The Intrepid Guide to Facing Criticism
I am not sure how many of you are aware but Intrepid Bliss actually started out as a self-help type site. Sometimes I feel a little lost as to the direction in my own life and I know that a lot of people are in similar situations. My aim was to help myself and to hopefully help a few other people along the way. Then life got busy and the blog got put on the back burner. When I was ready to pick it up again I wanted to take it in a different direction and so I did.
Lately I’ve been feeling a bit down. I’ve had some harsh criticism lately that I had really taken to heart. I admit that I got caught up in a negative loop that has made it hard to concentrate on activities that I love.
But I miss my blog! And so here I am today, getting back to my blogging roots with a self help post to myself. If you like this post or find it at all helpful let me know in the comments and I can incorporate more of these types of posts.
Here are a few of the things that have been on my mind lately:
We face criticism everyday and it seems to come at you from every direction. Some of it is easy to face but sometimes you get so much of it that even the simplest, most well meaning comment can reduce you to tears. How we face that criticism will depend on the situation.
I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have not had any hate from readers. So thank you all so much! You guys are the best!
Still, online hate is something that many of you brave souls may have already encountered or may one day encounter. With that in mind here are some ideas in how to deal with the trolls:
- Ignore them. Don’t feed the beast. Let the comment be and send the message that you respect that everyone has an opinion but that are taking the high road.
- Censor them. If you need to then go ahead and delete comments that serve no other purpose than to be mean. I’ve seen bloggers who actively delete hateful comments. Kudos to them for taking control of the situation and making it clear that what they won’t stand for!
- Engage them. Sometimes people might not mean to be unkind but come off very confrontational in expressing their view. If you are the debating sort you might try to come to an understanding.
- Call them out. It seems to be really easy for people to forget that on the other side of their screen is a real person. If someone makes a comment that they would never say to your face or that makes some gross assumption about you feel free to call them out on it. You can take an active stand in defending yourself.
Strangers and Minor Acquaintances
It is amazing what people think they should verbalize to people whose situation they know absolutely nothing about. Some might somehow think that they are being well meaning they comment on your appearance, your religion, your political beliefs, your family situation, or even the type of gum you chew. Yes, some people have strong opinions on things that incredibly silly and are not afraid to berate perfect strangers over it!
You would think that these passing events from people who mean absolutely nothing to you would be easy to brush off. And sometimes they are. But sometimes they are not. Maybe what they said struck a cord. Maybe what they said had never occurred to you before and you are now feeling self conscious. Maybe it has nothing to do with what they actually said. Maybe you just failed an exam, got off a long shift, are behind on your bills, fought with your boyfriend, and your mom is in the hospital. The very last thing that you need is for some person you see while grocery shopping commenting on your slumping posture while you are pushing your cart full of foodstuffs that you aren’t even sure if you have enough money to pay for.
The situation I just described may not apply exactly to me but you can probably tell from my little rant that this is a real pet peeve of mine! Whatever happened to “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all?” You never know what someone is going through or what kind of day they are having. Even the smallest comment can leave its mark.
This kind of situation can be hard because you only have seconds to process it before that person is gone forever. Here are my tips:
- Take a deep breath!
- These comments literally come out of nowhere. It is perfectly normal to be taken aback and to react either with a blank stare of horror or in an apologetic manner. You have been blindsided. If you do react with one of these default responses try not to be too hard on yourself for not having the perfect comeback. You acted like a normal, sane person to a very rude person. Congratulate yourself on that!
- If you do have presence of mind during the exchange, take stock. What are this person’s intentions? Is there any truth to their observation? How do you really feel about what they are saying and what do you want to say about it? Remember, they engaged you. You have the right to feel and respond as you wish (barring violence). You can decide to ignore them completely and be on your way. You can call them out for their rude behavior. You can tell them to back off. You can even politely thank them for their observation if you choose.
- Take another deep breath. By this time they are far away and you are ruminating on the exchange. Try to focus on staying calm. Put on some happy music. If that fails, try some sad or angry music for the cathartic effect.
- Call a friend. Vent a little. Now is the time for that comeback :)
- If you’re short on friends or they just aren’t picking up, try writing out your thoughts.
- After you’ve had sometime to vent take the time to figure out why a passing comment is bothering you so much. Sometimes even just realizing the root of the issue is enough to bring on the calm. Its like when you’re really cranky for no reason at all but then someone asks you when your period starts. Then you remember that its in three days and all of the sudden you’re ok because you know you’re not a freak and you’re just PMS-ing. This can be a similar experience.
- When getting to the root isn’t enough take some time off. Watch a movie, go out to dinner, take a hike, get a good night’s rest. It is amazing what a little distraction and a little sleep can do for your mood.
Family and Close Friends
An offhand comment from a stranger is hard enough to deal with but what to do when the criticism comes from someone who is really close to you? In some ways this can be a lot harder but in some ways it can be a lot easier! The people close to you know you and they know you well. What they say will carry much further and cut much deeper. On the plus side, you have an actual relationship with this person. You can talk to them about where they are coming from and make a mature decision about if change is needed.
- Take a little time to calm down.
- Listen. Where is your loved one coming from? Are they concerned? Have you hurt them in some way? Are they stressed in some way and they are taking it out on you? Have they misinterpreted some of your actions?
- When you have truly listened and understand what they are saying it is time for some self reflection. You may find that to maintain a positive relationship you do you to make a change. On the other hand, after careful thought, you might decide to continue as usual.
- Remember to take advice with a grain of salt. Criticisms are not the end all be all. When the day is done you have to do what you think is best.
- If you have a chronic criticizer in your life you might have to delve a little bit deeper. Are you really the problem or is there something else going on? Chances are if there is someone who is constantly on your back about things, even if you change to fix the criticisms ten more will sprout up. Try to figure out what is really bothering them. You might find that it actually has nothing to do with you. If they try to use you as an emotional punching bag call them out on it and remind them of the real problems. If things are really bad you might suggest counseling for your friend or consider it yourself if the negativity is affecting your self worth.
- I would always recommend trying to work things out but sometimes a person is just toxic and you might find yourself needing to limit contact or cutting them off altogether. A last line of defense that is sometimes necessary.
What do you do when you are your own worst critic? Our own negative self talk can be the hardest to silence.
- You can’t fix it if you don’t recognize it. Practice catching yourself in the act. If you notice you calling yourself stupid, or fat, or ugly, or worthless—whatever—-ask yourself why you are doing that. Then practice telling yourself something positive and work on finding a constructive solution to whatever triggered the negative talk. This takes time and concerted effort so be patient with yourself.
- If you do find yourself caught in a loop of negativity try to think of some positive things you have done in the past year. Chances are some major changes have happened, some of them very good. Look at the big picture and recognize that you are moving forward.
- Maybe you’ve had a really crappy year. Looking at the big picture going forward might not be possible right now. Instead try to focus on small changes that can take immediate effect. Feeling fat? Eat an apple and go for a walk. Worried about an exam? Make a goal to study for just one hour. Overwhelmed with a messy house? Make the bed. I am not saying do it all at once. Just the opposite. Make the concerted effort to do one little tiny thing to move in a positive direction. Your problem might not magically be solved but if you do one tiny thing every day for a week you might notice yourself feeling just a little better about your situation.
- Find ways to temporarily distract yourself. Go for a walk, watch a sitcom, get one of those adult coloring books, call up a friend. Sometimes a little sunshine and laughter is just the trick.
- Keep a gratitude journal. It may sound cheesy but by being grateful you are forcing yourself to see the good things in your life.
- Reward yourself for positive changes. Catch a negative thought? Play your favorite tune! Manage to save a hundred bucks this month? Go to the library and check out a finance book! Lose a pound? Give yourself a manicure! These rewards don’t have to be big –you’d probably go broke in no time if they were :) — but by rewarding yourself you are reinforcing the new positive habits that you are creating.
- Go do something for someone else. Watch your sister’s kids for the night or go see that friend who just got dumped. When you are helping someone else you might just find yourself too busy to worry about little old you!
- If you find you are unable to help yourself and that negative self talk is impairing your daily life don’t be ashamed to talk to a counselor. They will be able to offer a fresh perspective and recognize any mental illness that needs to be addressed.
Everyone’s a critic and you will realistically never be able to fully escape it. Instead focus on what you can do. Remember that not all criticism is meant to be destructive. Take the good and throw out the rest. Most importantly, never be a passive player in your own happiness!
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