The Fear of Criticism

a green chalkboard with the word "FEAR" written and crossed out, in white chalk

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“Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things” Frank A. Clark.

“Any fool can criticize, complain, and condemn—and most fools do. But it takes character and self-control to be understanding and forgiving” Dale Carnegie.

For a recent class topic, I wrote about criticism, or rather, the fear of criticism. This got me thinking about how to handle criticism in a professional environment. Criticism means to find fault with someone or thing and remark or comment about it. There are two types of criticism – constructive criticism and destructive criticism. It is true that both forms are difficult to deal with and can hurt our feelings, but learning how to cope with criticism can reduce the fear and discouragement we often feel.

Constructive criticism is motivated by a desire to help us improve and grow and destructive criticism is intended to be harmful and can lower our self-esteem. But the truth is that we all make mistakes and criticism will never stop. There will always be both destructive and constructive criticism and we can either use it in a positive or negative way. Whether at school or work, criticism is a part of life. The first step in dealing with criticism is to evaluate the person delivering the message. Who is the person and how was it given?

It’s difficult for us to accept criticism when it’s coming from someone who is not credible in our eyes. So, you should determine if you value their opinion. What is the intention of the person who is criticizing you? Are they judgmental? Do they mean well? Is it someone you like and respect, or is it someone you would rather keep away from? Or maybe it’s a boss who you have to take seriously because it could cost you your job. Once you determine the value of the person, it becomes easier to detach the criticism from the person and the environment.

The second step is to deconstruct the criticism. Look for something—even if it is just a grain—that you can take from what is being said to better yourself? You can’t grow and improve if you can’t take criticism. So the key thing to do is to step back and look at what’s being said and focus on the parts that are most useful. You may find that there is some truth to what is being said.

But regardless if criticism has any basis or not, at the end of the day, what really counts is our attitude towards it.


How do you cope with criticism?

Has it ever held you back and how did you get over it?

Are you still struggling with it?



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