Posted by: faultlessfinish | September 26, 2011

Taking Criticism in Stride

When I was growing up and still figuring out what kind of career I wanted, I was pretty dead set on the idea that I could never be the leader. I wanted a boss telling me exactly what to do. Part of the reason was because I found it difficult to take criticism. I didn’t want to be the one who was to blame for a mistake.

Obviously I’ve changed a lot since then, and now I can’t imagine not being my own boss, but criticism is still a very difficult thing for me. I’m sensitive by nature and often see any type of criticism as a personal attack on who I am as a person. As a freelancer, however, I know that criticism is inevitable and important, and so I’ve learned to consider three questions in regards to criticism that have helped me utilize it as a business tool:

What is the source of the criticism? Who is the person giving me the feedback? About a year ago, a good friend of mine said something that will stick with me for the rest of my life: “Don’t take advice from someone whose life you don’t want.” More specifically in this case, don’t take business advice from someone whose business you don’t want. This advice reminds me to remember to consider the source. Does the person who is giving me feedback understand my business and what I’m aiming to accomplish? Do I want my career to model his or hers in certain aspects? Do I admire and respect this person? If yes, then I need to carefully digest what he or she is saying to me and decide what I want to do with the criticism. If no, I can let the information go and keep focusing on my original goals.

What is the spirit in which the criticism is intended? Does this person truly have my best interests at heart? Is the advice given purely or is it tainted by jealousy, resentment, or bitterness? I often go on the defensive very quickly when given criticism, but I need to constantly remind myself to think about the emotion behind the words. It’s important to remember that  friends, colleagues, and mentors most likely have your best interests at heart and are not trying to insult you or drag your business down.

Finally, What does this criticism look like in the big picture? Does it feel earth shattering right now because I’m having a bad day or feeling insecure about what I’m doing? Will the advice help me in the long run? Keep the criticism in perspective. As a business owner, it’s important to consider all the advice thrown your way and carefully decide what will help you grow a more successful business and what will bring you down. Without feedback, and especially without a boss, it can be difficult to know where your business stands and improve it.

So thanks to everyone who has given me advice, feedback, and criticism over the years. Despite any initial reactions I might have had, I don’t know where I’d be without it.

Namaste 🙂


  1. Absolutely! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had ‘advice’ from people who haven’t a clue what my career’s been like and who seek to impose their own definition of ‘success’ on me, from people teaching business courses to business coaches to ‘colleagues.’ After being in the workforce for more than 30 years, I actually know what I want. And talking to people who don’t understand what I’ve done, don’t know my business and are seeking to vicariously impose their own ambition on me isn’t helpful. There’s really no point, if you choose to start your own business, in letting yourself get caught up in others’ expectations. That totally defeats the purpose of being self employed. On the other hand, if you have specific questions relating to how to grow your business, expand your sources of revenue, get new clients, etc., consultation can be helpful. But this kind of consultation can’t be generic – it has to take into account who you are.

    There’s that great line of Ted Turner’s, ‘Lead, follow, or get out of the way.’ It’s catchy, but it doesn’t make a lot of sense unless it’s qualified by acknowledging that life has phases, and you may well be a leader, a follower, and someone standing on the sidelines at different stages of your career and your life. Priorities shift – and that’s a good thing.

  2. Thank you so much for your thoughts, Ruth. I wholeheartedly agree. The amount of advice I’ve received since I started freelancing, both solicited and unsolicited, has been overwhelming. As a business owner, it’s so important to constantly stay in touch with your own vision and goals. Ultimately, only you know what’s best for yourself. And I love your take on the Ted Turner quotation.

  3. Wow, what a great time for you to have led me to your blog! I needed to read this post. I have a lot of work to do in the taking criticism department and have always felt a little too comfortable in the sidekick role. You’ve hit the way to deal with these issues bang on, I think. Thanks for visiting!

    • I’m so glad you found it useful! Thank you so much for reading. Very glad to have discovered your blog as well 🙂

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