Combating the Critics – 7 Things to Remember

Last week I took my kids to a gymnastics meet at Southern Utah University. The “Flippin’ Birds” were ranked 13th in the nation last week. For a small university in a rural Utah town that is a big deal! Our gymnasts are fantastic though and so much fun to watch! However my experience was tempered by the fans behind me.

From the time I sat down till the time they left they spewed a constant stream of criticism and negativity.  First it was naturally directed at our opponents: “I hate BYU so bad.  They way they treat people is outrageous. Look at all those honor code violations.  Fake makeup for DAYS….”  Then they turned to our cheer team: “They need new cheers.  Those are SO old and tired.  Who’s their cheer coach, if I was the cheer coach….”  Even the cute little gymnasts for the children’s academy weren’t safe: “This is a dance routine, not a gymnastics routine…”

I notice it at almost every sporting event I go to or watch, but it can happen in subtle ways in all areas of our life.  It might be players and coaches in the arena, a singer on stage, a politician, the annoying guy at work, the mom in the store with child who’s throwing a huge fit, or the dad with the kid who’s a total poor sport and sore looser. Human nature makes it easy to have something to say about a situation when your sitting on the sidelines. And often what is said is biting and critical.

These type of jeers from the sidelines can hit particularly close to home for those working with young children.  For parents it might be remarks from friends or family members.  For child care providers it might be criticism or questions from parents or other providers. I think it’s because the work we are doing is so impactful that we all worry – are we doing enough?  Are we doing it right??

While we can’t control what other people say and do we can control how we respond to criticism and the role we allow it to play in our lives.  I’m a huge fan of Brene Brown’s work. In her book Daring Greatly she talks about the concept of an arena – the place where are all go to fight our battles. For a great explanation of the arena see this blog post HERE. Or just read the book – because it’s one of my favorites and was life changing for me.  In the book  Brene quotes Theodore Roosevelt who said:

If your like me it’s easy to understand that I should just let some things roll off my back, but it’s harder to put that into practice.  I have found these 7 tips really help when it comes to combating the critics.

1 – Remember someone else’s criticism says more about them that it does about you.  People that are hurting or feeling attacked are more likely to lash out against others.  Although someone’s feedback may feel personal, it might help to remember that people that are truly happy, those that truly feel comfortable in their own skin are not those willing to be unkind to others. While that might not make the criticism less painful it might allow you to shift your perspective to a place of understanding that whatever they are saying has much more to do with their own insecurities than with your perceived weaknesses or faults.

2 – Remember that criticism is nothing more than a numbing technique.  For every horrible thing someone has to say about someone else you can almost guarantee it’s a way to deflect or armor up against their own stuff.

3 – Remember everyone has their own arena.  This can help whether your on the receiving end of criticism or if you find yourself ready to dish out unsolicited “advice” or “constructive feedback”. You never know another person’s whole story.  You aren’t in their arena. Be gentle whenever possible and always be kind.

4 – Remember who’s opinions really count.  Some people come to your arena just to throw popcorn and old tomatoes from the cheap seats.  Unless your in the arena with me – your opinion doesn’t really matter.  This is a great video that explains this point a little further.

5 – Remember that what we appreciate, appreciates.  There’s a law of attraction that says that what you focus on expands. If you focus on the critics and what everyone else has to say about your parenting or caregiving or any other area of your life, you will see and hear more of that.  When you tune into the noise of the world like that it becomes much more difficult to tune into the voice of your own heart and inner knowing.

6 – Remember the negative type of criticism I’m talking about isn’t actually helpful.  I love the book Positive Discipline by Dr. Jane Nelson.  In the book she suggests that you can’t really get children to behave better by treating them poorly.  Sure you might be able to get short term results, but long term outcomes are very poor when children are treated with cruelty, constant criticism and shame.  I believe the same is true for adults.  I know in my own life criticism does one of two things – it ticks me off and makes me much less likely to even want to make suggested changes or it shuts me down.

7 – Try combating criticism with compliments and gratitude. Look for ways to lift others and yourself up. Look for the good and you will always be able to find it.

How you do you deal with the critics? What’s been most effective for you?  What’s your biggest challenge in dealing with critics?  I’d love to hear your perspective!  Let me know your thoughts!

SUU Gymnastics pic from

Arena Quote Graphic from

When Someone Says Quote Graphic from

Be Kind Quote Graphic from

Gordon B Hinckley Quote Graphic from


2017-05-31 21:48:48 Reply

Growing up poor in a small rural town made me focus on other types of skill, and I never got the chance to nurture my interests in making the art that I love and gets me by. Now all I can feel is that its too late, and that the only thing that makes me feel satisfied is something I truly have no talent in. I am talented in many other areas and I ve held many jobs, but the thought is always nagging at the back of my mind.

    2017-06-04 02:44:25 Reply

    I think we all feel that way sometimes. I got my degree in Psychology. And I actually do find psychology and human behavior and development fascinating. I’ve become even more passionate about it over the past ten years as I’ve done child care and been raising my own children. However I often feel the ache and hole in my heart that wanted to follow a different path. I often wish I had dared to major in music or theatre. And I’m nearly 40 so it’s too late right? Only if you give up. In January I started a master’s program. Because I get free tuition I took a voice class and loved it! I’m taking class guitar in the Fall. Find something you can DO with your art, even if it’s a small thing. I’d recommend reading Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. Super inspiring!


2017-09-05 07:20:40 Reply

Ultimately, all this advice and criticism is to help you say what you want to say in the best way possible.

2017-11-11 07:58:09 Reply

Despite how hard it can be, there are important things to remember when you end a friendship.

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