Thursday, April 29, 2010

Immunity To Criticism

Criticism is something we have been coming across since childhood, but most of the time even after growing up, our response remains something similar.
When a child is raised with condemnation, judgment and criticism, at subconscious level, he or she makes the association that if he were to speak and express himself, he would be opening himself to being verbally attacked, judged and condemned. He learns that the way to stay safe & comfortable and to avoid parent’s rejection and criticism is to remain quiet and say nothing. This strategy works as a child but not as an adult, staying quiet and saying nothing, shall prevent one from a deep and satisfying relationship with his spouse and children; and preventing oneself from furthering his career and feeling fulfilled at work. In fact, one shall never be his true self.

There is no single human being who has not experienced criticism, but what is the right way of handling it constructively and thus gaining the power and significance of developing immunity to criticism.

Now, let’s talk about how to develop immunity to criticism.
Being criticized can be a horrible or even traumatic experience. And constant criticism is a sure fast way of killing the intimacy and love within a relationship, often shattering the recipient’s self-esteem and self-confidence. Criticism and blame lead to contempt, and contempt destroys the relationship.

Criticism is a serious problem for all relationships – family, romantic and work-based. The fear of criticism causes many people to either freeze-up or do nothing, or to structure their behavior and personality to please and appease the other person. When a person is afraid of being criticized, he or she will take no action, take no risks and will not perform at his or her best.
Accordingly, they do nothing except try to maintain the status quo and eventually, the status quo leaves them in the dust.

Some so-called self-help gurus and motivational speakers will tell you to ignore all criticism but this is the extreme response; we must be open to feedback and we must be able to engage in some level of self-criticism or self-evaluation. At the same time though, I do believe in learning and developing the ability to become immune to criticism.

What does that mean? Not becoming susceptible or vulnerable to criticism; not taking it personally. Even as a child when one goes through criticism, please realize the circumstances and situations, the parent goes through, maybe he himself had a critical childhood, or his present is upsetting etc etc. so don’t take that criticism as personal to you, it was situational at that time. And at present the situations are different.

The expression “don’t take it to heart” applies here. The key is to act almost as a scientist who simply observes but does not place any emotional attachment to the feedback.

Truly successful and fulfilled people with high self-esteem are not harshly or destructively critical of themselves. They observe and self-evaluate and are open to feedback.

And so it is with most of us, the reason we often feel quickly queasy, off balance, defensive or afraid when someone says something critical, something we don’t like, is because we either doubt ourselves or they have raised an unresolved issue for us. However, when confronted with a person who thrives on attacks and criticize, then it is best to remember your key strengths at that time. It is his opinion and he has full right to have a different opinion, but what matters more is what you think about yourself, how much faith and confidence you have in your own self.

Finally, if we are to achieve anything great in our lives, then we must expect criticism and be okay with receiving it. Winston Churchill said “Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.” And we must expect criticism if we are to attempt anything new because we have to first try and not everyone will like what we do. Albert Einstein said: “Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.”

And no matter what you do, not everyone will like you. It is impossible to please everyone for everyone has their own opinion and sees the world through their own filters. We have to be first happy and peaceful with ourself , as such you will be wasting your energy trying to make others happy!!

In the words of Winston Churchill, “You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.”

This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that whenever you are climbing the ladder of success, criticism is part and parcel of this ladder, you should feel happy about it as you feel this pull, accept it, learn from it and move ahead. If you are running in a race, your eyes are focused on the finishing line, not on the people who are watching you, or may be criticizing you or judgmental towards the way you are running, if you stop in the middle and start listening and responding to them, you have served to their purpose, as they don’t want you to succeed.
The negative words and criticism is outside you unless you choose it to penetrate through your thoughts. You can either be a reflector and let it go, or an absorber and keep living with it for the rest of your life. You always have a choice, and choose what is beneficial to you and not the one which is harmful. Let’s develop this Immunity, and it shall make you stronger emotionally.


  1. Following you from MBC. Follow me back at Thanks!

  2. wonderful expression of thoughts, i really enjoyed going through the article, many times we take the criticism personally and hurt ourself. Thanks it just came at the right time.

  3. thanks mom of many, shall do the needful

  4. thanks for appreciating rajender

  5. Ameet Mondkar

    " Hi Sonia: I am enjoying every post on ur blog. Cheers, Ameet"

    Wednesday, May 19th 2010 @ LinkedIn

  6. Ameet Mondkar

    " Hi Sonia: I believe that immunity to criticism can only be acquired if one practices 'constructive critique' techniques. Unfortunately in my experience in India, have noticed that your peers do take criticism a lot more personal than it was meant to be! Just an observation. Cheers,

  7. Ameet i think criticism is for a particular task & not for the person in general, but yes most of the time one tends to take it personally. But the one who criticizes shd always b clear abt the intention, is it healthy feed back, or pulling someone down.

  8. Hi Sonia: I agree with you on the fact that all criticism needs to be about the 'task' in question and not about the person. The person 'initiating this discussion' - criticism, needs to get diplomatically constructive with his/her words without dilutions in what needs expressed; lest the words accentuate negativity. "

    Ameet Mondkar
    Associate Vice President - BizDev [ Global Markets ]
    Wednesday, May 19th 2010 @ LinkedIn