Constructive Criticism: How to Receive It and Still Maintain Your Self Esteem

Personal Development

Did you know that your ability to handle criticism could impact on your work performance? People who take criticism personally report the least job satisfaction and are likelier to quit their projects or their job altogether.

At the same time, a person’s ability to positively receive criticism is closely linked with their level of self-esteem. The tiniest shrapnel of disapproval will further deflate a low self-esteem.

Admittedly, listening to someone point out a mistake or a shortcoming is never easy for anyone. In fact, even if you know the criticism is valid, your first reaction would likely be defensiveness.

But, there are inherent benefits latent within that critical appraisal you receive from your boss, that reproach from a colleague or a complaint about your services from a customer.

Here are some steps to deal with criticism while keeping yourself esteem intact:

Is it worth fighting for?

To avoid losing sleep over each incident of disapproval, it is wise to assess the nature of criticism you receive and from whom.

Some people may criticize you for no valid reason in an effort to anger you or undermine your efforts.

The simplest way to deal with such criticism is to not pay attention to it; after all, if it is not beneficial to you, there is no need to invest so much effort in it. Undoubtedly, you would have to work hard to build your self-esteem to be able to understand negative or unwarranted criticism for what it is.

Don’t identify your self-worth with the subject of criticism

A major obstacle to dealing with criticism is the personalization of disapproval. Most people do it—when someone points out to a shortcoming or something that needs improvement, the first instinct is to take it personal, or make it about your self-efficacy.

Constructive criticism, for example from a boss, a mentor, a close advisor or a customer is often not meant to be an attack on the person. Rather, it is them telling you that you need to improve on certain things.

Therefore, just because a customer criticizes your product does not mean that your entire business model has failed or that you are incapable of operating a business. Instead of taking customer criticism as an attack on your aptitude, take it as an opportunity to start a discourse about how you can help them and see whether the product can be improved.

Looking for the grains of truth

Unless you determine that someone is criticizing you out of ill intention, a large percentage of the criticism you receive will have some sort of truth, if you were to be honest with yourself.

If you are in a workplace situation, listening objectively to your boss or colleagues’ criticism can help you unveil something about yourself or your work that needs improvement.

So, instead of becoming defensive, keenly go through important points that need to be improved, come to an agreement or set up an action plan and get down to implementing the required changes.

This process works in all sorts of situations from dealing with customers to alleviating relationship conflicts.

Looking for the truth in what the other person is saying will go a long way in helping you not to make the same mistakes again. It also creates peaceful interactions in the workplace, business and personal life.

Accepting your limitations

Perfectionists and high-achievers have a hard time accepting the slightest criticism. It’s not that they are narcissistic; it’s just that they have extremely high benchmarks for achievement.

andrew spence marketingThese personality types invariably expect approval due to the seemingly great deal of input they expend into their work. As such, they can blow up even in the face of constructive criticism.

Knowing and accepting your limitations is extremely valuable in fending off the sting that comes with any type of disapproval. If you are not too great at marketing, accept that and either allow someone else to do it or go on with it but anticipate potential criticism.

Constructive Critisism

The best way to minimize criticism is not to avoid challenges altogether. A better way is to do what you are good at so well that you leave no space for criticism. Even then, when you are asked to improve, taking the time to listen objectively and to find the traces of truth can help to diffuse conflict in business, at the workplace or in your personal relationships.


  1. Tara Woodruff says:

    Excellent post Andrew!!

  2. Lavakumar Kota says:

    just practice. it helps greatly in personality development. TQ Mr. Andrew Spence.

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