!

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    • Thanks Lynn, yes we all respond differently to criticism. Criticism is interesting in that it takes many different forms and we respond in many different forms. Thanks for reading and as always for your comments. 🙂

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  4. Ah, I know exactly what you mean!! Good criticism and I don’t believe it, bad criticism and I’m ready to cut your throat! It’s a horrible thing too, because once I’ve had time to be by myself and think, I can see where the other person was coming from and realize that the criticism is actually very helpful and can be applied! It is hard to change your thinking on something you’ve done for so long; I wish it were just a switch we could flip and be wonderful at taking constructive criticism. Day by day though! 🙂

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  5. I am sensitive and really had a great coworker who suggested taking bottled water into reviews. This worked for me, so instead of reacting and saying, “But . . .” (In a defensive tone) I would nod my head and take a sip of water. Someday, I hope to have a final and lasting relationship where I can also practice this listening and non-reactive reaponding. I went to couple’s therapy with 2 ex-husband’s and both were also not open to change. Sending you happy wishes as you may celebrate holidays. 🙂

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    • I think there are many of us that struggle with this – maybe just human nature? The challenge a course as you indicated is to practice the listening with a non-reactive response. Difficult at times! Thank you for taking the time to read and comment – and happy wishes as well to you this holiday season. 🙂


  6. I think criticism is a complex subject. I try to take it with a pinch of salt and a smile, admit if I’ve been wrong but at the same time not beat myself up for not being perfect. Very little people are and I found that the faster I admit to having made a mistake or behaved ungracefully, the more I own my actions and leave others very little fuel to attack (or project their own inadequacies at me).

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