This week, several friends and clients have mentioned to me that they’ve been severely criticized for their views and standpoints. Anyone who has stood up for something they believe in — and been attacked for it — knows it’s challenging at best, devastating at worst.
What should you do if you’ve been harshly demeaned or criticized for your thoughts and views?
Here are five tips that have helped me tremendously as an author, speaker, and women’s advocate, to weather the storm of criticism, and come out on the other side feeling whole and confident:
1) Remember, what people say is more about them than you
I learned in my therapy training that what comes out of someone’s mouth is more about them than you. Much more. Their views and words represent (and project) their years of cultural training, experience, upbringing, traumas, lessons, and biases (as well as their insights and wisdom based on their unique filter and history). So remember that each individual has a custom-tailored view of life that may or may not fit your own. It doesn’t have to.
2) People who attack you are coming from a deeply fearful place
When someone attacks you verbally, they are coming from a deeply insecure and frightened place. They’ve been rocked by what you’ve said and done, and feel they need to put you down. Take a look at what you’ve said (and how you’ve said it) that may have instigated a defensive stance from someone else. But remember that you don’t have to own how they respond to you.
3) When someone wants to make you wrong for your beliefs, they often feel threatened by your out-of-the box thinking
I’ve noticed that when I present thinking that is different from the status-quo, it can lead to a harsh challenge. Presenting views that ask others to question how things have been done for years, or shed light on trends or behaviors that need to be critically examined and revised, can ruffle people’s feathers. They feel threatened that you want to expose something they’d prefer to remain hidden. So be it. But don’t let that stop you.
4) Narcissists in our world abound
Narcissism is rampant in our society (those of you who live and work with one know what I mean!). A narcissistic individual can’t tolerate being challenged, and needs to make you wrong if you disagree with them. They’ll go to tremendous lengths to “prove” they are right (and superior). If you have a narcissist in your life or work, you feel you can’t express yourself without being punished. Pay attention to those who harshly criticize you for your different views – if they have narcissistic tendencies, realize that you can’t win with them. Don’t engage, as it will prove only a lose/lose endeavor. Just protect (and extract) yourself best you can from their harmful way of thinking and behaving.
5) Finally, use it as a growth opportunity
Stand up for what you believe in. When others don’t agree with you, don’t doubt yourself and make yourself wrong. Get connected to what you truly believe in, strengthen your boundaries, learn to deal effectively with rebukes, and remain steady in who you are and what you believe.
But at the same time, use this criticism for your own learning and growth. If your words have been hurtful and diminishing to others, perhaps it’s time to look at what may be longing to be healed or addressed inside of you. Reconnect to compassion, understanding, and inclusion in your thoughts and words (and in your relationship with yourself and others). Our world needs much less judgment, criticism, and pain, and much more love, strength, compassion, inclusiveness, and respect.
If you’ve been criticized harshly, take some time to fully explore your part in it and what you can learn from it. In the process, show compassion for yourself and others, grow from the lesson, accept that you (and everyone else) is doing the best they can…then move forward.