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Handling Criticism in a Productive Way

I struggled for a long time with criticism. I used to be extremely sensitive and would get very angry and sad every time I faced criticism. Thanks to meditation, I have learned how to handle criticism in a productive way. Below, I share my insights and hope they can be useful to you as well. 😃


The reason why we are sensitive to criticism


Every person is born with an inferiority complex in their mind. The inferiority complex tells us that we are not good enough and do not deserve to be loved. We feel ashamed of these thoughts and feelings and try to hide them, not only from others but also from ourselves. Because we try to suppress these feelings, we become sensitive to anything that can trigger them, especially criticism. The stronger the inferiority complex is, the more painful the criticism feels.


All people carry an inferiority complex, but depending on our level of consciousness, we can roughly divide people into two different categories.


  • Those who are largely unaware of their inferiority complex. The reason these people cannot see their inferiority complex is that it is covered by a thick layer of pride. Pride makes these people unable to even admit to themselves that they are sensitive to criticism (or that they could be weak in general). But they definitely are. When such a person is criticized, they tend to dismiss the criticism as nonsense. Depending on how much the criticism hits their ego, they may either shrug it off, become angry, withdraw, or start plotting revenge. Such people find it difficult to see things from perspectives other than their own and therefore also struggle to understand other people's needs.


  • Those who are aware of their inferiority complex. These people try to hide their inferiority complex while being aware of it. They can hide it in different ways, such as trying to be nice, generous, cool, strong, etc. (Of course, to varying degrees; some people hide it more than others.) Deep down, these people know that they are vulnerable and that they struggle to maintain a facade both outwardly and inwardly. However, when criticism penetrates the defense mechanisms they have built, they will feel crushed. When this happens, they may hate themselves, feel extreme shame, become very upset, and find it difficult to move on.


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Regarding the first category of people, there is not much to do. They are not mentally capable of change, at least not at the moment. They need time to mature. However, the second group of people is in a much better position. They can truly change and grow as individuals, starting from today.


The importance of a healthy mindset


We have difficulty with criticism because we do not accept our feelings of inferiority and let go of them. Instead, we try to hide them and act defensively or aggressively in situations that we perceive as a threat to revealing the "shameful" or "vulnerable" parts we carry within us.


That's why it hurts so much when our feelings of inferiority are triggered. In these situations, our thoughts rush, and instinctively, we may feel that something "terrible" has happened, something that should be avoided by all means necessary. Because we constantly try to protect ourselves, we can develop a mindset that views life as something hostile. We may believe that we need to "defeat" life, avoid life, or "survive" life (ironically). If we do not change our mindset, we will not change, and our life situation will not improve either.


What we need to do is replace this negative mindset with a more positive one, a mindset that does not shy away from or deny the painful aspects of being human, such as dealing with criticism.

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A healthy mindset can look like this:

Life is not here to bring us down. We don't need to defend ourselves against life. Life is a benevolent force that, through circumstances, people, and challenges, provides us with the opportunity to grow as individuals. Everything happens for a reason, every person is there for a reason, and everything is perfect. Every moment is an opportunity for us to grow and finally realize our true (higher) self.


Self-reflection


A mindset like this is a good starting point because it opens up for necessary self-reflection.


Let's say you have been criticized and are suffering because of it. You ruminate, feel hurt, and can't let go of it. Pain and misery. "Why did this person say that to me? So unfair! Grrrr!" Okay. Now remember that everything happens for a reason and that this is an opportunity to grow as a person.


Time to reflect. Sit quietly, close your eyes, and let the scene unfold within you like a movie. Observe how you felt, your thoughts and feelings about yourself and the person who delivered the criticism. Reflect on why it feels difficult. Even though circumstances may vary, you will realize that the root cause of your suffering is that your pride is hurt, meaning that your perception of your worth as a person (your view of yourself, your view of how others should perceive you) has somehow been challenged. Once you have realized this, you have made progress! See, you are now wiser than before. The criticism has helped you grow.


This is a form of meditation, and by doing it this way, we begin to release and let go of the pride within us. When we let go of pride, our feelings of inferiority also disappear. This is why reflection and letting go lead to self-realization and a higher level of consciousness. When we let go of pride and feelings of inferiority, we become wiser, more humble, genuine, and open to new perspectives.


Why is it difficult to handle criticism?

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The reason we want to handle, avoid, or retaliate against others' criticism of us is that we desire to feel satisfied with ourselves. Ultimately, we want to be right and be a "good" person. We don't want to change ourselves; we want to keep things as they are. But this is not possible. We will be shaken. Circumstances, people, life as such will inevitably shake us. This cannot and should not be avoided. Remember: Life is a benevolent force that guides us towards our true selves. It does so by all available means.


Note that this does not mean that we should allow ourselves to be treated disrespectfully. On the contrary, if someone hurts us repeatedly, the lesson may very well be that we need to learn to say no and set boundaries. If we are bullied or unfairly criticized, we must reflect on ourselves and see why it happens. Perhaps it's because we try to avoid conflicts by pretending to be humble, or because we try to be "good" people (while hiding that we carry hatred, envy, shame, etc.), or because we have a victim mentality and secretly blame external circumstances for our unhappiness, or because we believe we know better and are unable to listen to others. There is always a lesson to learn; there is always something to be grateful for, even if it can be painful at times.


A few words about justified and unjustified criticism


Regardless of whether the criticism is justified or not, this is irrelevant to our ability to take it as an opportunity to grow as individuals. All types of criticism are beneficial if taken in the right way.


  • For example, if we consider the criticism to be unfair, we can see the hurt and angry feelings that the criticism evokes within us and let go of them. We may also identify fears or avoidance behaviors that can be released.


  • If the criticism is justified, we can reflect on ourselves and become aware of the selfish behavior that prompted the criticism. In both situations, we become wiser and make progress towards finding our true self.


The true meaning of overcoming criticism


The criticism that we have struggled to handle will cease on the day we have learned our lesson, when we have done our necessary self-examination, given up our pride and feelings of inferiority. Once we have reached that point, criticism will no longer be relevant. In fact, it won't even occur because it is no longer part of our karma or life path.


Life will continue, but since we have now grown and developed, it is time to face a different type of situation, something that truly challenges us and allows us to see our remaining pride and feelings of inferiority. But by this point, we have understood the mechanisms of life and are capable of accepting whatever happens, learning from it, growing, and moving forward. This is the true meaning of overcoming criticism and other difficulties in life.


Michael



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