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9 Reasons Why Criticism Rocks (and Some of the Worst Comments I’ve Ever Received)

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9 Reasons Why Criticism Rocks (and Some of the Worst Comments I’ve Ever Received)

For the original unedited article, visit Celestine’s blog, Personal Excellence.

A while back, I was out having lunch with a friend, P. In amidst our lunch, blogging came up as a chat topic.

P told me that she had been thinking of starting a blog. However, she had been hesitating against it as she was fearful of criticism. Starting a blog would require her to share pretty personal things, and she wasn’t not sure how to handle criticism if someone was to dish it out on her.

Being someone with great experience in dealing with criticism, I immediately told her that her sentiments about criticism were unwarranted because criticism is a good thing, and proceeded to explain why.

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Upon hearing my explanation, she immediately grinned, nodded, and said that she would start adopting that view from now on.

Embracing Criticism (+ Some of the Worst Comments I’ve Ever Received)

What I shared with her are important lessons which I have learned about criticism from running my personal development blog Personal Excellence.

In the past few years as I managed my blog, I have received criticisms on anything and everything. While the best criticism should be constructive and objective (read: How To Give Constructive Criticism in 6 Steps), the criticisms I get on my blog can be very personal and uncivil sometimes, ranging from my looks to my personal life to my family.

There was once I wrote about being sponsored by a local dating agency to write reviews of their service, given that I was single. Since many of my readers are single as well, I thought they would be interested to learn about the experience of using such a service, and hence took up the sponsorship. Not long after, someone posted comments insulting me, saying that my taking up of the sponsored service made her “sick to her stomach”, that I had “no integrity”, that I had “prostituted” myself, that I should send my article to “pornhub”, and “it was no wonder you are still single” (among some other colorful words). The violent reaction was appalling, to say the least.

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A while back, I had a photo shoot feature with a local magazine. A guy, a self-help blogger no less, wrote a somewhat sexist e-mail after seeing my photos, asking me to “please lose some weight”, because people look up to me for inspiration and I was apparently not an inspirational enough figure (no pun intended) because I had looked (and I quote) “too prosperous” in the shoot. It was a highly disparaging remark IMO.

Then another time, someone spammed my articles with various pointless comments, flaming me and my ethnicity. She was supposedly in hate with me, saying I was a joke and I was nothing but a “stupid Azian [sic] girl trying to take over the world”.

The list goes on and on. I even have a special folder in my e-mail client for messages like this, so you can imagine how many of such bizarre comments I get on an ongoing basis.

…Yet, I think criticisms are good, really good. And I’ll explain to you why.

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9 Reasons Why Criticism Is Good

  1. For someone to criticize you, it means that he/she cared (enough to write or share that criticism, anyway). The person could have used that time to do something else, but no, he/she actually bothered to send you that message, showing that he/she cared. That has got to count for something.
  2. You are reaching new people. Every time I receive a criticism, I celebrate because that means that I have just reached a new audience member—someone who doesn’t necessarily agree with what I say/do. I think what’s most worrying is IF I don’t get any criticism at all. That would mean that I’m inside my comfort zone and just connecting with the same people every day.You want to spread your life’s message to as many people as you can. Receiving criticism means that you are now reaching people whom you’ve never reached before. That means you are touching more lives than you’ve ever touched before. That’s a really great thing.
  3. People wouldn’t criticize you if they didn’t think you were worth criticizing to begin with. To be honest, there are tons of critique-worthy stuff out there. But not everyone takes time to criticize the things he/she don’t agree with. Why? That’s because they don’t feel that those things are worth their critiques at all.If someone is criticizing you, that probably means that there’s something about you that is worth him/her taking time to criticize. If you look at the most prominent figures in this world, from Lady Gaga, to Oprah Winfrey, to Steve Jobs, all of them have large groups of detractors. Why? It’s because each of them stands for a great message—a message that shakes others and stirs up their souls. As Winston Churchill puts it, “You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.”
  4. Criticism lets you see things in a different light. Criticism arises as a result of a conflict in thoughts. You did/said something, someone else has a different opinion, and hence the criticism. Hence, whenever you receive a criticism, you are hearing from a different viewpoint—one which you might never have considered before. The criticism helps you to see things from a different perspective, hence raising your awareness.
  5. Criticism is a form of honesty. (It lets you know what others truly think.) I actually prefer to be with someone who openly shares what he/she thinks than someone who thinks the same thoughts BUT keeps it to him/herself. With the first person, at least what I see/hear is what I get. With the latter person, the relationship quickly descends into a guessing game.What I do after hearing the person’s opinion is a different thing altogether (I can choose to heed it or discard it), but at least I’m now aware of what the person thinks and where he/she stands.
  6. Criticism helps you to improve. Criticism lets you know about your blind spots so that you can work on them. The more blind spots you uncover about yourself, the faster you will grow. Over the years, I have learned many things from others’ criticisms of me and my work. Some of them have helped me to learn things I have never known before about myself, which has been instrumental for my growth.
  7. Criticism lets you learn about your defense mechanisms. In Day 18: Reflect on a Criticism of Be a Better Me in 30 Days Program (which is my 30-day character transformation program), I mentioned that there are two things we can always learn from criticism: the thing that is critiqued (see Points #4 and #6), and our reaction to the criticism. Even when I get criticisms which have no validity, I still learn a ton about myself based on the emotions that surface when receiving the criticism, my first gut instinct reaction, and how I handle the situation.I’ve learned that my reactions are usually a reflection of unprocessed inner issues. Working through these reactions has helped me to become a calmer and more conscious person.
  8. Criticism helps you to learn more about others. Every criticism tells you something about yourself and the other person. By breaking down the comment, you can understand the critic’s perspective, his/her beliefs, and his/her values. This can be helpful in furthering the relationship with the person.For example, if your mom criticizes you for being rude to her, maybe it tells you that she is hurt by your actions. She is looking for love and affirmation in the relationship but your words and actions (whether they are really rude or not) are denying her that. Hence, it indicates that you should show love to your mom in a language that she understands, rather than relying on implicit mannerisms.
  9. Criticism sometimes jolts you into action. Ever had a situation where a criticism kicked you into action? Yeah, I had that before too. Sometimes, criticism provides that wake-up call that you have been missing. Perhaps there is something that you have been doing wrong but the people around you are just too nice to let you know or they themselves are oblivious to it, like you. A well-timed criticism, delivered in an appropriate manner, can sometimes provide a much-needed insight which then ignites you into action.

When Criticism Isn’t Good

There are cases when criticism can be detrimental.

#1: When criticism is the only thing you get every day

First example would be when you get constantly get criticism without any breather. Besides the fact that this can be a serious energy suck, constant criticism can divert you from the things that really matter, because rather than work on your goals, you’re too busy reacting to others or resolving conflict between you and other people.

Examples of such situations would be when parents criticize their kids 24/7, a student who is constantly picked on by school bullies, and someone whose work involves dealing with a public audience (such as teachers, writers, bloggers, public figures, and so on).

If you’re getting so much criticism to the point that it’s hindering rather than enabling you, some suggestions I have for you are:

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  1. Learn not to let criticism faze you. Read: 8 Helpful Ways To Deal With Critical People
  2. Don’t spend your time on the criticism. Use it for something else. Read: 13 Strategies to Jumpstart Your Productivity
  3. If the criticism is mainly coming from one person, assert yourself to him/her. Tell him/her you get his/her point, but this just isn’t what you want to be dealing with at the moment. Read: 7 Simple Ways To Say No
  4. Create boundaries on how criticism can reach you. For example, I set specific channels where readers can openly share feedback (such as the comment sections of new articles and my social media channels). I do not allow e-mail to be used for feedback purposes—it’s reserved strictly for work engagements. This helps me to be dramatically productive.

#2: When the criticism isn’t constructive and/or gets personal

The second case is when the criticism isn’t constructive and/or becomes personal, offensive, and disparaging. The three examples I’ve shared earlier in the article are examples of that.

When that happens, it’s a violation of your rights. Put these people in their place by asserting your rights. Be ready to cut away chronic critics if you have to.

Start Embracing Criticism

I hope you have found this article useful. What are your views on criticism? How do you deal with criticism yourself? Feel free to share in the comments section.

More by this author

Celestine Chua

Celestine is the Founder of Personal Excellence where she shares her best advice on how to boost productivity and achieve excellence in life.

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Last Updated on November 18, 2021

10 Proven Ways to Judge a Person’s Character

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10 Proven Ways to Judge a Person’s Character

We all fall into the trap of judging a person’s character by their appearance. How wrong we are! All too often, the real character of the person only appears when some negative event hits them or you. Then you may see a toxic person emerging from the ruins and it is often a shock.

A truly frightening example is revealed in the book by O’Toole in Bowman called Dangerous Instincts: How Gut Instincts Betray Us. A perfectly respectable, charming, well dressed neighbor was found to have installed a torture chamber in his garage where he was systematically abusing kidnapped women. This is an extreme example, but it does show how we can be totally deceived by a person’s physical appearance, manners and behavior.

So, what can you do? You want to be able to assess personal qualities when you come into contact with colleagues, fresh acquaintances and new friends who might even become lifelong partners. You want to know if they are:

  • honest
  • reliable
  • competent
  • kind and compassionate
  • capable of taking the blame
  • able to persevere
  • modest and humble
  • pacific and can control anger.

The secret is to reserve judgment and take your time. Observe them in certain situations; look at how they react. Listen to them talking, joking, laughing, explaining, complaining, blaming, praising, ranting, and preaching. Only then will you be able to judge their character. This is not foolproof, but if you follow the 10 ways below, you have a pretty good chance of not ending up in an abusive relationship.

1. Is anger a frequent occurrence?

All too often, angry reactions which may seem to be excessive are a sign that there are underlying issues. Do not think that every person who just snaps and throws his/her weight around mentally and physically is just reacting normally. Everyone has an occasional angry outburst when driving or when things go pear-shaped.

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But if this is almost a daily occurrence, then you need to discover why and maybe avoid that person. Too often, anger will escalate to violent and aggressive behavior. You do not want to be near someone who thinks violence can solve personal or global problems.

2. Can you witness acts of kindness?

How often do you see this person being kind and considerate? Do they give money to beggars, donate to charity, do voluntary work or in some simple way show that they are willing to share the planet with about 7 billion other people?

I was shocked when a guest of mine never showed any kindness to the weak and disadvantaged people in our town. She was ostensibly a religious person, but I began to doubt the sincerity of her beliefs.

“The best index to a person’s character is how he treats people who can’t do him any good, and how he treats people who can’t fight back.”

Abigail Van Buren

3. How does this person take the blame?

Maybe you know that s/he is responsible for a screw-up in the office or even in not turning up on time for a date. Look at their reaction. If they start blaming other colleagues or the traffic, well, this is an indication that they are not willing to take responsibility for their mistakes.

4. Don’t use Facebook as an indicator.

You will be relieved to know that graphology (the study of that forgotten skill of handwriting) is no longer considered a reliable test of a person’s character. Neither is Facebook stalking, fortunately. A study showed that Facebook use of foul language, sexual innuendo and gossip were not reliable indicators of a candidate’s character or future performance in the workplace.

5. Read their emails.

Now a much better idea is to read the person’s emails. Studies show that the use of the following can indicate certain personality traits:

  • Too many exclamation points may reveal a sunny disposition
  • Frequent errors may indicate apathy
  • Use of smileys is the only way a person can smile at you
  • Use of the third person may reveal a certain formality
  • Too many question marks can show anger
  • Overuse of capital letters is regarded as shouting. They are a definite no-no in netiquette, yet a surprising number of  people still use them.

6. Watch out for the show offs.

Listen to people as they talk. How often do they mention their achievements, promotions, awards and successes? If this happens a lot, it is a sure indication that this person has an over-inflated view of his/her achievements. They are unlikely to be modest or show humility. What a pity!  Another person to avoid.

7. Look for evidence of perseverance.

A powerful indicator of grit and tenacity is when a person persists and never gives up when they really want to achieve a life goal. Look for evidence of them keeping going in spite of enormous difficulties.

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Great achievements by scientists and inventors all bear the hallmark of perseverance. We only have to think of Einstein, Edison (who failed thousands of times) and Nelson Mandela to get inspiration. The US Department of Education is in no doubt about how grit, tenacity and perseverance will be key success factors for youth in the 21st century.

8. Their empathy score is high.

Listen to how they talk about the less fortunate members of our society such as the poor, immigrants and the disabled. Do you notice that they talk in a compassionate way about these people? The fact that they even mention them is a strong indicator of empathy.

People with zero empathy will never talk about the disadvantaged. They will rarely ask you a question about a difficult time or relationship. They will usually steer the conversation back to themselves. These people have zero empathy and in extreme cases, they are psychopaths who never show any feelings towards their victims.

9. Learn how to be socially interactive.

We are social animals and this is what makes us so uniquely human. If a person is isolated or a loner, this may be a negative indicator of their character. You want to meet a person who knows about trust, honesty and loyalty. The only way to practice these great qualities is to actually interact socially. The great advantage is that you can share problems and celebrate success and joy together.

“One can acquire everything in solitude, except character.”

Stendhal

 10. Avoid toxic people.

These people are trying to control others and often are failing to come to terms with their own failures. Typical behavior and conversations may concern:

  • Envy or jealousy
  • Criticism of partners, colleagues and friends
  • Complaining about their own lack of success
  • Blaming others for their own bad luck or failure
  • Obsession with themselves and their problems

Listen to these people talk and you will quickly discover that you need to avoid them at all costs because their negativity will drag you down. In addition, as much as you would like to help them, you are not qualified to do so.

Now, having looked at some of the best ways to judge a person, what about yourself? How do others see you? Why not take Dr. Phil’s quiz and find out. Can you bear it?

Featured photo credit: Jacek Dylag via unsplash.com

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