As any real INFP, I completely suck at accepting and handling criticism. Of course, no one enjoys being criticized, but the INFPs truly hate it. Alas, we can even find criticism where none was intended, which is, no doubt, a superpower. We take everything so personally because we put our whole hearts in whatever we do, and hence, words of disapproval hurt so much.
Learning to handle criticism is a crucial stage of personal growth for an INFP, and so is for me. If the world was dominated by INFPs – kind, caring individuals who see potential in everyone and respect other’s feelings – we wouldn’t have to bother about it at all. But being a small group of people-pleasers and praise-junkies among other not-so-sensitive humans, we need to build resilience to criticism, or life will be always painfully hard and depressive.
As a perfectionist (uh, still working on it…), I have always been extremely sensitive to criticism. Already in early childhood, I trained myself to please my parents and teachers, so I could avoid the feeling of shame and extreme anxiety that arises whenever you’re the target of criticism. Avoiding shame worked like a charm throughout all my school years, but no one told me that I eventually would have to learn how to handle criticism in my adult life. I still struggle with it.
I love to understand, and apparently, I never grew out of the phase in which kids ask so many “why” questions. So here comes another:
Why Does Criticism Hurt?
Firstly, we have to tell the feedback from criticism. Feedback is a basis for improvement. Whether it’s positive or negative, in its essence it should benefit the receiver to help him work on his weaknesses and develop further his strengths. That’s why I don’t have any problem with accepting kind and well-intentioned feedback.
Criticism, on the other hand, devalues the receiver, while boosting the ego of the giver. Most of the time, criticism IS PERSONAL. And it is supposed to hurt because it’s a form of rejection. It is one of our primary needs to be valued and feel worthy of love and belonging. We are hardwired for connection with other humans, and thus we all seek their approval. Criticism triggers shame, which is a powerful and painful emotion.
By criticizing others, people put themselves in the position of authority and assume the power and control. I appreciate other people’s sharing their perspective, but criticism is about imposing someone else’s values and perception of reality over mine. It’s all about proving their intellectual superiority instead of making other grow. I find it quite arrogant.
Also, those who criticize don’t give a shit about how they package the feedback. They pass their subjective judgment as if it was some universal truth. And they pay so much attention to completely unimportant details instead of focusing on the whole image. If it’s well done overall, why bother about some minor flaws that constitute 1% of the whole?
Now, I think that this post shouldn’t actually be about how to handle criticism, but rather, how to give feedback the right way. It’s an art that only the most skillful and emotionally intelligent managers have mastered. The other are, frankly, not interested in giving feedback at all, because their ego doesn’t benefit from it.
So I have developed, for my personal use, an algorithm which helps me to handle criticism and avoid getting frustrated. I hope you find it useful, too.
How do you handle criticism?