How To Stop Worrying About Your Critics

This is article #32 to be published on the Get The Guy blog from my brother Stephen. Steve helped co-write the Get The Guy book and is a wealth of knowledge on dating and relationships.

(Photo: Lotus Carroll)

Enter Stephen

It’s hard to be attractive when you’re worrying what other people think. Your focus is constantly divided, and instead of being magnetic in the moment, you censor yourself and become bland so that you can just ‘fit in’.

Getting blown off course is so easy. One nasty comment you overhear at a party, or one snarky person who resents seeing you change, and you immediately want to revert to blending into the background.

The problem with stepping into the light is that you become a visible target for others to aim at.

Every time you try something new, you open yourself up to mockery, resentment, and sneering opinions from others (especially from those closest to you). Someone might giggle when you try something new. A friend will tell you your new style is weird. Someone you have no respect for might mock you even as you feel yourself becoming more confident and successful (success and being insulted tend to go hand-in-hand). You’ll put work out there and people will tell you it sucks. Sometimes it’s just a family member who, rather than complimenting you, tells you everything you’re doing wrong, as though they are dedicated to fixating on the 10% of times you fall off course, rather than the 90% of times you get it right.

Aristotle said: “To avoid criticism say nothing, do nothing, be nothing”.

If, like me, you’re not willing to follow that prescription, then the only way forward is to learn to deal with people knocking you off course. This is no easy road.

But believe me: men notice when you are able to shrug off criticism. There’s nothing better than seeing a woman who is so certain and comfortable in her own skin that she doesn’t stifle herself because of what people are going to say.

So how does this kind of woman handle things when she does get criticised? Here is the quick cheat sheet for remaining composed when you face people who try to puncture your ego:

1. Stop being in denial about your faults

Your faults shouldn’t come as a surprise to you.

Be honest with yourself about your own shortcomings and people will never be able to trip you up by mentioning them. Ironically, one of the easiest ways to being impervious to criticism is just to realise how fallible and utterly imperfect we really are. This will make it easier to take it in your stride when people criticise you.

You feel free to shrug it off, or even just agree and laugh along with them (a powerful way to have impact is to just own your weaknesses and make them a part of who you are).

See, I disagree with the modern idea that everyone who criticises you is branded a ‘hater’ who is filled with bitterness and should be shunned at all costs. Some people are haters, but others might be dead right about their criticisms of us. And we can learn from this feedback (even if they have a clumsy, rude way of delivering it). So rather than avoid that useful opportunity to learn, take the critique and be grateful for whatever lesson it might offer.

I’m certainly not saying you should actively choose to live around this kind of critical person (they can be the most stifling friends in the world to have), but nor should you live in mortal fear that someone will point out your faults.

2. Know that your job is not to avoid criticism

When you stop thinking criticism is such a terrible thing, it loses its power to affect you.

Whenever you influence, improve, or even just try a different approach, at least 10% of people will think you’re an idiot who’s doing the wrong thing. I call this the YouTube Law (wherein at least 10% of commenters will instantly hate anything you post).

Your only focus is to create and improve – criticism is always a by-product of both.

3. Don’t derive self-esteem from your ability to be perfect

We all try too hard to protect our precious self-image. We try to cover every flaw, to pretend we have fully developed perfect opinions, to pretend we have never been wrong about anything.

Too many people wrap their entire self-esteem in never getting anything wrong.

From now on, I propose deriving self-esteem from your ability to be a trier, to be someone who experiments and fails and can change your approach and learn and do it better next time.

If you spend all your energy trying to be perfect, you’ll have no energy left to spend on the things that really matter – like being passionate and taking risks and being creative.

Lose the need for perfection, and you won’t become defensive when people remind you how imperfect you are.

4. See the VERY BIG picture

People who are driven and attractive don’t have time for things like ‘being offended’, or lie in bed and worry about what a particular friend may think of their life choices. Their eyes are constantly set on the much bigger picture.

They have a better purpose, and being committed to something bigger than their self-esteem makes them invincible.

Some of the best TED Talks are inspiring just because the speaker is so dedicated to their message, or a political cause, or a scientific discovery, or wants to inspire others to achieve their potential. They are so insanely passionate about what they believe in that they don’t have time to sit and introspectively brood over how they are coming across – they ARE JUST COMMITTED TO THE BIG PICTURE.

As an example, check out this video of Jamie Oliver proposing a healthy eating revolution.

Like him or hate him, this is someone who is so devoted to a cause that you can hear the sincerity in his voice. In that moment he feels committed to nothing but delivering a message (which has been viewed by over 5 million people!). Plenty of people also hate Jamie Oliver. I’ve heard people call him preachy, arrogant, annoying, pious, naïve and judgmental.

Regardless of personal opinion, this is someone who has had enormous impact because of his sheer ability to stick to his cause in the face of criticism. Whatever you or I think of someone on this kind of moral crusade, it’s undoubtable that they are only able to impact and inspire others to follow them because they have a force field that repels excessive opposition.

We don’t all need to have a mission to change the world, but we all need a commitment to some value or purpose that matters more than our desire to avoid criticism.

What is that thing for you? Let me know in the comments below!

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20 Replies to “How To Stop Worrying About Your Critics”

  • Stephen

    This is the first article I’ve felt inspired to comment on. That’s not to say it’s the first one that’s move me! Far from it. I’ve loved every single article you’ve shared with us but this one really resonated with me and I just thought it best to share that with you. Positive feedback is just as, if not sometimes more important than negative. You’re the business and a brilliant addition to your brothers contribution to the world. Thank you. Big love. Julie xox

  • Stephen Hussey . you WOWED ME . I even can’t find words to describe how you….. O.o
    you blow my head .
    BRAVO . @.@

  • I love this, I thrive on constructive criticism, I need to know the thing that can make me better… BUT that is to try and make me perfect…
    Thank you for letting me know its OK to not be perfect (i will always strive for better though)

  • I’ve always admired Jamie Oliver for what he does to change people’s eating habits, but when I watched his speech from TED a few months ago I was in awe. You can really hear that he cares about this SO MUCH and his 100% right of course. I don’t know how anyone can hate him. He’s really committed to his cause, he’s done several programmes in which he tried to change lunch food in schools from junk food to healthy in both UK and US. I think it’s amazing that he does all this! It’s great that you mentioned him in your post ;)

    Personally, I don’t know if I’m already committed to a cause or a value, but I know that I had problems with facing criticism in the past. For example, I once reviewed a music festival and posted the review online. I got two very enthusiastic comments and one critical of the expression I used in the text and of course I focused all my attention on the negative one and I felt like crap.

    I’m also a huge perfectionist and because of that I rarely start doing new things, because I always fear the outcome won’t be good enough for me to accept it. It’s tough being a perfectionist, but I’ve decided to fight with it and change my thinking patterns. What you wrote: “If you spend all your energy trying to be perfect, you’ll have no energy left to spend on the things that really matter – like being passionate and taking risks and being creative.” is 100% true. I hardly have any energy left after I try and try and try to do something perfectly. In fact, it’s not even possible, because perfection doesn’t really exist. You should mention that in your article too :).

    Sorry for such a long comment, but your post really got me thinking! Thank you for choosing such an interesting topic!


    1. I struggle with perfectionism too. Daria, you might find something helpful that I found very helpful in regards to dealing with perfectionism: the work done by Brene Brown. She has a two very popular TED talks, I highly recommend you check them out!

  • I have a cause I believe passionately in, which I was forced into defending at a large family dinner at the weekend. After not having seen my brother for two years, now he lives in New Zealand, it was not the criticism that came my way particularly bothered me. I can take it and have no problem debating the issues surrounding it. I would just have preferred a nice, less controversial conversation. People stating they were ‘playing devils advocate’. I dislike that phrase when all they are doing is focusing on the negative. And becoming personal, commenting on hair or style. If you are passionate and see the bigger picture it’s like water off a ducks back. Mary Beard couldn’t care less whether she’s criticised for her appearance, she’s not a supermodel and nor does she want to be. Jamie Oliver shrugs off the criticism he’s attracted over the years. Thank you for posting the video clip, he is obviously talking from a place in his heart of caring and deep sincerity. And he eschews all the criticism to put his head above the parapet and take action. He is inspiring.
    After a childhood of following a discipline where only perfection is sought, and everything about you is up for criticism I am so glad I have somehow managed to shake it off. You can’t achieve anything in life internalising that way to be. When you find strength and refrain from worrying, you feel that anything in life is possible.
    Thank you for another great article Stephen, you impart such wisdom in a simple but really powerful way.
    Kathryn x

  • So true. People who are passionate don’t have time to worry about criticism or what others think, just keep creating and improving – be the pioneer!

    Graphic design and music are part of my greater purpose in life!

  • Stephen

    Thank you! I love that you wrote this article! I am recently widowed (9 mos.); I haven’t started dating yet but have been hearing some negative comments from family members of my late hubby. They did not get along with my hubby…yet he was a very loving man. It is difficult enough to realize that the man in my life is gone…but I do not plan on staying alone the rest of my life, we all need to be loved.

    So thank you again for this article it helps put my mind back where it belongs…focused on me (not others). <3

  • I think I am my biggest critic. I could do that all day. One great thing about meditation is learning to quiet that voice. One of the biggest revelations in my life was that the critical voice in my head that I thought was my mom, my best friend, others around me, was ME. And continued long after those people were far from my life.

    I changed the voice and say only good things now. Good point about causes. I have several. I still mention them, but you know what? I kind of spend my time on receptive people nowadays. Preach to the choir a while before heading to the masses. Isn’t that what Matt did with you and your family? Your family is super-supportive!

  • So, I needed this. I’ve been more and more confident the last year and very vocal, around people who are used to me being pretty much a mute. I’ll hear snippets around me of annoyance at me raising my hand again in class… I’m a lot more confident. The youtube videos have helped a lot as I got some major backlash.

    Some people care and want to help you be a better person and say things to you; others just want to put a label on you and damn you right where you stand, like you said, often they’re jealous. Learning when to take it as a grain of salt and when to let it digest IS key. Not all negative people are ignorant, but most don’t come from a very rational place and don’t see you- clearly.

    Thanks for the blog! Helpful. What I needed. You boys rock my socks off!!

  • Great article Stephen!

    For anyone reading this who struggles with perfectionism, check out Brene Brown’s work – she has two TED talks with MILLIONS of views, they’re that good!

  • I’ve always loved the notion that perhaps honesty is not synonymous with truth.

    What irks me is a person who continually, negatively critiques everyone but then he/she feels threatened and becomes defensive when he/she is on the receiving end of criticism – if you can’t take it, don’t dish it out.

  • Thanks for the article Stephen. You are a very talented writer! And thank you for the link to the TED Talks video. I needed to hear both the message from the video and your advice about dealing with criticism. Thanks! :)

  • This is a great article, thanks Stephen. I absolutely agree with your opinion about the trend of people branding any criticism as a hater – it is something that has irritated me on other pages when a potentially interesting conversation/point of view has opened up only to be deleted and deemed hating solely because the person isn’t agreeing. Obviously I am not talking about abusive comments here.
    Criticism definitely stings and I can be way too oversensitive but some of my biggest aha moments have come from some criticism somebody has said which felt like a slap in the face at the time. I am working on this but I do think if I could just get this whole taking criticism thing down, get over myself and just take it, it would be the hugest breakthrough and a great teacher.

  • Interesting thought: “success and being insulted tend to go hand-in-hand.” After watching through the IMPACT series and beginning to implement what I’ve learned, I’ve felt more confident…but I’ve also received more criticism. Perhaps some of that stems from mis-implementation, but part of developing that is a trial and error, risk-taking process as well. Or as you stated:
    Too many people wrap their entire self-esteem in never getting anything wrong.
    From now on, I propose deriving self-esteem from your ability to be a trier, to be someone who experiments and fails and can change your approach and learn and do it better next time.

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