I first heard Tara Mohr speak in 2013 at Emerging Women Live and I’ve been looking forward to the release of her new book Playing Big: Find Your Voice, Your Mission, Your Message (Gotham) in October, so I was excited to see that she had a piece in the New York Times recently: “Learning to Love Criticism.” It’s outstanding!
If a woman wants to do substantive work of any kind, she’s going to be criticized—with comments not just about her work but also about herself. She must develop a way of experiencing criticism that allows her to persevere in the face of it.
I agree. Women in particular tend to internalize—to take everything personally. This impacts how we feel about ourselves. Criticism isn’t always constructive; it can be a form of bullying. But it can be also be meant as a gift, from someone who has our best interests at heart. Nonetheless, their words still get us into a place of emotional upheaval.
Tara poses the question:
What allows women to become free of concerns about the reactions they or their work will provoke? I’ve found that the fundamental shift for women happens when we internalize the fact that all substantive work brings both praise and criticism.
She then outlines how we can rewire our minds to this mindset:
- Identify another woman whose response to criticism you admire and imagine how she might respond to uncomfortable feedback.
- Interpret criticism as a source of information about the preferences and point of view of the person giving the feedback, rather than information about yourself.
- Look at criticism as a tool providing insight about the people you want to reach, influence, or engage.
- Ask yourself, “Does that criticism in some way mirror what I believe about myself? What is the source of that negative self-concept? Is it true?” Examining the roots of the belief can help you to replace it with a more accurate self-assessment and buffer the personal impact of the criticism.
Great, right? Now I’m really excited to read Tara’s new book!
This article was originally published in September 2014.