How to Handle Criticism Without Damaging Your Self-Esteem

May 22, 2023 Teddy Mbukha

Most of us have "open to criticism" on our resumes. But truth be told, receiving criticism, especially if it is negative, is not one of our best moments. Criticism can hurt our self-esteem if we're not careful.

Human beings hate to be devalued, and criticism can do just that. It can feel like a confirmation that you are not good enough, and if not handled properly, it can negatively affect your mental and emotional health. You start seeing yourself as a failure and sabotaging your ideas, even the good ones, because you believe they are not viable. In those cases, criticism has harmed your self-esteem.

For instance, a negative performance review at work can make you doubt your competence and feel like you are not a good fit for the role. How, then, can you handle negative criticism without damaging your self-esteem?

Ways to Handle Criticism Without Hurting Your Self-Esteem

  • Separate the criticism from your self-worth. Criticism is about your actions, behavior, or work, not about you, and you shouldn't let this define who you are or what you can achieve.
  • Accept that you are not perfect. Everyone has flaws, and coming to terms with this will help you better handle criticism. You need to stop comparing yourself with others and give yourself room for improvement. One effective way is to write down at least 10 of your biggest flaws and then look for ways to improve or live a fulfilling life even with these flaws. 
  • Understand the difference between destructive and constructive criticism. Constructive criticism is meant to help you, while destructive is only intended to cause hurt. Knowing the difference between these two enables you to determine whether the criticism is valid and, if it is, how you can use the criticism to build your self-esteem, not harm it. 
  • Listen carefully and stay calm. Listen to the other party without becoming defensive or emotional. Try to see the other person's perspective and what they are trying to convey. It is also important that you remain calm. Don't react impulsively or lash out defensively. Take a deep breath and stay composed throughout.
  • Ask for clarification. If something is unclear, don't hesitate to ask for clarification. It removes all the unanswered questions from your head and helps you better take in the criticism without harming your self-esteem.

Criticism, especially negative criticism, is never fun. But receiving criticism is a part of life. We are all learning, and sometimes, while you may think your solution is the best, there may be a better way. To ensure criticism does not affect your self-esteem, it is best to focus on the positive and take this as an opportunity to learn and grow. 

APA Reference
Mbukha, T. (2023, May 22). How to Handle Criticism Without Damaging Your Self-Esteem, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 21 from

Author: Teddy Mbukha

October, 11 2023 at 1:21 pm

Yes! Thanks for your comment. Sometimes simple things are really powerful. I am glad that you found this post helpful. I hope that these simple yet profound ideas can improve the quality of your life.

Brenda McNulty
October, 10 2023 at 7:12 pm

Wonderful and simple things to do to help with criticism.

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