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How to Cope with Criticism

Written by Karl Perera BA, MA, DipLC
Updated: May 15th, 2020

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How you handle criticism, which we all face, can seriously affect your self esteem. Handle it badly and it will really get to you. Criticism is a fact of life and it can only hurt you if you allow it to. If you can cope with criticism well then your self esteem will rise. The reason why self esteem is so closely linked to criticism is that if you are insecure or low on confidence at all you may believe all the criticism you hear and feel like you’re a victim – that can really hurt. It is vicious cycle.

Criticism and Feedback

There is a big difference between these two. What do you think the difference is?

Here are the two definitions according to Oxford Dictionaries Online:


“The expression of disapproval of someone or something on the basis of perceived faults or mistakes”


“Information about reactions to a product, a person’s performance of a task, etc. which is used as a basis for improvement”

From the above you can see why criticism can hurt you. It is based on the idea that there is a fault or mistake and your natural reaction to that will be defensive as someone appears to be attacking you. This is not a positive definition. In the worst cases, if you let criticism affect you, you may become self conscious and this will affect you negatively.

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Feedback, on the other hand, is more positive because it is based on information (actual knowledge rather than guesswork or opinion). Feedback also encourages improvement. One way to handle criticism would be to see it as it really is – opinion and not necessarily true. Another way to handle it may be to see it as a kind of feedback and then you may use it as a positive to improve yourself. Regardless of the form, criticism is a result of actions or behaviour that is in the past. As harsh as it can get, there is no reason to believe that you cannot improve and do things better the next time.

Why do People Criticize You?

It is very helpful for you to understand why people may criticize you. Understanding this may give you a different perspective and help you to handle it more positively. Here are a few reasons why people criticize others:

  1. They may truly care about you and want you to do better.
  2. They may be insecure themselves and criticizing others may help them to feel better.
  3. It may be an attempt to cover up their own failings.
  4. They may be jealous of you and so exaggerate what they believe are your failings.
  5. They may be trying to take the focus off themselves because they feel threatened. Make sure you develop the ability to put yourself first so that you will not believe any negative criticism from others.

The majority of the reasons above are negative reasons and say a lot about the person who is doing the criticizing. In situations where the criticism is based on one of the negative reasons, your reaction should be to pity that person rather than react. One thing that will help you to react positively is to be more sure of yourself. Here is a download to build your self confidence which uses the amazing power of self hypnosis for guaranteed results.

One other important reason for this behaviour is habit. If someone has grown up with criticism from parents or from other family members then they may continue to do this throughout their lives believing that this is acceptable behaviour. They may not even know they are doing this.

Don’t Take Criticism Personally – Learn to Cope with it!

What is the best way to respond to criticism? Should you answer back and defend yourself and if so, how?

Here are a number of things you can do:

  • Become conscious of why the person is criticizing you – what does it say about them? Realize that it may not really be about you. This will help you decide how best to respond. Should you ignore or answer back? Sometimes it is best to ignore and rarely will it achieve anything to respond aggressively.
  • Never attack the other person with your own criticism. This will only make that person believe even more strongly that they are right and will also make the person’s claims stronger in the eyes of others.
  • Respond calmly and ask the other person to stop. Accept their point of view, tell them you believe they are wrong but respect what they think. Tell them that you have listened and that that is enough.
  • Question the truth of any criticism – is it justified and if so, do something about it. If not, ignore it. Calmly tell the person you have considered what they have said and that you do not accept it.
  • Work on your self esteem. There are many things you can do to help yourself and If you’d like to know what they are, I have laid out a twelve step plan for you in my e-book – Self Esteem Secrets – get a copy now and discover how to transform your thinking and your life.

You can actually learn something if you open yourself to what others tell you but you do not have to accept constant negativity, especially if it is not true. If there is any truth then thank that person and consider making improvements.

I hope that this article has helped you to cope a bit better with this problem we all face. If, however, you find yourself unable to cope with a person who refuses to stop this negative habit and who never has anything positive to say to you then you are faced with a choice. Maybe you should consider removing that person from your life. You do not deserve to face a continual attack from anyone who treats you in this way. If you feel you are in a situation where you cannot escape criticism then you have a bigger problem to solve but remember there is always a choice, make the decision that will enable you to build your self esteem.

“Do what you feel in your heart to be right – for you’ll be criticized anyway. You’ll be damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

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Website Author and Editor Bio

Photo of Karl Perera, MA, DipLC Karl Perera is a fully qualified Life Coach (DipLC), Teacher (MA) and author of Self Esteem Secrets. He has taught at various universities including Durham, Leicester and Anglia Ruskin, Cambridge. He has run since 1997 and is an expert in Self Esteem and Self Confidence.

1 thought on “How to Cope with Criticism”

  1. Marivic

    Hi Karl,
    Awesome message.
    Generally, respect from others is the biggest problem now a days especially to my children and husband.
    Thank you for sharing your messages to my email. Most of the times it’s very helpful and timing too.
    May you blessed others by your inspirational and motivational messages. Have a great day.

    Kind regards ,

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