There’s so much to this article that I really want to keep the intro short and sweet. And the main point is: Criticism can sting, but you don’t have to let it consume you or define your self-worth.
Below, I list down the traits of those who’ve developed the ability to turn criticism into stepping stones towards their personal, professional, and relationship improvement.
This isn’t about striving for perfection. It’s about the gradual, iterative process of turning the sting of criticism into a productive force that pushes you closer to your goals.
1) Above All, They Appreciate Honesty and Sincerity
This trait, although seemingly straightforward, requires a sense of humility, openness, and the courage to face unpleasant truths.
That said, individuals who have a genuine appreciation for honesty – even when it’s cloaked in criticism – allow them to focus on the content itself, not its delivery.
Simply put, every criticism turns into a lesson.
Think of these types of interactions as an exchange:
You receive valuable feedback, and in return, you offer gratitude. Say “thank you” for their time and constructive criticism.
This may seem counterintuitive, but it makes sense when you understand that a critic isn’t always an adversary; they’re just there to guide you and point out your room for improvement. It’s a win-win outcome.
2) They Have a Strong Sense of Self-Worth
People who can manage criticism effectively have an unshakeable sense of self-worth.
Criticism doesn’t diminish their confidence but, rather, it enables them to look at their actions objectively, causing them to take responsibility for mistakes and make the necessary adjustments.
You can do this by reflecting on your abilities, talents, and values.
What makes you so excited that your heart skips a beat? What are you good at? What do you believe in?
The more you engage in activities that make you feel competent and valuable, you’ll be able to reinforce your sense of self-worth.
3) They Understand That Feedback, Including Criticism, Is Needed for Their Personal and Professional Growth
As mentioned, one of the biggest favors you can do for yourself is to understand that feedback is a catalyst for your growth, whether in a personal, professional, or relationship sense.
Without it, you’ll never be aware of your blind spots as criticism offers an outsider’s perspective.
When I was in my early 20s and starting out as a freelance writer, I received all kinds of advice, some good, some bad.
The good: Always have your audience in mind. No matter how well I think I wrote something, if it doesn’t land well with my reader, then I didn’t do my job well.
I need to understand why I wasn’t able to relate with my reader, as well as how I can strike a chord with them the next time I publish a piece.
The bad: You won’t get anywhere with freelance. This bit of advice was quite hard to digest.
However, with time, I realized that even these seemingly negative comments had value.
They served as fuel for me to show that success in freelance is indeed achievable.
The experience led me to strive to prove the critics wrong, causing me to hone my craft and develop a grit that I wouldn’t have gained otherwise.
4) They Can Discern Constructive Criticism From Destructive Criticism
Not all criticisms are created equal. That’s why it’s always important to discern the intent behind the criticism; evaluate whether it was meant to help or harm you.
Constructive criticism, although it may be hard to hear, is feedback that’s specific, actionable, and aimed at helping you improve.
On the other hand, destructive criticism is often vague, negative, and said to hurt rather than help.
You’ll need to learn how to filter out the noise.
And as much as you probably don’t want to hear this – the only way you’ll hone this skill is by receiving a lot of criticism.
5) They Value Input From Different Perspectives That They Might Not Have Considered
They realize that their perspective is inherently limited as it is shaped by their personal experiences, biases, and knowledge – which is why they welcome criticism as an opportunity to access insights they might not have considered.
Take note, however, that this trait doesn’t imply blind acceptance of all perspectives.
It entails critical thinking. It prevents you from falling into the trap of narrow thinking and instead exposes you to a world of possibilities.
6) They Don’t Automatically Defend Themselves
Automatic defense can prevent you from truly hearing the feedback as it clouds your judgement right off the bat.
It’s your ego’s way of resisting discomfort and thus becomes a barrier to growth and understanding.
If you find yourself always jumping to your own defense, you may want to consider taking a step back and come back to the situation with a clear mind.
For instance, back when I was trying to get my foot in the door of the film industry, I created a short film and showed it to a veteran filmmaker (who was my idol, by the way).
His criticism was harsh, unexpected, and most of all, disheartening. My instinctive response was to defend my work, to justify each choice I made.
Instead, I realized that self-defense wouldn’t improve my filmmaking skills, which is why I invited him to an open dialogue so that he could expound on his pointers.
This conversation, to say the least, was enlightening. It was filled with insights that I wouldn’t have learned if I over explained every move I made.
7) They Understand the Difference Between Who They Are (As a Person) And What They Do (Behavior)
They know that a critique of their actions or performance doesn’t equate to a critique of their worth as a person.
This separation allows them to receive feedback without feeling personally attacked.
If anything, it makes them more receptive to change and improvement. It’s like being an actor performing in a play.
You play a role, the audience critiques your performance, but that doesn’t change who you are when you step off the stage.
8) They Strive for Excellence, Not Perfection
These types of people are driven by a desire for excellence, not perfection.
Perfection is an illusion.
It refers to this never-ending pursuit that leads to constant dissatisfaction, stress, and self-doubt.
It’s a mirage in the desert of self-improvement that keeps shifting further away no matter how tirelessly we chase it.
When you let go of the illusion of perfection – when you have excellence as your North Star – criticism takes on a new light.
It becomes less about highlighting your flaws and more about putting your best foot forward.
Your goal is not to be perfect, but to be better than who you were yesterday, last week, or last year.
9) They Accept That Nobody’s Perfect and Everyone Is Bound to Make Mistakes
Here’s a universal truth: Nobody’s perfect. Everyone is bound to mess up. It’s part of the human experience.
As soon as you accept this reality, you’ll be able to approach criticism with an open mind.
Instead of dwelling on your shortcomings, you’ll be able to focus on learning from the feedback and how to move forward.
Self-compassion is another trait that I wish we were all taught in school. You are human, and like everyone else, you’ll make mistakes.
So please forgive yourself when you’re not able to reach a certain metric, when you’ve overlooked something, or you didn’t live up to everyone else’ expectations. Charge it to experience.
10) They Seek Clarification
People who can handle criticism well usually ask clarifying questions.
Let’s face it: A lot of the time – if not, all the time – relationships are affected by misunderstandings or misinterpretations.
So instead of jumping to conclusions or assumptions, it’s best to understand the feedback by getting to the heart of the matter.
Circling back to my story about being a writer, criticism is part of my territory.
That’s why whenever I receive feedback, especially if it’s a sea of red ink, I ask my editor to elaborate on the feedback so that I can improve the quality of the piece.
11) They Respond to Criticism With Action
They don’t just listen to feedback and move on. They follow through using a three-part process: understand, reflect, and act.
This action phase shows their commitment to self-improvement. Criticism, in itself, is just words. It’s your response to it that gives it power.
Keep in mind that this isn’t a checklist to perfection – again, that’s a myth.
If you want to foster a healthier, more productive relationship with criticism, you’ll need to make small, incremental improvements to your mindset, including the constant rolodex of thoughts that goes through your head.
Adopt a perspective that turns criticism into a force that propels you forward, rather than holds you back.