Don’t Take It Personally

It’s been heavy on my heart to write a post about criticism within our lives- both good and bad. Criticism is good to a degree and sometimes we need it to be better people. You’ve always heard about constructive criticism and well, criticism that’s designed to disrupt your nature. I’ll start with the latter and end on a brighter note.

One thing we all should learn is that no matter how much good we do for people or how much good energy we set out into the world, we will always be criticized. Always! Here’s just a few examples to paint the picture.

You had a friend who you considered to be your best friend, your soul-sister. You put her first, above all else. You attended every important function in her life. You would get off the phone with your Dad to answer her call. You literally put her first. One day, you get a call or you get into an argument only to discover that she thinks you’re the most selfish person she knows. She criticizes your character and your inability to be a good friend. What do you do in that situation? You decide if that’s the right friendship for you, you evaluate what you have been sending out versus what you have been receiving and you decide. You’re heart-broken because that was your best friend (at least she was in your heart). You deal with the pain of letting go, learn to recognize the good you put into the world and evaluate whether or not that person appreciated you. However, even when doing what’s best for ourselves doesn’t ease the blow of the pain. But, remember, don’t take it personally. People have the funniest way of burning bridges.

Next example. You dated someone who you loved dearly (and they say they did, too). You made them a priority above yourself and put their happiness first. Every fight, every scream, every cuss word thrown your way- you retreated, out of the love you had for that person. He criticized every word, every action. You cooked meals that he praised you for, but then criticized you for not cooking every night. You took on responsibilities that weren’t your own, but he criticized you for not doing enough. You managed massive work projects, but he criticized you for being mentally exhausted and not showing him enough attention. He disrespected you, but then criticized you for not being affectionate enough. How about the classic “I’m going to criticize you for things that I do.” The list could go on. One day, you decide that the abuse can no longer go on, for the rest of your life. He praised you for your strength to end things because he knew he treated you poorly, for years. However, soon after, he criticized every part of your being and intentions. What do you do in this scenario? Well, you self-assess and discover that you have the greatest peace of all- knowing that you had the greatest of intentions and did your very best in loving him. And dear God, leave it behind for the sake of your self-esteem. No one should live their life by walking on eggshells (you’ve heard that one before, I’m sure). There are some people in the world who will never be happy, even when they say they are. Unhappy people always find something to complain about, something to criticize to make themselves feel less pain for themselves. That’s the bigger issue here within this example, but for the sake of criticism, this is not to take personally.

Next example. You have a very big role at a company that demands lots of blood, sweat, attention and perseverance. You get told that you’re killing it. You’re managing your projects very well considering the amount of workload thrown on one individual. You’re the lead of your department so that requires not only managing your projects, but also meeting with the executives on a consistent basis for product approval and direction. You’re praised over and over for your resilience in times of stress and egregious situations with an astounding attitude. You have literally poured your heart and soul into your work, but there’s that one person (or many people) who find their way to throw in their cynical criticism. They scour to find a loophole in your work or twist your project outcomes in ways to throw shade in front of the important figures within the company. What do you do in this scenario? You understand that you cannot control the demons that others face within their jobs. Everyone reacts differently to stress and that means that some throw criticism in times of discomfort. Not everyone is equipped with the ability to be vulnerable or admit fault. There are others who like to shift blame towards others purely for embarrassment of their own neglect towards a project. We should never never never take this kind of criticism personally. There are too many people in our work spaces that need help in this area for us to take it personally.

One very valuable lesson that I have learned over the years is that no matter what scenario you are in- don’t ever take it personally. Something can be done to change the outcome and make it better for yourself. This is a very difficult task, so be patient. It will take time. Don’t forget to always be yourself and remember who you are in moments of ill-natured criticism. Reread these scenarios and exchange the person with a family member, a father, a mother- use them however they apply to your own life. You have to learn to recognize the bad criticism on the forefront of all situations in order to not take it personally. Or else you’ll take it personally and beat yourself up over it for years, wondering if you did something wrong. Don’t do that to yourself. If you know that you have good intentions, that you do good in this world and that you never wish ill nature unto anyone, you have nothing to worry about. We CANNOT please everyone, because most of the time, people don’t even know what they want (even if their lips tell you they do).

Now, let’s talk about the constructive (positive) criticism. We have to be well aware of our environment and have enough vulnerability to accept when we have done something wrong or not up to par. I was once the worst person to receive constructive criticism! I remember being in college (and after) and arguing with my professors or bosses to justify my work. I was the prime example of a perfectionist. Seriously, I’m sure my picture is next to perfectionist in the dictionary- I’m not kidding. I learned very quickly from a former boss (now one of my best friends) that we have to learn when to keep our mouths shut and accept feedback from someone else; that’s our opportunity to use these things on each side of our head- our freaking ears. I’ll never forget that lesson and how much it hit home for me. Now, when I’m talking to a girlfriend, my significant other or a coworker, I listen. If they’re taking time and energy (good LORD, the energy) to say something significant, I better have my pen and notebook because this information is free and welcomed! I actually enjoy one-on-ones with my boss, feedback from our CEO, you name it. I care enough about myself and my growth  to know what I can improve on. I’m not perfect (SURPRISE!). We have to learn that not everyone has poor intentions and when there’s need for improvement, we should care what they have to say. We should take that personally!

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