Perhaps the most challenging part of my career has been overcoming self-doubt and low self-worth. There is a name for it – imposter syndrome. Associated with perfectionism, high external demand, and a feeling of insecurity, imposter syndrome upregulates stress, is associated with depression and anxiety, and makes you excessively sensitive to criticism.
I won't get an A-plus in receiving criticisms. When criticized, I collapse under the weight of low self-worth. I globalize. If you don’t like my one blog, I assume you don’t like me. And of course, I assume there is little I can do to overcome your dislike.
Here are three ideas I have been trying to receive critiques more graciously:
1. Look at the source.
Is it coming from a well-wisher, a place of good intentions, or is someone trying to fatigue and demoralize me? It helps to remember that some people thrive on criticizing others. If someone always gives two-star reviews for every product, maybe your three stars are good enough.
2. Avoid globalizing.
If you tell me my handwriting is terrible, that doesn’t mean my message is awful. Isolate the critique as much as possible. “Today they didn’t like my handwriting written in English with this pen using my right hand on white paper!” I know I am exaggerating – you get the point.
3. Consider negative feedback as positive.
If you tell me I didn’t perform well, the message I want to hear is that I am capable of better. When you hear a 5-year-old perform her first piece on the piano, you clap and say good job! You do not criticize the mistakes. Perhaps when they criticize you, they are assuming you are capable of better.
I hope you are never criticized, but that isn’t realistic. A more practical approach is to develop a healthier disposition toward critique.
The three ideas suggested above will help you remove the emotional sting associated with critique so you can see the valuable lesson in the feedback.
And if you struggle with imposter syndrome, know that it is extremely common. Mentoring, psychotherapy and management of underlying anxiety and stress all can help. Here are two simple suggestions that might help you:
Believe in those who believe in you, and anchor your self-worth in your efforts and intentions, not the outcome.
Dr. Amit Sood answers your questions about stress, resilience, happiness, relationships, and related topics in his column. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.