Coping with Criticism

I respond badly to being criticised. Especially when I feel it is untrue and uncalled for. And most especially when I’ve put in lots of effort and yearn for appreciation instead of judgment. Clearly I’m not very good at coping with criticism.

There’s a story I love: Someone threw a donkey into a well and shovelled dirt into it to bury him alive. The donkey faced certain death, until he got an idea. Every time fresh dirt fell, he simply stepped up onto the pile of dirt. As more dirt fell, he made it higher and higher. Eventually he made it to the surface.

I want to be that donkey!

Practically, how does this story help us in coping with criticism? Well, don’t think of criticism as dirt, to be afraid of and avoided. It’s construction material for building a better self. Accept the criticism, respond to it by improving ourselves, and we will stand on higher ground.

PPS: I’m a fan of Seth Godin who makes excellent points with few words. I’ve decided to emulate him too, hence this relatively short post today.

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25 replies on “Coping with Criticism”

I view criticism as two things. One for me to take stock of the situation and see if there really is something for me to change. Sure I prefer constructive criticism from people I respect, but often it comes from others as well.

I also view it as a lesson that I need to learn about something. At times humility, at times to control my anger…

I do also let myself feel whatever emotion is bought up. If I get angry, I recognize it, feel it and then move on.

Glad I came across your blog.

Hi Susie,

Thanks for visiting, and for your comment. You’re right that criticism is an opportunity to take stock. Perhaps like a bump in the road – instead of getting angry at the bump, we should look around to see if there are other things around we should take note of. Thanks for this contribution!

Hi again Daphne,
I completely agree with you that our feelings of hurt (and disappointment and so forth) come from our own (illusory) sense of neediness. I think that negative emotions are always a feedback signal that we have forgotten our truth, forgotten our connection with love.
It’s never about denying or repressing our negative feelings. That would be as insane as taking the battery out of your smoke alarm. But when we just indulge in them, we’re missing a very important signal that our deeper Self is trying to give us. And yeah, we’re all working on it — as Ram Dass said, that’s the only game in town.
Keep on writing your articles. And thanks.

Thanks Bill, for following up on your earlier comment. Your perspective has really helped me, more than I can say in words. Thank you.

Hey Baker,

I myself haven’t been on here that much! 😉 Thanks for sticking around during this time of sporadic posting. I’m grateful for your support!

Hi Barbara,

Aren’t stories great? They’re entertaining, memorable, and make the point much better than journalistic writing! Thanks for commenting.

HI Daphne,
It has been a while since I’ve been on here. 🙂 But yes, the story of the donkey really does allow us to remember to not get down so easily and just be who we are. Excellent post!


Thanks for sharing that you’ve gone through the same thing. Empathy works wonders when someone else is struggling, and I’m sure you know that which is the reason you share. I admire your wisdom. Yes, such events can make us less or more sure of ourselves, depending on how we respond. It took a few days for me, but last night was the first time I felt stronger and went to bed smiling, feeling good about everything again! Thanks for being a dear, as usual.

Dear Bill,

Your words are exactly what I needed to hear. Last night I had some quiet moments to reflect and I realised what you’re saying here. My hurt came from a place of neediness and had nothing to do with other people. This was the feedback signal I needed most – not someone else’s comments, but the fact that they mattered in the first place. Thank you for reminding me to find my truth. I’m working on it!

I have had to deal with criticism myself not too long ago. My ego was badly bruised. However, I realized the good that came out of it – it made me stop and reflect on the values I had and to contemplate over things. I cannot say that I have transcended above the whole event but I note that in some strange way, I have become more sure of myself.

When we forget out connection with our truth (or our source, or God, or whatever you want to call it), we begin to think of ourselves as somehow incomplete and needy. And we look to the world and others to give us what we need to feel complete and happy. And this leads to seeing everything around us in terms of how it either fills or fails to fill our needs. Essentially, we assign a function to every thing and every person. For instance, if my friend says this to me, then I will feel happy and self-confident. But if she says something else, then I will feel unhappy and insecure, and it will be her fault. Every time I feel upset, it is because someone or something has not fulfilled the function I assigned to them. Being upset — for instance at criticism — can be seen a feedback signal that tells me I have temporarily forgotten my truth, and an opportunity to re-member who I truly am.


Thanks for being here. Yes I’ve been incredibly busy and neglecting my blog, and it’s so nice to re-connect with online friends like you. Thanks for the reminder that constructive criticism is useful – sometimes the line is so thin! But we can make it constructive by using it to better ourselves. Thanks for your words of wisdom.


Wow your comment really humbles me. I have no idea what it is like to live under difficult conditions like yours. Thanks so much for sharing – compared to what you have to put up with, my problems are so tiny and I really should not mind so much. You take care over there in Nigeria, my friend

Hi Daphne, i totally agree with you on your post. But you need to be in this part of the world(Nigeria) to know how hurt and denigrating it could be. So, most often, just like your said, i simply take cover to avoild further negative feedback. Thank you

Hi Hilary,

So good to see you here, with your positive spirit and encouragement. I’ve seen you continue to post regularly and trust all is well with you and your mum.

Yes things are slightly back to normal now. Thanks so much for being here!

Hi Davina,

Thanks for being first to leave a comment! And for still being here after so long. You’re a pal.

Yes even constructive feedback is hard to take, though at least it’s useful when we think about it after our initial defensive reaction. And you’re right that what a person says, says more about the person than it does about us.

Thank you for this wise reminder!

Hi Daphne .. so true .. criticism does no-one any good – it’s a negative for the person making the comment too ..

So pleased to hear all’s well now and that your concentrating on all the positives of life ..

Enjoy the weekend .. Hilary

Hi Daphne.

I think when we seek approval from others we’re bound to be disappointed because we have expectations from those who we can’t control.

I used to take criticism personally, just like you. I think when criticism becomes “dirt” it’s the other person’s dirt in the way that they deliver it to you. You can tell when someone is genuinely giving constructive feedback and when someone is trying to tear you down or rain on your parade.

In the latter cases it saddens me more, knowing that they’re coming from their own place of unhappiness. They have to tear you down to feel better about themselves.

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