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  • Writer's pictureMichael A Cassar

Why Criticism and Rejection Bother Us So Much!


Any time that you’ve felt the sting of criticism or rejection, you’ve probably had someone tell you something like:

● “It’s not the end of the world.”

● “Words can’t hurt you if you don’t let them.”

● “There’s no reason to take it personally.”

It’s hard to argue with these sentiments, but when you’ve been on the receiving end of strong rejection or criticism, these common sayings do little to make you feel better. It doesn’t even seem possible not to take criticism personally. It might not be a matter of life and death, but it can feel pretty close.

When you put your intention and effort into something, it becomes quite personal. This is especially true in creative endeavors, such as writing, art, or acting. But, even trying to lose weight is a personal matter. It’s your own body, effort, plan, and success or failure.

Judgement of your effort or results feels like a direct judgement of you. If you’re passionate about what you’re doing, this is normal. It might seem silly, but it’s completely normal.

There’s also an evolutionary perspective to consider. Back in the day, say several thousands of years ago, rejection could mean death. If you were rejected by your tribe and had to take on the world alone, you were in serious trouble.

Fortunately, most of us aren’t facing rejection that would cost us food, water, and shelter. Most of us are concerned with rejection and criticism as they relate to higher-order goals. Most of us only face rejection and criticism that create emotional distress, not risk of life and limb.

However, criticism and rejection do have their advantages, even if they are emotionally uncomfortable.

See how criticism can be a blessing in disguise:

Criticism teaches humility. There’s nothing like rejection or criticism to bring your ego back down to reality. When we’re consistently successful or receiving praise, it can be easy to be a little too pleased with ourselves. Criticism can bring a healthy dose of humility when it’s needed. Criticism exposes you to new ideas. Critics can offer suggestions you’ve never considered. Every person on the planet knows a fact that you don’t. Not all of these facts are necessarily useful, but many of them are.

● Consider the new ideas critics are presenting to you. They might just be the breakthrough that you need.

Criticism can be used to improve. Criticism can be incredibly helpful if you want to improve something. Criticism from the right person can definitely take your results to the next level. Consider a basketball coach telling a player that he’s standing on the wrong spot on the court as a form of criticism.

● Any helpful friend or mentor will provide useful criticism.

● When you decide that you’ve not doing well enough at anything, from learning a scale on the piano to making scrambled eggs, you’re criticizing yourself. It’s can be the impetus to improve.

You can practice forgiveness, controlling your anger, or staying calm. Criticism can be hard to take. You might become angry with the other person as a result. When you learn to deal with criticism, you also learn how to forgive and how to manage your emotions. Learning to deal with criticism can help in other areas of your life. When you can handle criticism well, it can help your career,relationships, and personal development.

It can benefit you greatly to welcome criticism, instead of avoiding it. This is especially true when you’re dealing with constructive criticism. But even the most ill-intentioned criticism can be helpful. Criticism can take your performance to the next level. It can also help you to learn how to deal with negative emotions. Without feedback, your rate of improvement will suffer.

Criticism isn’t always easy to handle, but there are many ways to make it even more painful. Of course, you should avoid doing this to yourself whenever possible. Isn’t life challenging enough already?

Avoid these actions which will just make you feel worse:

Comparing yourself to others. If you’re trying to increrase your income, there will always be someone who has more. If you own 5 restaurants, there’s someone else who owns 15.

● Instead, use the success of others as way to show yourself that more is possible. Use others as inspiration.

● Or, compare your present to your past. Decide to create a future that compares favorably with your present.

● If you have to be better than everyone else in the world, you’re going to be disappointed. Studies have shown that there’s some luck involved in being the very best at anything. The right parents, right place, right time, etc., can all play a huge role in extremely high levels of success.

Reliving the experience. Being criticized is uncomfortable. So is the experience of rejection. What’s even worse is reliving the experience in your mind over and over. But, that’s exactly what many of us do.

● We aren’t criticized once, which might be bearable, but reliving the experience criticizes us hundreds of times. And it’s all our fault.

Predict rejection and criticism. Do you expect to be criticized in the future because you were criticized in the past? Do you assume you’ll fail again because of your past experience?

● You can’t predict the future. However, you can enhance your skills and knowledge to influence your future results.

● Watch how you speak to yourself. The words you use matter. There’s a big difference between, “I’m not a person that can ever be successful,” and, “Last time doesn’t matter. I’m going to reach my goals this time.”

Taking rejection and criticism personally. If you want to maximize your success, it’s important to put your heart and soul into your efforts. That can make your results feel very personal. But criticism or rejection of your work doesn’t have to be personal.

● We’ve all heard the stories of famous authors being turned down hundreds of times before someone was willing to publish their work. Imagine if they had taken their rejection personally and given up.

Expecting the world to be fair. The world is full of examples of life not being fair. Expecting your situation to be fair is unreasonable. Sometimes the world doesn’t just hand over everything you think you deserve. Use your disappointment to fuel your future efforts. Vow to do better next time.

Rejection and criticism aren’t easy pills to swallow, but sometimes the cure to what ails you isn’t enjoyable. Be open to receiving criticism and avoid making it harder than it has to be. It’s natural to find criticism painful, but it’s a part of life that must be mastered.

“Criticism, like rain, should be gentle enough to nourish a man's growth

without destroying his roots.”

- Frank A. Clark

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