How to Accept Criticism as a Gift

You experience criticism. I experience criticism. We all experience criticism.  Perhaps you try to avoid it all costs. If so, it may seem difficult to see the gift in criticism.

I want to show you how because it will transform the way you live and will help strengthen your sense of confidence and  personal power.

Over the next 3 weeks, I’m going to be covering 3 areas that many of us struggle with when following our dreams–criticism, building confidence, and setting boundaries.

Criticism Has Nothing to Do With You

Think about the last time you criticized someone for something. Was it at dinner the other night when the restaurant service was slow? Was it this morning when your partner (once again) didn’t screw the cap on the toothpaste?

No matter what it was, the truth is that someone else’s criticism of you has next to nothing to do with you and everything to do with them.

Criticism is always someone else’s commentary on how they see the world.
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Recognizing that someone else’s criticism is really about them is the first step in accepting the gift of criticism.

Only You Know What Is Right for You

No one else can tell you your truth.  In my book, An Imperceptible Spark, I talk about personal genius as the expression of your own personal perspective and experience in the world.

“No one can lead you to your place of genius.  No one can tell you what it is because it is the unique and specific application of your skill, abilities and talents.”

You alone, can show the world what it means to be “you” and how you wish to function in the world.

Others will try to teach you what and who they think you should be. They will even try to manipulate you into fitting their perception of you, but only you can know who you really are.

Learning to stand in your own truth is the second key to accepting the gift of criticism.

The highest quality that a human being can reach is to be independent of the good opinion of others.” – Abraham Maslow
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The Gift of Criticism

So what does criticism offer you?

1. Greater Clarity

2. Opportunity to Grow

Criticism offers you the chance to develop greater clarity about who you are and who you want to be in the world.

All of us have a message to share with the world. All of us have a story to tell. We each have influence and importance.


  • Clarifies your message
  • Shows your “people” (the ones who “get” you) that they fit
  • Increases loyalty in those watching from the periphery of your experience

You’ll also notice that as you share your life with those who you influence, they will come to your defense with strength and force when you are criticized because they have recognized your mission and have bought into it as well.

Criticism offers you the opportunity to become who you must be
to do what you must do.
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A Final Word on Criticism

Ultimately, criticism is only personal to the one who wields it as a weapon. For you, it is simply an opportunity–a gift–to become who you must be to do what you must do.  Seize it!

“If you plan on being anything less than you are capable of being, you will probably be unhappy all the days of your life.” – Abraham Maslow

Photo Credit:  TRF_Mr_Hyde

About Steve

Hi, I'm Steve Rice and my goal is to transform simple philosophical truths into practical fuel to revolutionize your life. It's not about self-help, it's about self-reliance. I show you how. Connect with me on Facebook or follow me on Twitter and let me know how I can help you.

  • Yes, this is definitely an area most people struggle with. For me it really depends a lot on how the message is delivered. If the message is only about your shortcomings or what you’re doing wrong then I think it really takes a pretty strong level of self-confidence to find the good in that. But if the criticism is balanced with suggestions for improvement, that’s another thing entirely because you can grow from that. One approach I really hate – when bosses think they are doing you a favor by saying something positive about your performance first as the lay the ground to hit you with the bad stuff. That is just SO transparent and most employees get that and will miss anything positive that’s being said because of all the self-talk going on as you wait for the shoe to drop!

    • Great point about the “sandwich” method, Marquita! I agree 110% It probably was a great technique 20 years ago, but as you said, people are so used to it that the self-talk chatter in the background causes us to really be waiting for the “shoe to drop”.

      I never thought of that. It would be a great idea for a post if I were a business blogger. 🙂 (“Why you shouldn’t use the sandwich method”)

      I think when you’re giving criticism, it’s essential to have “permission” meaning you’ve earned the other person’s respect to influence them. Then, it’s about respect and honesty. People can sense when you’re looking out for them.

      On your first point, it is really hard to face criticism that is cloaked in disapproval, anger, or animosity.

      One thing that helps me is awareness. I try to go inside and focus on how it feels in my body when I feel myself reacting to criticism. I feel it intuitively long before the person gets to the “main” point. I can feel it generally in my solar plexus and chest.

      I stop and ask myself: “What’s going on?” or “what is this really about?” I also ask “What am I really reacting to?”

      It helps bring clarity to that moment for me no matter what the intensity of the other person’s delivery.

      I”m not perfect, but I think some of those skills come from my early work (as a teenager) in a call center where I dealt with irate customers fairly regularly. You have to learn to disassociate yourself and your job from the frustration the customer is venting, allow them to vent and then try to help if they will allow it.

      Have you found any questions you can ask yourself or any techniques that help you to recognize the value of criticism as it’s being delivered? Would love to hear your insights.

  • Great article Steve. I used to really struggle with criticism. I still do on a personal level but I’ve come from an artistic background. When I studied Fine Art we had to be critical about other people’s work and also of our own. When you put so much of yourself into a piece of art and it gets torn to pieces it can be hard to take. This is the same with my music. Its understanding that not everyone is going to like what you create. I appreciate helpful criticisms but sometimes people can turn spiteful if it’s something they don’t always understand. I guess it’s also finding the line between people being judgemental or criticising. One can be almost drained from being judged whereas one can grow from criticism.

    • Thanks, Matt!

      I really relate. I got my musical training in college and I was terrified of the criticism of others, but mostly because I was so critical of myself. I took everything someone else said to heart because I believe I was so incapable. I never trusted my own skills and gifts.

      You’ve hit on what this piece was all about…once a person recognizes exactly what you pointed out: not everyone is going to like what you create, it frees him or her up.

      When I realized that it was my job on this site to be authentic and express my truth, and allow others to either connect or not, I was really able to start growing.

      When I first started blogging, I wanted to please everyone, but I found that is the way to never stand out…and never make an impact, which is what I most want to do.

      I like the distinction you draw between criticism and judgment. What I have learned is that judgment is most always about the other person and their internal view more than it is about me.

      The key for me is learning to hear the criticism fairly and not give it more weight than it is due, but also not ignore it, and allow the rest to just flow off my back.

  • Awesome message here, Steve! I have been on both sides of the criticism fence, in the past. I’m sure I still get a lot of criticism, but it’s not as effective since I have taken the opportunity to understand why I practice it myself. The quote you used at the end of this article exposes much of my revelation concerning criticizing others. We ultimately rob ourselves of having a more fulfilling life – when we spend our time focusing on what’s not right in others – “time wasted” becomes an understatement. 🙂

    Thanks for the sharpening, my friend. Good stuff!