how to handle criticism

I finished a big project at work this week, and I got a couple of compliments about it.

Which was lovely.

I also got one semi-snarky comment that wasn’t made directly to me, but on social media, somewhere the person concerned probably thought I’d never see it or hear about it.

Guess which one is still bouncing around in my head, days later?

If you add up all the time I’ve spent:

  • Trying to puzzle out WHY that person would say that thing
  • Wondering whether it’s TRUE and I am a bit pants, actually
  • Mentally composing brilliant things I could say to that person to prove how NOT pants I am

Well, I could probably have baked myself a cake. And eaten it. While crying. And listening to sad music.

Isn’t it weird how the brain is programmed to zero in on negative comments? I’m honestly terrible for this habit.

I do think criticism is really important, especially if you’re doing something for other people – if someone doesn’t like what you’re doing, it’s important to be cool-headed and get over yourself enough to see whether you need to make a change, to improve things.

But at the same time, it’s unhealthy to allow one negative comment to outweigh any positive comments. It’s as though we swat away compliments, (“Oh this old thing, I’ve had it ages”) while we immediately absorb criticism to the heart of our soul as though it represents some sort of universal truth. (“He’s so right. I am too serious. I must immediately work on my comedy skills.”)

Is it just me?

I’m a lot more resilient to criticism than I used to be. Back in the day, a mean comment could derail me for days. But a few years of working online means I’m pretty immune to harsh comments. Because you know that people online just make mean comments for the sake of it.

I recently featured in a video for a car magazine and I’d say at least 90% of the comments on the video were about how surprising it was I am even capable of fitting into a car without the chassis collapsing or the car tipping over because of my IMMENSE size and weight.

It’s hard to care about the opinions of people who think that this is an acceptable way to spend their finite life-span.

Or the 75 comments on a piece I wrote for a national newspaper, where 74 of the comments said my daughter’s name was awful, and 1 comment was, “OMG she’s so fat. LOL”.

Insert eye roll here.

But it’s not always so easy to shrug and move on. There are things we’re all sensitive about, where we’re more vulnerable to criticism.

I’m not sure I have a magic solution to this.

But criticism is important. For starters, if we never got criticised, can you imagine how unbearably smug we’d all be? Ugh.

And without criticism, many of us would struggle to motivate ourselves to improve, or change. I know that at least 50% of what I achieve is largely motivated by the desire to prove someone else wrong.

But at the same time, it’s important to keep criticism in perspective. According to the experts, it takes 5 compliments to outweigh one negative comment, psychologically speaking.

So lucky I have Flea, and I can sit on her and tell her that I won’t get off until she tells me five reasons she loves me best out of anyone in the world*

This is a PERFECT solution, friends.

*I didn’t do this, obviously** 

** I so did.