Yes! Criticism Stings! Make it A Positive


There’s no denying it – criticism often stings!

On a sunny summer day a few years back, my daughter was merrily mowing the lawn – her way to earn a few extra bucks. Everything was proceeding per usual until suddenly the sound of the mower stopped and hysterical shrieking ensued.

The shrieking was so intense that I honestly assumed the worst – that my daughter had somehow gotten her leg mangled in the lawn mower – if that is even possible. Needless to say, this mom’s heart skipped a few beats!

Of course, I dashed outside to see what the noise was all about, while simultaneously wondering if I was up to stomaching the answer!

It turns out that while mowing my daughter had disturbed a yellow jacket nest in the ground and the yellow jackets were none too happy about it! To show their displeasure, they lavished her with a couple dozen stings! Oh yes, yellow jackets are not one hit wonders – they are able to sting again and again!

That was the end of the mowing for that day! Much Benadryl and lounging on the coach followed.

More Stings!

A few days later, my husband decided to finish the task of mowing the lawn, only to encounter the dreaded nest himself. A dozen or more stings later and a trip to our local home improvement store to purchase a powerful yellow jacket killer and those creatures were no more!

Thankfully, I’ve never experienced a yellow jacket or bee sting, never mind multiple stings, but from what I have witnessed…they are extremely painful! So painful that you are out of commission for a while!

Leaders & Critics

As a leader, you are out front – targets you might say. There are people who admire you, follow you, and are eager to learn from you.

And there are those that don’t always see things your way – watch out for the critics.

Like it or not, criticism is inevitable. And unlike the yellow jackets in my yard, you can’t avoid or destroy the potential critics. That’s why prepping for the criticism, the sting, is important!

How do you prep for the sting?

1. Know Your Identity

No matter what anyone else thinks or feels about you, you are deeply loved by God. You are unconditionally loved and Jesus demonstrated that love by enduring a torturous death on the cross to pay the price and free you from sin.

It’s not something you or I deserved, but something He longed to do to break the barrier so that He could enjoy a relationship with you as His son or daughter! If you have taken the step to acknowledge your sin and accept what Jesus did on your behalf than you are a son or daughter of the KING! That’s big! That’s your identity!

And as a son or daughter of the king, He continues to reveal His love for you if you chose to see it.

2. Increase Your Self-Awareness

Part of what throws you off when criticism comes your way are your own doubts about yourself. That’s why it is vital to be honest with your-self about your strengths and weaknesses as a leader. Let’s face it – no one is great at everything. No one!

Self-awareness doesn’t end there. Here are some other ways to get to know yourself better:

3. Stop People Pleasing

It’s not your job to make everyone happy. Your job is to lead and to do it in a way that is pleasing to God, not those around you. Stand firm on do what God has directed you to do.

Expect criticism. Don’t be surprised when it shows up.

4. Let Critics Teach You

Your critics have the potential to teach you some valuable lessons! In fact, they may teach you more than those you consider friends! This might not be their intent, but if you reframe what they bring to your attention and are willing to make necessary changes criticism is invaluable!

Decide in advance to turn your criticism wounds into wisdom.

5. Be Open

Sometimes the criticism that stings the most is the criticism that is true. Ouch!

Be willing to consider that the criticism offered is true, or that it contains an element of truth. Then be open to learning, growing, and changing for the better!

6. Laugh At Yourself

When your confidence is low, there’s the tendency to take yourself too seriously. From that vulnerable place, criticism stings even more!

Get in the habit of laughing at your-self – not in a self-deprecating way, but in a “don’t-take-yourself-so-darn-seriously” way! Lighten up! If you are already in this mindset, when the sting comes, it will have a much different impact on you.

What to keep in mind post the sting:

1. Take Responsibility

Criticism is powerful! It reveals something about you, and something about the one offering the criticism. So, take responsibility for your part, and pay attention to what you learn about your critic. Both are invaluable information!

Be slow to respond. How you respond is that part you have control over. Your feelings might be hurt initially, but you choose how you will respond. Pay attention to your physical reactions – a dismissive look, an eye roll, etc. which might communicate something negative in the moment., Remain calm.

2. Be Determined to Grow

Don’t let criticism keep you from becoming the person you need to be in order to accomplish all that God has in mind for you. Let it to be your catalyst for growth.

In essence, criticism is feedback and the more you allow it, constructive feedback.

Listen to understand, really listen. Ask questions for clarity. You might have the full picture.

No one is perfect. We all have room to grow. Be humble and accept criticism with that in mind.

3. Express Appreciation

It’s not always easy to share criticism. And it’s not easy to thank someone either, but it does acknowledge that you take seriously what has been shared – even if you don’t agree.

4. Keep Your Focus on Serving

A true leader is a servant leader: someone with a heart to help others. Keep your focus on those “others” and so that you are not tempted to focus on YOU! Leadership is about making others look good, not making your-self shine.

5. Don’t Give Up!

Keep on going! Push through the pain of the sting. Evaluate the criticism. Consider the source. Make necessary adjustments. And whatever you do – don’t give up!

You’ll know you are making progress in how you deal with criticism when you are able to react less and take more time to respond. Another fabulous sign: that you allow criticism to make you better.

Sadly, there’s no way to lessen the sting of cranky yellow jackets like ones my daughter encountered. However, as a leader, your perspective on criticism goes a long way towards lessening the sting!

With influence comes responsibility…and criticism!

How do you handle criticism?

Marvae Eikanas

Marvae Eikanas is an author, entrepreneur, ICF certified coach, Career Direct Consultant, DISC consultant, and HBDI practitioner. She helps her coaching clients sharpen their skills, face their fears, eliminate funky mindsets, hone their habits, and cultivate clarity so they can THRIVE personally and professionally. Schedule a consultation with Marvae here.

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