We’ve all been on the receiving end of tough criticism. It can feel unbearable to have someone pick apart our actions, flaws, and personality traits. It can make us feel angry, depressed, guilty, or even hopeless. However, this is a way to use criticism as a tool for personal and spiritual growth, one that leads us to greater fulfillment.
Here are 3 tips to transform harsh criticism into valuable feedback:
1. Pause and give yourself time to process if the criticism is valid or not.
We all process criticism in different ways. Some people accept it well on the surface but beat themselves up internally, others fight against it, shift blame to someone else, or dismiss it altogether. When we receive criticism, our natural inclination is to react, although the reaction may vary from person to person. Rather than lashing out, getting down on yourself, or stonewalling the conversion, take a moment to stop and listen. Don’t interrupt, don’t argue, and don’t make any decisions about the information you’re receiving. Remember that emotions can cloud your judgment in the moment. You have the right to tell the other person, “Thank you for bringing this to my attention. I will give it some thought.”
Not all criticism is valid. There are abusive people who may want to belittle you, make you look bad, make themselves feel better, or shift blame from themselves. Only with time, space, and reflection can we begin to discern what is useful feedback and what is hurtful criticism. Sometimes you need to shut out other people to hear your own voice.
2. Accept criticism as a learning opportunity.
The wisdom of Kabbalah teaches that we are meant to become better versions of ourselves every single second of every single day. And the truth is, no matter how much internal work we have done, there is always more to do. Our spiritual growth is meant to be continuous. However, we can never see ourselves fully and completely. It is much easier to see the faults in others than it is to see our own, so it’s important to stay open to receiving feedback from others and the world around us.
When someone offers you advice, a suggestion, or a critique, think less about who it is coming from and more about what they are saying. Try asking questions to better understand their point of view. You don’t need to take everything said to you as the gospel truth, but acknowledge it as a way to see yourself from a different perspective and an opportunity to grow in ways you didn’t even realize you needed to.
3. Trust that criticism is helping diminish your ego.
Even when criticism comes from the wrong person with the wrong intention, it still has a spiritual purpose. It does not happen by coincidence. The ego represents the part of us that tries to stop us from growing and changing. It is the side of us that wants to immediately reject any criticism that comes at us, even if it is valid feedback. Sometimes we have to go through an ego diminishing process. This means that, although what someone is saying about us could be completely wrong, it is necessary to keep us from having an inflated view of ourselves. That criticism is necessary for our own growth simply as a way of breaking down our ego.
When something is hard to hear, know that it was something your soul needed to receive, not necessarily because it was true, but because your ego needed to be diminished. With less ego, you will be able to better discern whether or not the feedback is valid and find the ways that you need to grow in order to live a happier, more fulfilling life.
Criticism has the power to paralyze us if we let it. But we have the ability to transform anything negative that has been said to us into something positive. You can choose when you should and should not listen to the criticism and to use it as an opportunity to see a clearer version of yourself and an opportunity to grow.