Whether it's the other kids making fun of you at school, you just received a really harsh performance evaluation from your boss, you got turned down by the girl you asked out, or you didn't get the job you interviewed for, rejection and criticism hurts. I won't tell you not to take it personally, because it is personal. You are the one who was criticized. You are the one who was rejected. No matter how much self-confidence you have a part of you cringes every time someone rejects you or criticizes you. You are the one who has to get rid of that awful feeling in the pit of your stomach. What do you do to make yourself feel better?
You could be angry or revengeful, but that won't actually make you feel wanted and admired. Quite often it can bite you in the rear end too. You may have been a really close #2 for that promotion at work. The girl who turned you down for the date might have been in the middle of breaking up with someone and was thinking that you would be a good companion later on down the road. Your boss may actually like you a lot and it may be his boss who told him that he was being too nice during the performance evaluations and that he needed to be tougher. You don't always know for sure why you are being criticized or why you were rejected. If your gut response is to do something vengeful, there's a good chance that you're closing the door on any future acceptance by those same people. There's no long-term benefit in alienating others who might have cared about you or admired your work at a later time.
You could just assume that the other person is stupid or wrong and completely ignore them and their opinions of you. The problem with this approach is that you may have been able to find nuggets of truth in their criticisms that you could have used for personal growth. Not all criticism is meant to be destructive and mean. Constructive criticism can be hard to take but extremely useful. My daughter had heard that a dear friend of hers was being made fun of at school because he had bad breath and the kids thought he was homosexual because of some clothing choices. She wrestled with the decision for a long time before she finally decided to come forward and tell him what was being said behind his back. He was mortified but he was also able to make some changes in his personal hygiene and his wardrobe choices. Ultimately he chose to take the course of self-improvement and succeeded in drastically changing his public image for the better. The same can be true if the criticisms are coming from a coworker, a best friend, a boss, a family member. The key here is to consider the person who is offering the criticism. How are they saying it? What is their real heartfelt intentions behind delivering a criticism. If you trust them and believe that they genuinely mean well, then consider what they are saying and whether or not they may have a valid point. A bit of constructive criticism can be horrible to swallow but ultimately the best thing that can happen to you.
You could obsess over what they've said. I have had readers write in to tell me that my articles stink. One in particular hated an article I wrote about picking and choosing a couple of good causes to donate your time to rather then trying to do it all. She obviously didn't read the article because she thought that I was saying that I personally could single handedly save the world, healing it of all it's problems. The whole point of the article was to find balance between our desire to do it all and the realities of what our talents, assets, and overall lifestyles would really allow us to fix. My gut response was to be very hurt and angry at the reader's harsh words and her ugly assessment of me as a person and as a writer. The truth is, she obviously didn't read the article. If she had she would see that I absolutely agreed with her that I can not fix all of the problems of the world all by myself. To obsess over her criticism of my article would have ruined my entire day and would have kept me from being able to get anything done. Her letter is a perfect example of the idea that sometimes you have to completely ignore the person who is rejecting you. Some times people have problems or issues of their own and what they are doing is venting at you and criticizing you without even considering what they are saying or who you really are. You have to ask yourself, "Is this particular person's opinion of me accurate? Does their opinion of me really even matter?" Sometimes the answer is no. "No they don't know what they are talking about and no I really don't care what they think of me." If this is one of those times, then there is really no reason for you to obsess over what they've just said to you.
For your own sake, I would recommend taking your emotional heart out of the situation. Do not allow your heart to make the evaluations as to whether or not the rejections or criticisms in your life are valid or not. From a logical position you can ask the person who turned you down why they made that choice. Was the other person more qualified for the job? Did the kids at school catch you picking your nose in public? Were they having a bad day? How can you improve yourself so as to safeguard yourself from future criticisms and rejections? Stand up straight, walk tall, and don't let them see you sweat!
John Samtron, is the editor for http://www.self-confidence.tv.
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