How I Trained Myself To Like Criticism
Most people absolutely hate to be criticized. Nobody likes to hear that they are sub-par, misinformed, or just flat out wrong. Why is this though? Although nobody can say for certain, the most likely reason is because we biologically have a natural need to self-preserve. Preserve our bodies, families, possessions, reputation, belief systems etc. When somebody says something that contradicts or challenges one's long-held identity, one's mind reacts to it as a threat and braces itself accordingly to as if it was a real threat.
The fact of the matter is that we will always face some form of criticism in our lives regardless of what we do. Author and philosopher Elbert Hubbard said “To avoid criticism say nothing, do nothing, be nothing.” For those of us that have at least a semblance of ambition, doing nothing is completely unacceptable.
Ambitious people will always receive criticism because it goes against the norm of what most people experience in their lives. Ambitious people are different because they do the arduous and unglamorous tasks that separate themselves from those that do not.
One of the most effective bio-hacks you can do to overcome the fear of criticism is to train your mind to love criticism. Rather than viewing this as some twisted sado-masochistic idea, know that mastering your fear of criticism is likely one of the most powerful and transformative things you can do.
Success guru, Tony Robbins expounds upon the idea of transforming your mind into associating things you don't like into things you do and vice versa in his book entitled "Unlimited Power". This technique is commonly known as NLP or Neuro-Linguistic Programming. Essentially, the process requires one to train mind into associating things that you dislike into something you like and vice versa by inculcating the mind with something that they view as pleasant/unpleasant.
For example, I have used this technique effectively for both something I like and dislike. The first being that of McDonald’s. When I was in high school, I used to love going to McDonald’s. I used to love eating their fries, chicken strips and filet of fish sandwiches. I would devour them happily any chance I had. After learning about the litany of harmful chemicals and additives used in McDonald’s food, I decided to use NLP techniques and try to start associating the Golden Arches with something that I strongly disliked. Whenever I saw the McDonald’s logo driving down the road, I thought of horrible things. Every time I saw a commercial, I thought of becoming fat, lazy, angry and unhealthy. I even went as far as to give myself a quick slap on the face when I felt a craving for McDonald's. I tried to do everything I could to associate McDonald’s with terrible things and eventually it worked! Since trying this technique at least five or six years ago, I have only patronized McDonald’s twice. Once when I was in an airport and I was broke and McDonald’s was the only option. The second time was when I was traveling in Spain and there were no other options (I only bought potato wedges and a water though). I never feel cravings for McDonald’s and, quite honestly, sometimes I even forget that McDonald’s is still even a place people frequent.
During around the same time period, I decided to try this technique on something that I didn’t like at all, reading. Now, I would be caught dead without a book on my person. I did the same technique I did with McDonald’s. Except this time I associated reading with wonderful things. I started to picture myself being intelligent and having lots of money after reading a lot. I pictured myself standing in front of my library with great pride. I pictured myself being surrounded by successful people and being an authority in my field being able to reference different authors and books by heart. Every time I would read a page, I would reward myself with a treat. Every time I finished a book, I would find a way to really treat myself. Now I can arguably say that I like reading too much, sometimes it gets in the way of me getting work done.
Going back to our initial topic of discussion, you can train your mind into actually loving criticism. Although I have not quite perfected the art yet, I certainly view criticism with a different lens now. With every bit of criticism comes with it a golden nugget of how to become a better person. The caveat being of course if somebody is being vitriolic for the sake of being vitriolic. If that is the case, then they don’t have anything of constructive use. Although it might be hard to listen to at first, criticism can be telling and also empowering. I started to train myself into actually genuinely appreciating when somebody critiqued me. It made me realize that I could be a better leader and all around better person.
As an experiment, I went around to three of my closest friends and I asked them to tell me three things that they thought I did a good job at and three things that they thought I needed to be better at. I found their answers were quite informative. They told me things that I had not fully realized about myself yet and I was grateful that they brought those things to light. In that trusted, safe environment, I began to start learning to really appreciate criticism.
If you want to start to view criticism with much less distain, I would encourage you to do the same exercise I did with my trusted friends, but take this a step further. If you don’t already have a mastermind, I would highly recommend partnering up with someone and doing this. With (a) member(s) of your mastermind group, ask someone to be a critique partner. Ask them every so often if they observe behavioral patterns in you that they find both constructive & destructive. They will be able to help guide you on the right trajectory throughout your life’s journey to becoming your greatest version.