What I Learnt From My Critics

Critics are friends

“The trouble with most of us is that we’d rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism.” – Norman Vincent Peale

All people like to be praised as it boosts their self-esteem, keeps them motivated and happy but it also pushes them into the abyss of sham, which is propelled by hypocrisy and sycophancy.

We like to think that we are the best; we are the most successful; we are more intelligent and smart.

Anyone who criticizes us earns our instant dislike and we try to keep that person at arms length. If we happen to be at a higher position we try to take a punitive action against our critics.

Criticism is a subtle message that we need to embellish our personality and manner of working. Sometimes such messages are loud and hurting but they do ring a bell within us. They may seem to belittle us but they need to be heard.

I have learnt many lessons from my critics. When I was told ‘I am arrogant,’ I made every effort to analyze my personality. When I was told I was reticent, I tried to come out of my shell.

I learnt to smile from my critics. I learnt patience, compassion and humility from my critics.

When I was a teacher, I was given an extra charge of writing press notes of all school events. It was not an easy task and each time I handed over the report to my boss, it was criticized and thrown back at me.

Today when I look back, my heart is filled with gratitude towards her because she helped me enhance my writing skills, ignited the fire within me to put in my best and fostered the ability to become emotionally resilient.

Why is criticism essential?

  • It is an eye-opener
  • It steers us out of self-deceptionCritics
  • It points out our mistakes
  • It acquaints us with our imperfections
  • It develops our emotional quotient
  • It helps us in introspection
  • It makes us a better person

Keep the windows of your mind open:

Welcome all kinds of feedback, more so if it is negative. All people can say good things about your work, way of dressing up and demeanor. Only the truthful ones, the unsuccessful and the jealous ones would point out your mistakes. Listen to them and reflect upon what they have said. Growth and learning happens only when we are receptive to criticism.

Listen patiently:

When we listen carefully what others have to say about us, we get an opportunity to know others’ perspective. We tend to tune off even when our friends try to convey a negative aspect of our persona but each negative insight can contribute to our positive development only if we pay attention to it.

Look within:

Can you lie to yourself? Self-awakening hits us only when we find the time to drop into our heart. Our weaknesses reveal themselves one by one when we make an effort to understand the cause of criticism. Such experiences ennoble us. They prepare us for forgiveness. I forgive myself before I decide to forgive those who have hurt me with their insensitive words.

Embrace positivity:

The aunt who told me not to laugh loudly, the teacher who punished me for being rude, the friend who mimicked me for being a cry baby, the student who glared at me for giving unsolicited moral advice and the neighbor who criticized me for being unsocial, they all taught me profound lessons of life!

It is easier to praise but hard to criticize. Let’s bless our critics, as we owe gratitude to them for showing the mirror to our true face.

Critical thinking is a gift that nature has given us. Let’s use it judiciously and constructively.

I am sure you too have faced some critics. What did you learn from them?

Thank you for reading this. Please share your valuable reflections.

If you have liked this article, please share it at your favorite social networks.

Balroop Singh.


42 thoughts on “What I Learnt From My Critics

  1. I do a little proof reading and editing for writers, and have come to see how sensitive some are to any honest critique of their creative endeavours. I can perfectly well understand it, though, as our creative offerings are perhaps as close as anything to bearing our soul, so to speak. One writer, in particular, has come to accept my input, not everything I say, far from it, but accepting and appreciating that others’ perspectives can help her in honing her art. It takes great maturity to be so accepting, and I do my best to reciprocate in kind when my own suggestions are dismissed. H ❤

    1. Hi Hariod,

      Thank you for sharing your experience about offering honest critique, I am sure your suggestions must be immensely valuable. Creativity makes us extremely sensitive and it is quite hard to accept changes to our style as you have rightly pointed out.

      Speaking from personal experience, one of my articles, which was published in Reader’s Digest was edited so ruthlessly that it had lost all emotion by the time it was published!

      I am quite sensitive about my poetry and would probably think twice to accept any changes 🙂 albeit I am open to learning 🙂
      I appreciate your pearls of wisdom dear friend and many thanks for those.

  2. I think this is all true, Balroop. Especially when the criticism is intended to be informative and helpful and not mean-spirited. I think that learning how to give appropriate criticism is almost more important than learning how to accept it. 🙂

    1. The definition of ‘appropriate criticism’ is as varied as faces and acceptance suffers from the same dilemma. To my mind all criticism serves some purpose just like an angry person who yells at us, too imparts a valuable lesson – never be like him! 🙂
      Thanks Diana, love your feedback.

  3. Neat and precise summation of all aspects of critics and criticism that carries your hallmark, Balroop. Indeed, constructive criticism is one of life’s great blessings, blessing, very much like mercy, the giver and the receiver. I clearly remember mostly all of my well-meaning critics who, at crucial stages of my journey, lent immense clarity for my further progression. While it is also true that all givers of criticism are not necessarily graceful, it is always in the interest of the receiver to gratefully accept criticism as one’s reflection in the mirror, and touch up flaws and wrinkles to create better presentations.

    1. Thank you dear Raj for presenting such a balanced view based on your own experiences. I agree with you, grace depends on the person who criticises and not what s/he says. Similarly assimilation of critiques reflects our own magnanimity. It is wiser to sift whatever suits us and forget the rest. 🙂

  4. Great perspective on criticism. One of the reason why criticism is disliked is because of ego. While we need to accept our imperfection, even the person conveying these imperfections needs some sensitivity. I like your style of writing.

    1. Thank you arv! for liking my perspective. Don’t expect sensitivity from people, it is quite rare and expensive…my apologies for a negative thought, we refuse to accept it yet it is true! 🙂

      1. What you write is sad reality! Fortunately you can still find this quality among people who are not exposed to money and urbanization. for example in remote villages in hills. how long? That’s another question!

  5. Criticism is something we are all well served to take note of, but there’s an art to giving and receiving it. When working with my clients, I always send a follow-up asking if they have any suggestions for how I can do anything better the next time around.

  6. A very interesting topic, Balroop. I agree that critics can help us. Critical thinking is a skill we can develop too. Whether it is critical thinking toward our own behaviors and work or toward others. It’s important to give constructive criticism and not personal attacks. Great topic!

    1. Hi Lisa,

      Critical thinking is inherent in all human beings, even children possess this skill though they need to be guided to use appropriate language. I agree with you Lisa criticism becomes unbearable when it aims at making personal attacks yet we need to have an open mind and dismiss such attacks as they only reveal the mentality of the person concerned. It also makes us understand him/her.
      Thank you for sharing your perspective, much appreciated. 🙂

  7. Well said Balroop! If we identify no underlying ill-will or envy in our critic’s tone, we should always welcome criticism as a vital tool for our personal growth.

    Constructive criticism from a well-wisher is like a feedback meant to improve our work and not put us down… especially not in front of others. One can easily tell. Parents, well-meaning teachers and all those who actually love us will never hurt us deliberately. But there are people who, as Lisa said, indulge in “personal attacks” and sometimes that’s a difficult situation to handle. But then, this too is natural and a very common behavior of people who happen to compete and want to demoralize us. One should not take it as an assault, and also it’s important not to react in the face of any kind of criticism.

    Generally speaking, it’s easier to criticize others and not easy to digest criticism offered by others. Thanks for sharing this article!

    1. Hi Alka,

      Often we are guided by our own notions and definitions of receiving criticism. Same could be true for those who happen to be around us. Our prejudice plays an important role in taking offence. Now consider this – if I don’t feel like greeting a colleague or smile at him/her, they may criticise me for being disrespectful, rude and cold but i could be having some reasons for not coming up to their expectations. What kind of criticism that would be? Would I respond to it? I know it escalates the tension and worsens the relationships…that’s why we call them complex 🙂

      I don’t think people are concerned about our reactions when they attack us. Usually personal attacks are made out of frustration and jealousy…it is good to ignore them. True, it is easier to shoot arrows of words! Nobody like to think where they pierce.

      Thank you for sharing your profound views, much appreciated.

  8. Hmmm as much as I can say that I appreciate criticism, I’m not sure I really do 🙂 Balroop! Yes, like Lisa says constructive criticism is warranted but negative personal attacks isn’t. I think context matters a lot. If it’s by someone you trust and respect, it makes it easier to accept an be open to criticism but someone you don’t know or isn’t trying to be helpful but simply put you down doesn’t help.

    When criticism is warranted, all the points you make ring true – openness, patience and appreciation can only make the criticism easier to digest : ) Thank you for challenging our preconceived notions with this post.

  9. Hi Vishnu,

    I love that honest confession 🙂 I agree with you…many times our idealistic thinking doesn’t match with our practical behavior and that’s why we are called ‘human’…trying all the time to be ‘humane!’

    While we are ready to accept one kind of criticism and want to rule out another, it is quite possible that perspectives don’t match! Anything that puts us down too can help though after introspection, when we have chewed and overcome the negative aspect of words that have hurt. I have never felt pleased with the criticism I received yet I always learnt something 🙂

  10. I really like to focus on other’s positives and leave the criticism to others. Now, if someone hands me a rough draft, I am very able to discern repetitive words, slash out and replace proper English and help a special tricky part become clear and precise. I was blessed twice fold, a mother who taught English, Spanish and world literature. The other chance was a fantastic school full of valuable resources and teachers who encouraged me to write and expand my thoughts. I look at my yearbook and read their very special words, realizing most of what I wished for, I have almost completed.
    When my Mom complained about my Dad’s needing a “book editor,” (since she refused to correct his manuscript) my Dad “hired” me at age 15 to correct the proofs. He did not make a lot of money but my Dad was part of a group of famous writers, some called them “crazy.” The Ancient Astronaut Society in Chicago, Illinois. By writing in one magazine and his one book, “Hot Lab” and working as a rocket scientist, he was able to know some interesting people and authors.
    Balroop, I admire your writing, this is very interesting and helpful. I liked the color pink to jazz this up and emphasize the points you made. Taking constructive criticism well is a very wise and important skill to acquire; as well as developing a “thick skin!” 🙂

    1. Hi Robin,

      Thank you for sharing such an interesting personal story, I am so happy to read that you were doubly blessed…no wonder you have such a wonderful control over your ideas and words. 🙂

      It is good to focus on the positive aspects of writing and personality, positivity and peace of mind are the oldest pals 🙂 Thick skin has to be nurtured!
      Thank you dear friend for such beautiful words of appreciation. Stay blessed!

  11. Hi Balroop, You have succintly pointed out the positives of a critical feedback. Critical feedback helps us to improve, provided we do not let it dishearten us and do an objective analysis of the given feedback. However, a critical feedback is not always given with with the intention of helping a person to improve but sometimes out of spite as well. Whatever be the intent, we shouldn’t let it put us down , though this is easier said than done.

    1. Hi Somali,

      The initial reaction of all human beings is quite similar as we get agitated by such remarks but refection and introspection makes us realise how important it is for us to know our flaws, which are only highlighted by the critics. Most of the criticism is out of jealousy and dislike…so be it till it awakens us to our own improvement. 🙂

  12. I have learned a bit too, but the most important point is to not go into depression!

    Many people just give up and think they are really that bad…don’t let the negative thoughts weight you down!

    1. Yes Alok, that’s why the emphasis is on taking all the criticism in a positive manner. We can pick and choose what seems relevant and discard the rest.

  13. Balroop, your post reminded me of the first time I was made aware of criticism. In the 9th grade, our art class took part in a group “critique.” When my piece of pottery was critiqued, I was devastated. Mrs. Gemignani took me aside and explained that there were two types of criticism: constructive and destructive. Because of her explanation, I have been able (for the most part) to discern the difference, and to accept genuine constructive criticism, and to apply it to whatever endeavor has been addressed, especially where it applied to my writing.
    You have explored this subject beautifully, as you usually do. 🙂

    1. Thank you dear friend for sharing your personal experience of understanding criticism. When we are so young and impressionable, it is very hard to accept honest criticism…I can’t remember any such incident and conclude that I could be facing critics too early in my childhood to register any devastating memories albeit I have some in a different context.
      Since the line between constructive and destructive criticism was always blurred, I learnt to accept both and so got doubly blessed! 🙂
      Many thanks for words of appreciation. Stay blessed!

  14. Context is important in dishing up criticism but there is a time and place for it. So are the target audience esp with autistic children as they will take your words literally and hang on to them.

  15. This is such an important post.. For we are all of us brought up wanting praise.. And when criticism is directed our way we often take on a false hurt..
    I well remember teachers who would put red lines through my work, and I would silently cry. Yet in hindsight this inspired me to write needed and consentrate upon my work more..
    I love all of your bullet points of looking within and keeping positive Balroop
    Again a wonderful post.
    Love and Blessings
    Sue xxx

    1. Hi Sue,

      Probably I grew up with so much criticism that hurts never seemed to matter to me. As a child I didn’t know what is hurt but that must have cast a very positive impression on my personality…I grew stronger, my voice got louder, the protests firmer and intuition developed much more than expectations. I also got a discerning eye…criticism has made me what I am today.

      Thank you for sharing your personal story and being such an understanding friend. 🙂 Stay blessed! Love and hugs. 🙂

  16. I LOVE the way you look at critics Balroop – It’s inspiring. Yes we have a lot to learn from people who judge and criticize us. In fact most of the time it’s a way for them to express how they feel about themselves (without knowing it)
    We can make changes in our life from what we hear from others. It’s a good way to grow and get to know ourselves better, deeper.

    Thank you for helping us dealing with critics in such a nice way – welcoming them and being grateful for what they teach us.

    Stay well, full of love and kindness Balroop.

  17. Hi Marie,

    As I have shared with Sue, in my above comment, criticism has done a lot of good to me in several ways. So I would always say, Oh lord! bless my critics…whatever they said was meaningful albeit they didn’t know how to say it but I am grateful that they still said it.

    I am so thankful dear friend that you consider me worthy of helping you with my words. I feel blessed. Thank you for your feedback, much valued. Have a nice week. 🙂

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