I’d like you to try something for me. I want you to think about the last time you received criticism or negative feedback. Perhaps it happened in a work environment… or even during a conversation with a partner or friend. Now, when you recall that moment and think about how it made you feel. Did you receive it wholeheartedly? Did you perhaps get defensive? Did you feel your body temperature start to rise?
The thing about negative feedback is that it can feel harsh sometimes – almost like a blow to the gut. It can feel like a personal attack sending you on a tailspin into low-frequency emotions, leaving you feeling confused, irritated, or even angry.
But the other thing about negative feedback or criticism is that you can turn it into an opportunity for growth. As uncomfortable as it might seem in the moment, it’s important to utilize the right tools to help us react calmly in the moment but to also move forward positively after the conversation. So here are some ways you can bounce back from criticism and use this feedback for your personal growth.
Whether it’s in your personal relationships or professional relationships, we must have boundaries. Just as a physical boundary may protect us from harm, personal boundaries, in essence, act in the same manner. Boundaries are the safety guidelines that help others understand the appropriate ways to behave toward us while simultaneously signaling to ourselves how we should respond when someone crosses those boundaries.
Now, here’s the thing, some people in the world feel unhappy within themselves and project negative emotions and comments onto others without good intentions or merit. This is when boundaries come into play! You can’t please everyone, so if there’s someone in your life that constantly tries to bring you down, try to limit your time with them and set emotional boundaries around your conversations.
If you can’t limit the time you spend with this person because they are a work colleague, for example, be honest in your conversations if you feel that it’s negatively impacting you. For instance, if a person begins to speak in a judgmental or condescending tone towards you, calmly ask them to stop and change the subject. If they continue, again, calmly and honestly explain to them that you do not want to discuss this specific topic with them. Being truthful and standing up for yourself shows them that you are in control of the situation and reinforces the personal boundaries you’ve set for yourself.
Understanding defense mechanisms
However, there are times when criticism comes from a genuine place and should be taken seriously. And if you often find that when you hear negative feedback you have a knee-jerk reaction to being defensive, don’t worry! You aren’t alone in your response. It’s normal to feel that criticism is an attack on our character, especially if we don’t take the time to listen and understand what the other person is trying to say. That’s why it’s important to think before you react in the moment. Even taking a few deep breaths before responding can help you stay centered and respond calmly.
And remember, you don’t have to respond right away. You can say ‘thank you for this feedback’ and ask to come back to the topic in a day or so. Once you remove yourself from the conversation, you should take time to process the feedback - whether that’s by journaling, meditating, or calling a trustworthy friend. By doing this, you may realize that there are some unresolved insecurities or fears that may have triggered your defense mechanism that you need to work on. And when you take the time to understand why you felt triggered by negative feedback, and then taking steps to work on those insecurities and potential areas for growth, you’ll notice a positive shift in your attitude towards yourself and others. I promise that even though these conversations may be hard at first - if you take the time to process and respond healthily, you’ll become a much better co-worker, boss, employee, partner, friend, and so on.
Learn to learn
Shifting your focus to that of learning and understanding when given negative feedback can be a truly transformational moment for your personal development. Piggybacking on my last point of going into defense mode, it’s important to step back from the situation and evaluate the negative feedback from a place of genuine curiosity and understanding. By doing this, you’ll find it much easier to avoid being defensive or even throwing blame and judgment around, and instead, you can use that moment as an opportunity to learn more about yourself.
Be sure to pay attention and be mindful in situations of criticism. Whether that’s needing to, again, reevaluate boundaries or focusing your thoughts on ways to improve, opening your heart and mind to receiving it, instead of pushing it away, is how you set yourself up for success. Take a moment to get in the attitude of gratitude for being able to have a raw and honest conversation, even if it is a tough pill to swallow. Using that feedback to shift into a more positive frame of mind will help you grow and evolve into the person you want to be.
…And learn to forgive
Let’s be honest, judgment and blame get us nowhere. And I’m not only talking about judging and blaming others – I’m talking about letting go of blame toward ourselves. So ditch the blame game and learn to forgive yourself because beating yourself up over harsh criticism can keep you stuck in old patterns that do not serve you. For some of us, blaming ourselves may feel like the easy way out of navigating criticism. But it’s important to let go of self-blame and use this as an opportunity to understand our role in the situation to make a positive change going forward.
You see, criticism is okay – sometimes it’s the necessary feedback we need to thrive. So continuing to replay our missteps and wallow in negative feedback is no good for anyone. This is the perfect opportunity to dig in a little deeper into your personal growth and come out the other side with a brand new perspective. There’s so much we can learn about ourselves when we let go of the need to be perfect and lean into a growth mindset.
And speaking of harnessing a growth mindset, if you’d like to awaken your most limitless potential, I have something very special for you today, which is our Limitless You Meditation Pack. This is yet another tool you can use to navigate feedback and get out of the self-sabotaging limiting beliefs that may be keeping you stuck. Get your access to Limitless You here now and be prepared to grow!
Natalie Ledwell is a best selling author, speaker and successful entrepreneur. She's passionate about helping others to achieve their greatest dreams and ambitions through her personal development programs and her online TV show, The Inspiration Show.