Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Facing Criticism: Why it Hurts So Much

Facing Criticism: Why it Hurts So Much 

Being criticized is a common occurrence for most people. Others are looking at the things you’re doing, and they’re able to notice faults, real or imagined, often a lot quicker than you’re able to.

When you’re doing research, or writing an essay or thesis, you’ll have to deal with a lot more criticism than most people.

Your friends and family will weigh in with their opinions on your work. Your supervisor or professor will respond to your drafts with feedback that might sting. And when you get graded on your work, present it at a conference, or you have to face a panel to defend your thesis, it’s often extremely difficult to find something constructive in the feedback you get.

Developing thick skin is a part of being a successful academic. In this short guide, we’ll give you all of the information you need to deal with criticism effectively and to use it to improve your work. We’ll look at why people criticize others, and how to recognize the way that criticism affects you. We’ll discuss what you can learn from criticism, and speak about strategies to deal with criticism in a constructive way.

If you struggle with your emotional wellbeing and face a lot of stress about criticism, remember that you can also consult the experts at the Academic Coaching website: We offer academic counseling and will coach you through incorporating feedback on your work.

You can also test your mental health level in our academic and thesis readiness quiz, along with your other academic strengths and challenges. You’ll get a free report that scores your thesis readiness. Go to

For now, let’s look at how criticism affects you.

Ouch! That stings…

No matter how hard you try to avoid it, people will have their opinions about you and about the things that you do. No one is immune to some level of criticism. From the clothes you’re wearing to the way you do your hair, the words you use or where you went on vacation last year, other people are watching you and are ready to tell you exactly what they think.

More often than not, people will share negative evaluations with others, keeping the positive to themselves. They won’t necessarily praise you on a good job every time, but they’ll gladly tell you what you could have done better. You might find this with your family, your friends, your partner or your colleagues at work. You might even have a mean person shout something at you in the street. Every so often we’re receiving feedback from others that there is something bad, wrong, silly, strange, uncomfortable or undesirable about us.

Not all criticism really hurts us in the same way though. The stranger in the street shouting nonsense behind your back might make you uncomfortable, but you won’t fret for days about why he chose to focus his negative attention on you. But if your favorite art teacher from high school sees your latest art exhibition and all she can say is, “…meh,” you might be devastated for life and never pick up a paintbrush again. The source of the criticism really determines what the criticism means to us. If we trust someone’s judgment and we attach great importance to their role in our lives, their criticism will mean a lot more to us.

Criticism also hurts a lot more when we feel it is unfair, as this might trigger a stronger emotional reaction and even the desire to retaliate. If you can really understand why that person is focusing on whatever they’re criticizing, you won’t be as outraged for receiving the criticism. For example, if you didn’t work hard enough on writing a report because you were running late and your professor says it’s not up to scratch, you won’t think that she’s simply being mean or trying to hurt you. However, if you worked for weeks on the report and it was better than anyone else’s report in your class, you might think that she is just being a jerk if she criticizes you heavily over a small detail.

But regardless of the source or the type of criticism, there is at least a little bit of pain attached to the moment when someone paints you or the things you do in a negative light. It hurts to be criticized, for everyone, always. Sometimes only slightly, but other times it can be devastating. We all want to be seen positively by everyone else, and when this doesn’t happen, it’s unpleasant.

Of course, some of us get more criticism than others. There actually is one strategy for minimizing the amount of criticism you’ll receive in your life, even though you can never really avoid it completely. That strategy is to do as little as possible of the things that could attract any attention. Hide away from the world, don’t wear anything that might be too provocative or interesting, don’t say or do anything that might attract attention, and you’ll be pretty safe for the most part. You can skate through life (mostly) criticism-free, and avoid the pain that goes along with it. Unfortunately, you’re then very likely to be criticized for being extremely boring.

But those of us out there who take risks will be criticized the most. If you’re doing your thesis or working on a degree, you’re taking a risk that many others aren’t taking, and they’ll very easily find faults. It makes sense: if you do a lot, there’s a lot more to criticize. If you do a lot of big things, and take a lot of big chances, there’s room for big criticism. And if you pour your heart and soul into the things that you do, there’s more chance of your heart and soul being directly and intensely hurt when someone doesn’t like what you’ve done.

We see the things we do as extensions of us. When someone says to you, “That cake you baked tasted average at best,” when you’d spent six hours the day before preparing it and you pride yourself on your baking skills, you might feel like they are slapping you in the face. You might even want to slap them in the face for saying it. Criticism feels like violence because the person criticizing you is talking negatively about the things that matter to you, and therefore he or she is talking about who you are by extension.

The sad thing is that the only way to really make your life great, adventurous, passionate, exciting and successful is to do the types of things that will get you the most criticism. If you want to be any kind of success in life, you need to learn how to deal with criticism, because the higher you go, the more of it there will be.