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How to Deal with Hurtful Criticism & Grow as a Person

  • Published on: 17 February, 2017
  • Last update: 24 August, 2017

When I’m working long hours with my hands on Living Earth Jewelry creations, I like to listen to motivational videos that feed my mind. I stumbled on the Youtube channel ‘Actualized.org’ and LOVED what the founder had to say about dealing with criticism/hate/bullying. I believe there is ALWAYS a positive side to those often hurtful actions, because we can LEARN from negativity. When we understand WHY critics try to bring us down, we can use the truth in their words as a lens to improve, without taking emotionally-charged statements to heart. THAT is true self-mastery. I took notes to share with you so we can all benefit & grow together. Here’s what he said (please keep in mind these are his spoken words that I wrote down and summarized with my own touch for easy reading):

Lesson #1: LIFE IS TOO SHORT TO TAKE CRITICS SO SERIOUSLY.

Why? Because you have a life purpose to accomplish! You have a mission, a sense of meaningful work that you’re doing: a business, a career, a project – something that you’re kicking ass in. If you don’t have a life purpose that you’re fully focused on, critics will run you down, and here’s why.

Think of a critic as a “crab in the bucket.” Did you know that if you put multiple crabs in a bucket, they will never be able to escape? This is because even as one crab is trying to climb out, the other crabs will pull him down every time (and they ALL suffer in the end). When someone is criticizing you, THEY are one of those crabs. The important question is: are YOU going to let yourself be the crab that gets pulled back down into the bucket?

A critic is ultimately a distraction to your life purpose. If you know what you need to be doing – a direction, dream career, charity organization – THAT should be at the top of your mind to the point that it eclipses everything else. And if you’re going to make THAT big of an impact in this world, you’re going to have PLENTY of critics.

What you need to understand is this realization: someone’s opinion does not change anything about reality itself. You have reality. Then you have an opinion. These things are TOTALLY different.

For example: Let’s say someone says your work is crap. Maybe you’re an artist, a musician, or a business person that’s launching a project and someone doesn’t like it for whatever reason. How can we apply this realization here?

When someone tells ME my work is shit, at first I have the instant reaction of, “I have to defend myself! Maybe this means my work really is shit!” This puts me in the downward spiral of doubting myself. That’s why criticism is painful to us – we wonder, what if there’s something true and now this *changes everything*?

Lesson #2 is: BREATHE. AN OPINION CHANGES NOTHING.

Why? Because your work was the same BEFORE they said it and still is now. Reality didn’t change, an opinion just came along.

Granted, it might be the case that my work actually is shit. Maybe I’ll later come to realize they were right! But notice: that’s an opinion too.

When I was feeling great, the work was the same.
When someone told me it was crap, the work was the same.
When I started to believe it was crap, it still remained the same.
Reality never changed.

What you should be doing as you’re self-actualizing is learning to align yourself with REALITY. Most of the dissatisfaction with life that we have is not because there’s something fundamentally wrong with reality – it’s how we LOOK at that reality.

Lesson #3: OPINIONS ONLY HAVE POWER OVER YOU WHEN YOU AGREE WITH THEM.

If you can truly be conscious of that throughout your life, you can become immune to the hurtful aspect of criticism. The only way that you can truly lose something when you’re being criticized is to take that criticism seriously enough to slow yourself down in the hard work you need to be doing towards your life purpose.

Let’s say you’re like a train on track to go somewhere amazing. You’ve built up some momentum, then someone comes by and stands on the tracks & says, “Hold on! Stop the whole train!” It’s gonna slow you down a LOT if you stop every time someone on the tracks tries to wave you down.

You need to know that you’re a freight train. If you want, you could keep going and NO ONE could stop or slow you down. You have THAT much momentum and strength inside of you.

Lesson #4 lies in where we draw that strength:YOU NEED TO BE VERY CONFIDENT & CLEAR WITH YOURSELF ABOUT YOUR OWN VALUES, GOALS, AND DREAMS IN LIFE – YOUR LIFE PURPOSE.

The reason that most people are dragged down by criticism is they’re so unclear that they have no sense of purpose, dreams, or ambitions that they’re going for. Their train is weak, and it’s slowing down or standing still for every critic that comes by. When your train is standing still, it’s extremely vulnerable to getting infested with rats, worms, or haunted by ghosts (others’ opinions).

Lesson #5 is to understand why these people are flagging you down in the first place: PEOPLE ARE CRITICAL BECAUSE THEY PROCRASTINATE.

Because they fear their own greatness, or they fear hard work. The reason that there are trolls in this world is very subtle. It looks on the surface as, “Well, people are just criticizing legitimate grievances.” But that’s not always what’s happening.

When I see a troll, I see someone that has no life purpose. Or if they do, they’re totally off track with that life purpose. What they’re doing instead is the easy thing: they’re criticizing someone else! It’s EASY to criticize. It’s easy to feed into your lower self, and use THAT as a form of procrastination. It’s very subtle and very sneaky self-deceptive procrastination.

These people who are criticizing you, whether it’s your parents, your boss, or strangers on the internet – if they’re expending more than just a few seconds telling you something is wrong (and actually putting emotion into that criticism the way a “hater/troll” would), they’re robbing THEMSELVES of their own greatness. They don’t know how to pursue their own greatness, or focus the way you’re trying to focus, so they just engage in this guilty pleasure of the lower self. It’s almost like binge-eating on ice cream or potato chips. They’re stuck in that.

The bottom line is that pursuing your life purpose is very challenging. It’s scary. It demands EVERYTHING of you. And it’s so much harder to do something constructively, than to do something destructive like criticism. We ALL have monkey chatter in our minds. You just have to say “yes” to it in order to criticize. It’s that easy. And yet the HARDEST thing in the world is to control that monkey chatter, turn it from negative to positive, then apply it towards some sort of useful purpose in life.

So how can you use criticism in a positive way?

LESSON #6: USE IT AS A REMINDER.

Use critics as a reminder of how to improve yourself & keep yourself on the narrow road. Every time you see a troll, remind yourself – that could be me. In fact, where am I acting like a troll in my life? Who am I criticizing, and where am I procrastinating on my life purpose? (It may not be in the same way this person is, but maybe I’m critical with my spouse or my children, etc).

LESSON #7: USE IT TO IMPROVE YOURSELF BY LOOKING FOR TRUTH IN THEIR WORDS.

There is a clear difference between feedback and criticism. Feedback is very important and you’re going to fail without it. For example, let’s say you launch a business or product, and a customer sends you an e-mail saying “your product is shit.” Is that criticism, or is that feedback?

The WAY in which it was said tells you THAT PART of it is criticism. But that SAME EXACT sentence also might have some valid feedback. That customer may be legitimately disappointed by some aspect of your product, which you can improve upon in the future. There is ALWAYS room for improvement.

This customer might have said it in a very crass way because he doesn’t know any better, but there IS something to learn from these harsh words. Stop the black and white thinking and find the grey area where the ‘feedback’ lies. Separate it from the emotionally-charged criticism (that has more to do with the other person than you).

Opening yourself up to feedback requires you to summon courage. That’s part of your mission in order to become GREAT in this life – you have to take it in. But when you understand WHY people criticize, and when you learn to use their words to grow: that is where your power lies.

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