When People Criticise You

It is never easy when people say thing that hurt you. If they are true, it is upsetting because it undermines our sense of self-worth. If they are untrue, it is upsetting because we feel we have been unjustly maligned.

Most of us are better at dishing criticism than taking it. We like to imagine ourselves as rational, calm creatures, and we see ourselves as completely open to constructive words, and we are astonished when other people get upset by our own clear and reasonable assessments of them.

In reality, we are all sensitive creatures, and feeling like other people are judging us is never easy.

Here is how I try to adapt:

  • Remember that there is no absolute accessible reality. Everybody lives inside their own consciousness with their own biases and blind spots.
  • When somebody looks at you, what they see is coloured as much by their own preconceptions and prejudices as by what you actually say and do.
  • Unfortunately, the same is also true of your own assessments.
  • It seems, therefore, unrealistic to expect that other people will judge you fairly or accurately.
  • On the flip side, that does not mean that they are never going to be right.
  • The best way to progress would seem, then, to take what is useful from their criticism and apply it and to discard the rest. This is a matter of your own judgement, of looking at yourself as open-mindedly as possible and deciding whether there are things you can learn from their comments or not.
  • If there are, that is good. Having areas for self-improvement does not make you less than anybody else. We are all in the same boat there. It is not a matter of shame but of gratitude that we are able to learn from a situation. Even if the person criticising us is somebody we do not respect, who we think does not understand us, it is worthwhile if we get something out of any truth they may stumble upon by accident 🙂
  • If the person is judging us as a person, not just our actions, then the best reaction is to laugh that off. The notion that anybody else can assess our persona accurately is laughable at best. As mentioned above, what they are seeing is a combination of the person being viewed and the person who is doing the viewing. The “us” that they do not like is a largely fictional construct that is in part of their own making. That is why people say that when we hate someone, we are often really hating ourself. Anyway, the upshot is that these opinions are not worth taking seriously.
  • If there is no truth in what the other person says, it is not worth our time to worry about it. Mentally tell them, “Thank you for your input, and good-day.” We let ourselves become frustrated because we hope that people will see us for who we believe we “truly” are. Once we recognise that this is unlikely if not impossible, their inaccurate perceptions become less irritating and more absurd. “That’s a really interesting little world you have created there”.
  • Of course it is never nice to be criticised or judged. It will still hurt, no matter how much you try to stop it. But probably all you can do is observe the feeling, be aware of it, and wait until it passes.
  • You can still try to correct misapprehensions, but don’t expect to be successful.
  • Usually if somebody is judging you harshly, it speaks of something sad, or hurt, or broken, inside of them. The best thing we can do is feel compassion for them. Something is driving them to see you that way, and it is not a healthy thing for them to be holding inside.
  • Ultimately, at heart, there is no “you” to criticise; there is just a collection of atoms and actions and words that are part accident, part habit, part consciousness. Even if somebody was able to criticise you with 100% accuracy, they are not criticising you, they are criticising a collection of items in a you-like pattern. And by the time their sentence ends, that “you” has already changed into something else. There is no consistent identity for them to dislike, any more than we can seek retribution against a particularly objectionable storm cloud.
  • It is probably not worth running this argument with them.

I am not usually able to defuse my hurt or anger fast enough to “feel” the truth of these beliefs at the time of the comments. But I find they help afterward, and I am becoming better at taking things less to heart.

Anyway, that’s just my own opinion. You can make one all of your own.

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