Have you ever received a paper back from a teacher with more red ink than black? How did you feel? How were you compelled to respond? Receiving criticism, constructive or destructive, invited or uninvited, has never been an easy one for me. Maybe it’s because I long to have the approval of others or because I happen to be my own worst critic and another critical voice is just one too many for the chorus. Despite my emotional misgivings about criticism, I also know that constructive criticism is something that propels me forward and is meant to encourage me, mold me, and grow me in the ways that I need to grow.

So how do we receive criticism graciously in ways that are helpful for our relationship with ourselves and our relationships with others?

Translate Accurately
Constructive criticism often gets filtered through our own insecurities. Instead of a helpful message, we hear something that reaffirms the pain that we carry around most of the time. All of those feelings of inadequacy, loneliness, and worthlessness are just waiting to be validated with another’s opinion. Instead, when we focus on the truth about ourselves and our value, we are more able to hear others accurately and grow from their wise input.

Lower the Stakes
The truth about each of us as women is that our value is separate from our performance. Therefore, constructive criticism is not a comment on who we are as people, but rather input about how we can grow in our craft and further ourselves in our field. When our value as a person is no longer on the line, we feel more freedom to try things, fail, and try again. It doesn’t have to mean anything about our worth.

Look for the Opportunity for Growth
Regardless of whether or not you agree with the advice being given, there is always opportunity for each us to grow. Rather than getting defensive, we need to look for the chances to stretch ourselves. This may mean giving the advice a try, or it may mean learning to recognize the truth about our value and worth in the midst of a painful situation. Whatever the outcome, it is always more productive to reflect on criticism as an opportunity to grow rather than feeling a need to defend.

So the next time you see more red than black or encounter correction, be sure to translate accurately, lower the stakes and look for the opportunity for growth. You may be surprised by the potential you never knew you had and the new heights you reach.


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