7 Ways To Stop Taking Criticism Personally

  • Marie Claire is supported by its audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn commission on some of the items you choose to buy.
  • Yep, you heard it right. Read this, and watch the criticism bounce off your back like an invisible force field. (You can thank us later.)

    As super powers go, the capacity to stop taking criticism personally would be a pretty good one. After all, as women, we’re criticised for our personality up to 75 per cent more frequently than men. So if we could stop worrying about that, it seems like we’d be taking one suffragette-sized step forward in the name of equality. 

    And while the priority should certainly be to stop criticising women for their personalities in the first place, there’s something to be said for a little bit of sensitivity self defence. After all, if we could team up and #BREAKFREE from needing to be liked, then the belief that women need to be ‘likeable’ in order to be successful, could finally fade away. 

    So here you go. Seven, totally foolproof, clever-psychology-people approved tips for how to stop taking criticism personally:
    Take a deep breath (anything tricky requires a deep breath first, it’s a fact) and try to imagine the scene that you’re in through the eyes of a fly on the wall. So your boss just told you that you need to be less abrasive in meetings, or your friend said that she’s tired of being let down by you at short notice, or your boyfriend dropped into conversation that he wishes you would smile more – what would you hear if you weren’t directly involved? Look at your boss – what is his/her body language like? Does your friend look stressed, or tired? Has your boyfriend had a bad day? Do you think the comments are about you, or simply a symptom of something bigger going on in their individual lives? Instead of jumping to the conclusion that your boss is about to fire you, that your friend is never going to speak to you again, or that you’ll be single before the end of the day, put it all in perspective.
    How, we hear you ask. Well, even if the criticism you’ve had thrown your way feels like a knife slowly twisting, this way and that way, in the centre of your back, it’s unlikely it was intended that way. Take a moment to hear what is actually being said to you. If your boss is concerned about your ‘abrasiveness’, does that mean that he or she would like to send you into more meetings, and is just worried about whether you can handle it? If your friend is sad about your recent cancellations, does that mean she wants to spend time with you? If your boyfriend thinks you look miserable all the time, is he actually just worried that you’re not happy with him? Upon closer examination, you’ll probably find that while criticism might feel like the person talking to you doesn’t like you or value you, you may realise that actually the opposite is true.

    Instead of weeping in the bathroom until your eyes turn bright red and your nose looks like one of those dodgy lightbulbs they sell in sex shops, focus on what the person who has criticised you is asking. Without thinking about any personal hurt that may have been caused, is it actually something that you could, feasibly do? And – again, without focusing on your ego – would it actually improve your work / your friendships / your relationships? Could you give more people a chance to speak up in meetings, really? Could you make an effort not to cancel plans at the last minute? 50p says that actually, you probably could.

    Now you know what’s being asked of you, write it down in your own words. Sure, so your boss used the word abrasive. We don’t like the word abrasive, because it’s so commonly used to undermine women with opinions, but we do like the word ‘fair’. Write down the challenge as ‘I will try to be fair when I’m speaking to other people’, rather than ‘I will not be abrasive’. That way, you’ve taken control of the criticism, and it becomes something that you’re taking on board on your own terms.
    Not sure if the criticism actually applies to you in the first place? Ask a friend what she thinks you should do. Explain the situation honestly (it’s easy to rant and convince somebody to say what you want them to hear, but in those cases, you’ll know that you’ve fed them biased information, and it will be harder to take their comments on board later). Then ask them what they would do if they were in your shoes. If possible, get them to create an action plan with you. That way, you won’t feel like the whole world is against you, and you’ll be able to show whoever criticised you in the first place that you’ve taken their feedback on board. 
    Still feeling yourself overanalyse the situation? Remove yourself from it for a couple of hours. Go somewhere where you can fully switch off – the cinema, the gym, the pub… don’t rant about it, don’t whinge about it, don’t even think about it. Just immerse yourself in something else, and see how long it takes you to forget all about it in the first place. By the time your activity has come to an end, you’ll have been able to put things in perspective.
    Sure, so maybe you have one failing. Or two. Or three. Or eight. But there are thousands of things which you are good at – you just need to remember to focus on them. Start a ‘Happy Diary’, where you write down all the things that you did well that day before going the bed. Nobody is going to read this, so don’t worry about being judged (again – you need to #BREAKFREE from Likes, remember?) – just scribble down all the stuff you’re proud of achieving. It could be getting out of bed before 7:30am, or making your coffee at home instead of buying it at the train station. It could be smiling at a stranger in the street, or pitching some AWESOME ideas in your meeting. It doesn’t matter: if it’s good enough for you, then it’s good enough for everybody else.
    Read more about Marie Claire’s #BREAKFREE campaign here.

    Reading now