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More PsychNotes: Self-esteem and Self-efficacy

September 18, 2018

Don't Accept Criticism Without Evaluating the Source
by Monica A. Frank, PhD

Evaluate the source of criticism

When I studied karate katas (elaborate forms demonstrating techniques) I learned the value of criticism. The more my instructor seemed to nitpick on everything I did, the better I became and the more tournaments I won. The reason for this is I realized he could only focus on minor details if I was learning the katas well generally. Otherwise, his focus would be on more major mistakes. I came to value his criticism. However, I noticed others could easily become discouraged with the same type of instruction.

Criticism can be devastating for many people. Even constructive criticism causes them to lose self-esteem and self-confidence. I think one of the main reasons for this is they accept all criticism without evaluating it. So, instead of picking and choosing which criticism is worthwhile, they accept all criticism which leads to criticism overload. At that point, they don't hear the nuggets of helpful advice. Instead, all they hear is the fact they are receiving criticism. The result is repeated blows to the sense of self creating feelings of failure, hopelessness, and worthlessness.

How can criticism overload be avoided?

One of the best ways to avoid criticism overload is to evaluate it before accepting it. This can be difficult to do because you need to listen to the criticism to evaluate it which can cause distress and affect self-esteem. However, one way to decrease the amount of criticism you absorb is to first evaluate the source of the criticism before even listening to it.

Some questions to ask yourself:

  • Do I admire this person?
  • Is this person an expert?
  • Do I want advice from this person?
  • What are the intentions of this person?
  • Has past criticism from this person been valuable?
  • Is the criticism likely to help me?
  • Is this something I need to learn and is this the best person from whom to learn?

If your conclusion is that the source isn't a valuable resource for criticism, then dismiss any criticism that comes from that person. Ignore the criticism. Tell yourself, “There is no value in listening to this person criticize me. All it will do is make me feel bad.” In particularly severe cases when you are confronted with someone you do not value as a source but who constantly criticizes, you may need to walk away or limit your contact with that person.

Don't let fear of criticism prevent you from receiving valuable advice. By understanding the source is someone who has good intentions and worthwhile advice you can learn to listen to only the criticism that is meaningful to you.

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