Immunity to criticism

Immunity to criticism

In this week’s Success Newsletter, I would like to discuss the power and significance of developing immunity to criticism.

First a quick update:

“FOX News – top 10 celebrity meltdowns of 2009”
 Watch the interview I gave to Fox News about  the results of what I call the Fame Factor – acts of ego & stupidity and denial, delusions of grandeur & power and entitlement

Now, let’s talk about how to develop immunity to criticism.

Being criticized can be a horrible or even traumatic experience. And constant criticism is a sure fast way of killing the intimacy and love within a relationship, often shattering the recipient’s self-esteem and self-confidence. Criticism and blame lead to contempt, and contempt destroys the relationship.

Criticism is a serious problem for all relationships – familial, romantic and work-based. The fear of criticism causes many people to either freeze-up and do nothing, or to structure their behavior and personality to please and appease the other person. When a person is afraid of being criticized, he or she will take no action, take no risks and will not perform at his or her best. When coaching and training corporations and executives, I teach that a company and business cannot grow unless the employees feel safe to express themselves and to take risks. Of course, most people in the corporate world operate with one thought in mind; “How can I not lose my job?”

Accordingly, they do nothing except try to maintain the status quo and eventually, the status quo leaves them in the dust.

The same principle applies to personal relationships: your partner needs to feel safe and secure to express themselves and be themselves in order for the relationship to grow and flourish. And every time that you criticize your partner, you are shrinking them until they in turn resent you or remain in the relationship out of fear and obligation and not out of love and joy.

But criticism is something that we all face and it is critical to understand that there are two forms of criticism:

  1. The act of passing judgment as to the merits of anything
  2. The act of passing severe judgment; censure; faultfinding

The difference between the first and second type of criticisms lays purely in the intention. In other words, criticism can be a form of feedback, designed to help or it can be designed to control and destroy. In a recent interview I gave to the TV show Extra, I said that every woman has had her self-confidence and self-esteem shattered at one time in her life by a man; by his criticism. This also relates to the power struggle – whereby an insecure man will try to control his partner by constantly criticizing her in the hope that she will become too scared and too insecure to ever leave him. (Watch the interview I gave to KHOU television in Houston about “The Power Struggle” .)

Some so-called self-help gurus and motivational speakers will tell you to ignore all criticism but this is the extreme response; we must be open to feedback and we must be able to engage in some level of self-criticism or self-evaluation. At the same time though, I do believe in learning and developing the ability to become immune to criticism.

What does that mean?

Not becoming susceptible or vulnerable to criticism; not taking it personally.

The expression “don’t take it to heart” applies here. The key is to act almost as a scientist who simply observes but does not place any emotional attachment to the feedback.

Truly successful and fulfilled people with high self-esteem are not harshly or destructively critical of themselves. They observe and self-evaluate and are open to feedback. Again, please note, I am not referring here to people who are in abusive relationships where they are being constantly criticized by their partner.

I mentioned earlier that we must expect criticism and often our fear to act stems from having been heavily criticized as a child. For example, Joe, a top executive at a large company, came to me because of his inability to express himself openly and confidently at home but even more so at work.

I asked him what he was truly afraid of and he responded with “being criticized.” Joe’s father was a stern, harsh man who spoke little but when he did speak he was critical, judgmental and often condemnatory of Joe as a child. Joe walked around on egg shells and he learned that the way to stay safe & comfortable and to avoid his father’s rejection and criticism was to remain quiet and say nothing.

Joe’s strategy worked as a child, but now that Joe was an adult, staying quiet and saying nothing, was preventing him from a deep and satisfying relationship with his wife and children; and preventing him from furthering his career and feeling fulfilled at work. In fact, Joe simply was not being his true self.

At a subconscious level, Joe had made the association that if he were to speak and express himself, he would be opening himself to being verbally attacked, judged and condemned. The path to healing and emotional freedom for Joe came when I was able to help him, at a subconscious level, understand why his father acted that way, that it really had nothing to do with Joe (it wasn’t his fault) and that it was no longer happening i.e. he could now freely express himself. As is often the case, Joe’s father was raised the same way – his father before him raised him with condemnation, judgment and criticism.

And so it is with most of us, the reason we often feel quickly queasy, off balance, defensive or afraid when someone says something critical, something we don’t like, is because we either doubt ourselves or they have raised an unresolved issue for us. However, when confronted with a person who thrives on attacks and criticism, then it is best to get away from that person. Read my Success Newsletter: “Dealing with emotional vampires”; click here.

Finally, if we are to achieve anything great in our lives, then we must expect criticism and be okay with receiving it. Winston Churchill said “Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.” And we must expect criticism if we are to attempt anything new because we have to first try and not everyone will like what we do. Sylvester Stallone spent years trying to sell his script for “Rocky” and people mocked him when he said he wanted to play Rocky. He even turned down $330,000 for the script if he didn’t act in it – and he was almost broke at the time. Albert Einstein said: “Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.”

And no matter what you do, not everyone will like you. It is impossible to please everyone for everyone has their own opinion and sees the world through their own filters. Famous actress, Goldie Hawn, put it this way: “I’ve finally stopped running away from myself, who else is there better to be?” In other words, who do you prefer to please, yourself or waste your energy trying to please others?

In the words of Winston Churchill, “You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.”

If you want added support to gain more confidence, supreme self-confidence, then use my hypnosis CDs/MP3s

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I wish you the best and remind you “Believe in yourself -You deserve the best!”

Patrick Wanis Ph.D.
Celebrity Life Coach, Human Behavior & Relationship Expert & Clinical Hypnotherapist

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4 replies
  1. Avatar
    angie says:

    Well its a really helpful article…the article is the xerox of what truely i have been through or going through…I co-relate myself completely to Joe because i am enacting like him only…and what i observed with myself by adopting that behaviour is that i have even ignored or taken people’s silly remarks which i though if i reverted back in a defensive manner would call for more criticism. So i adopted the policy of Silence is gold…but this policy hasn’t done me too good.. i feel incomplete and unexpressed and not able to concentrate upon the things because theres always verbal boxing going in my mind with people ..lolz….As i am too concerned about others opinion about me which has been conditioned in my upbringing, for the fact of grading of performance and whos better and best among all siblings i feel its time to not be too emotionally attached what other says as i must have also said something to someone which i really didnt mean but would have perturbed ’em..Anyways i also do think that criticism is like pain..sometimes it helps u too divert your attention to unhealthy things and act as a warning sign lyk pain….but it is sometimes small things in life only which bothers us or spoils the relationships………anyways i think we must prioritize our goals and see those are achieved without any ill-effects of criticism……..

  2. Avatar
    Alli says:

    Another golden teaching! It’s nice to read real-life examples mixed with quotes. I especially liked the quote from Winston Churchill, “You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood for something, sometime in your life.”

    I see these articles rotating around developing a strong inner core…how appealing! lol. This article brings an important hardly-acknowledged point of not being so defensive with criticism if it can bring some value in our lives. I know personally I can feel my feathers getting ruffled when I’m being criticized for something. It’s true, though, that if we build ourselves up on different levels, we don’t melt like Frosty the Snowman at the first hint of someone finding fault with the way we do something. We realize that we are a work-in-progress and that we are NOT DEFINED as how other people see us, but that we can use other people’s guidance to become the best that we can be.

    Of course, it all depends on WHO’s criticizing us and on the DELIVERY of it. I think the true problem is we don’t know how to give out criticism so that it sounds like encouragement to do better. We sometimes are quick to cast our frustrations on other people and so our bad emotions ruin what could’ve been an instructive comment to the other person.

    One thing I have come across recently is that when I say something critical (or assertive) in a somewhat ROBOTIC tone (devoid of annoyance, angry, tense emotion ) it really changes the whole delivery and RECEPTION of it for the better. Unfortunately, I’ve only been able to re-enact that a couple times, lol, but it’s do-able for anyone. Maybe if we keep our bad emotions out of the way, it won’t trigger someone else’s bad emotions right back, so that other person can actually hear what we’re saying because their emotions haven’t been engaged.

    There’s an expression that I read in the Facts on File Proverbs book and it goes something like, “Small things bother light minds.” It makes sense given what Patrick mentioned here about people with high self-esteem never being harshly critical of themselves so they can hear criticism objectively without it perturbing their world.

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