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

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 January 15, 2021

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

Posture

First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

  • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
  • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
  • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
  • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

Facial Expressions

Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

  • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
  • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
  • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

2. Relax Your Face

New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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3. Improve Your Eye Contact

Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

3. Smile More

There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

4. Hand Gestures

Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

5. Enhance Your Handshake

In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

“Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

Final Takeaways

Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

Reference

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