In a World of Haters, How Can You Best Deal with Criticism?

October 13, 2017 OTHER

Daniel H. Tong photo



Jillian Haslam



Criticism is something we all experience in our day-to-day lives


In truth, there will always be someone to judge us, no matter what we do or how well we do it. It’s just human nature, and we have to deal with it.


First, it’s good to point out that criticism can be both constructive and destructive. The difference between the two is the manner in which comments are delivered.


Constructive criticism can best be summed by these words from Winston Churchill:


Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfils the same function as pain in the human body; it calls attention to the development of an unhealthy state of things. If it is heeded in time, danger may be averted; if it is suppressed, a fatal distemper may develop.’


Both positive and negative criticism can be challenging your ability, views or character. But the destructive kind only ends up hurting a person’s pride and in turn, dealing negative effects on their confidence and self-esteem. We obsess over what we have been told. We feel belittled because of it; sometimes dumb and inept. Other times ashamed.


But it is inevitable. And naturally, our reaction will be to react defensively, especially to the destructive kind which can lead to anger and aggression.


And this is the type I want to draw your attention to today.



Dealing with Negative Criticism


We live in a world where everyone is entitled to their own two cents. Whether it is at home with our loved ones, at work with colleagues or in any situation for that matter, opposing views may result in what you would call an opinion clash.


Sometimes, it just comes out of nowhere. You are happily going about your day and, out of the woods, someone hits you with mud smack in the face. They knock you off your perch and you lose focus, preoccupying your mind with whatever it is they said, or a comment they wrote on some online platform – probably your blog, on a forum or other website, or maybe your social media.


What’s that online lingo about the kinds of people who love posting nasty comments and seem determined to rile you at every opportunity again? Ah, trolls.


Trolls are everywhere, both in the online world and in real life (where they are commonly referred to as haters, or naysayers in some cases).


That is the sad reality of the world we live in.


It’s tempting to fire back when we are faced with destructive comments, but sometimes it never helps. Of course, I don’t mean to play a lame duck every time people unleash their venomous spleen on you. Defending your points of view and telling your own side of the story is great. But sometimes, feeding the troll may just be a waste of time and energy so is best ignored.



Understanding Criticism


Criticism is not created equal. Critical comments can come in different shades, and for different reasons.


First, there are times when even negative criticism may be justified. We are all human, you know, and we have our faults and can sometimes fail to live to our high levels. What this means is that we may sometimes do something we otherwise wouldn’t have wanted to or say something we shouldn’t have. And when critical comments come during such times, they may be well justified, and it is for our own good to take them in our stride.


In other cases, it is not all about you. Let’s face it, the world is full of jealous, insecure and angry people who tend to be critical because – you know – that is who they are or what they have become. This is not to mean sometimes they are not justified in their criticism.


They could be, maybe.


But sometimes, they may be looking to pounce on the opportunity to take it out on you for what bad may have beset them. Other times, they are just plain hating, criticising you because you possess something or exhibit a trait they have or have given up on. And other times, it can be to advance some cause or agenda – and what they are doing is playing detractors.


These kinds of negative criticism can be detrimental to you and your wellbeing, especially if you are a fragile person, or someone who lacks self-esteem or suffers from self-doubt.


In its worst form, criticism can also constitute abuse. You may or may not be aware that you are a victim – all the while being led by the abuser to believe you are the one always in the wrong or BAD – and getting out of it can be a test on your mental will.



Dealing with Criticism


The thing about criticism, whether positive or negative, is to be aware of the type of criticism you are receiving and act accordingly. Because if you allow it, criticism can be vicious. And it can destroy you.


Just think about the number of people who were told they cannot achieve something in their lives, but ended up proving their doubters and detractors wrong?


One of the first people to spring to mind is Oprah Winfrey, a figure that needs no introduction. She was once told by a TV producer that she was unfit for television news because she had a tendency to get ‘too emotionally invested’ in the stories.


Once a person by the name of Walt Disney got fired from an animation job because his editor felt he had no good ideas and lacked enough imagination.


Judi Dench, best known as ‘M’ in the James Bond franchise, was told by a director she would never make a film due to her face that was ‘wrongly arranged’. Harrison Ford was told by a studio boss to forget about acting because he was ‘never going to make it in the business’.


Pop sensation Shakira was considered so bad at singing that she couldn’t even make the school choir. And not just any bad. Her music teacher told her she sounded ‘like a goat’. And while we are talking music, one of the most famous music artists of all time – John Lennon of The Beatles – was once told by his teacher that he was ‘Certainly on the road to failure’.


People like Albert Einstein and Thomas Edison were also criticised for their deficiencies, the former even their intelligence.


Hans Christian Andersen was dropped by his teachers for being no good at anything and he thought himself to be “The Ugly Duckling, until……”


Even more recently, the latest NBA sensation – Stephen Curry – was told earlier in his career that he will have limited success in the NBA. That he was a poor ball handler whose athleticism and explosiveness were below standard.



Who’s laughing now?


The moral here is if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its entire life thinking it is stupid. You have heard this saying, right? It is thus upon you as an individual to realise what your strengths are and believe in yourself because in life, you will always have people criticising you and throwing mud at you and telling you that you can’t.

If the aforementioned individuals had listened to their critics, they would not have become the personalities they went on to become. And they would have denied themselves the chance to shine their light on the world.


So woe unto you if you listen to the critics.



Grow a Thick Hide


Many people who have gone on to achieve great things in their lives had to overcome criticism along the way to get to the levels they believed they were capable of hitting. If they had taken the naysayers seriously, they would not have lived to realise their potential.


While no one is saying you will go on to become the next Oprah or Shakira or Curry (but who knows!) the takeaway here is to never let criticism get to you.


Well, it will, considering we humans love validation and criticism is a daily thing. But learning to deal with it can mean the difference between realising your potential and living happily, or wallowing in your shortcomings as an individual and not striving to be better.


In other words, you need to grow a thick hide because it’s a jungle out there. I don’t mean this in the context of becoming ignorant, no. Rather, you need to toughen up mentally. The battle is always in your mind and that is where it will be won or lost.


Personally, I have had to deal with destructive criticism at various points of my life. In fact at times, it was so bad because it went far beyond the normal negative criticism we face every day. I was abused. I was threatened. I was called all manner of names.


It’s easy during times like this to take it personally and cave in. But going down this route can only be to your loss.



Taking the Positives out of it


It’s not easy to receive negative feedback and this goes for even under the best of situations.

Naturally, we seem to soak up and obsess over the bad more than the good. And while I may not be the expert with all the answers, what I have found out about dealing with criticism is this:


Rage, anger, resentment, retaliation and all those other ways in which we feel compelled to react only serve to defeat the purpose. It may feel right at the moment, but you are the person who ends up losing.


Looking at things from a deeper perspective helps you to deal with the situation. However harsh your critics, ask yourself if there is anything you can learn from it. This doesn’t mean you have to agree with the other person. But we grow best through it if we view it as a chance to look into our self rather than focusing on the critic.


Ignore the boos as they usually come from the “Cheap Seats.” If the criticism is destructive, understand that the road ahead will be fraught with such obstacles, hence your need to focus and not waste your time dealing with naysayers. If the criticism is constructive, it can – surprisingly – be a healthy checkpoint for our self and our ideas, and you should use it as an opportunity to make the necessary adjustments.


If you can’t resist responding to the haters, then surprise them with kindness. But while you are at it, always remember that you cannot please everyone – which takes me to my last point…


Always make the choices that are right for you: that is the most important thing. Because either way, people will always criticise you.


In the words of Roy T. Bennett:


‘Do not let arrogance go to your head and despair to your heart; do not let compliments go to your head and criticisms to your heart; do not let success go to your head and failure to your heart.’





Jillian Haslam

Jillian Haslam has a 20+ year career in Banking and who is now a successful business entrepreneur, a Public Speaker, an Author and an award winning Philanthropist.

Jillian is a very popular and sought after speaker with both Corporates & SME’s. She has extensively spoken on myriad topics at many fora and with some of the leading international organizations such as RBS, Barclays, Bank of America, McDonalds, University of Cambridge, Kings College London and many others. Her second book “The Irrepressible Mind” provides unique insights into personal and professional life.

Her success story has been extensively covered by the media. To read press articles and to listen to television/radio interviews, please visit

To find out more about Jillian and her Speaking activities, Live Workshops and Publications go to

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