How to Accept Negative Feedback—and Not Freak Out

At the end of every workshop I present, I pass out evaluation sheets for the participants to complete. This is possibly one of the most nerve-wracking things I do in my professional life. I choose to do these evaluations because I want to see what’s working and resonating with people, and I genuinely want to know how I can improve. But it’s sooooo anxiety-ridden for me!

I know it’s totally asinine, but as soon as everyone leaves a workshop, I start flipping through the evaluations at breakneck speed. I don’t even really read them at first. I just try to eyeball any that look like they may not have high scores. And then I start separating the evaluations into two stacks: the “bad” stack and the “good” stack.

Most of the time I will have 87 stellar evaluations and one or two that are less so. Some might come back with just an average review, but every once in a while, I get a negative one. And let me tell you what happens when I get a negative one:

I HAVE A TOTAL BREAKDOWN!

I get the metaphorical chain out and start whipping myself across the back. This self-flagellation used to last for several days, but I’ve managed to get it down to about a twenty-four hour period. Progress, not perfection, right?

Why is it that there can be 87 rock star evaluations telling me I’m the best thing since Spanx, but the one that gets my focus and attention is the less-than-rave review? Why are we so hard on ourselves? Why do we focus on the one negative thing amidst a whole bunch of positive?  

Partly, it’s human nature. But I also think this behavior is something that can be overcome. And it’s something I’m determined to improve upon.

I am aware that criticism is gonna come at me when I so willingly put myself “out there.” And I’ve done enough reading and research to know that getting my panties in a wad over a criticism is actually a physical manifestation of my deepest fear—that I am not good enough just as I am.

I think that underlying feeling of “not-good-enough” has always been there for me, and for so many others. So, when someone criticizes me (or even if they just don’t think I’m a total dynamo), that feeling rears its ugly head, and I see the darkness that still resides in me. But I have improved SO much in recent years, and now I try to only let the opinions of those who are closest to me count.

I understand that I need to practice more compassion with myself. My logical side knows that one negative evaluation in a sea of positives means I’m really doing pretty damn good. But until I totally break through that shadow side of myself that likes to tell me every now and again that I might not be good enough? Well, I know God will keep putting negative situations in front of me until I learn to keep them in perspective!

This fragility of my own inner state of being (letting one person’s opinion send me over the edge) tells me I still have a lot of work to do to combat my fear of inadequacy. Thank goodness the best teachers are students themselves!

So, as these negative experiences continue to happen (and they will!), I will try to not bullwhip myself for more than a day. I will work to regain a fresh perspective, put my big girl panties back on, and just keep going. And perhaps I’ll write a letter to the insecure child that still resides inside me and give her the compassion and gentleness she deserves. I deprive her of that far too often.

Perhaps you, too, need to be kinder, gentler, and more compassionate with yourself. Do you have a tendency to focus on the negative/neutral about yourself, rather than all the stellar, dynamic, magnificent things that are so spectacular about you? Do you beat yourself up when you make a mistake, receive negative feedback, or produce something that isn’t perfect?

When something triggers you, look within to see what that little child is still afraid of. Be kind to them because they’re worth loving and taking care of. Remind yourself that perfection is a completely unrealistic expectation. You wouldn’t put that burden on someone else, so don’t put it on yourself.

So … can we just start being OK with not having to be super-duper all of the time? Can we be a little kinder and gentler with our imperfect selves? I think it’s worth a try.