Being able to deal well with criticism from colleagues, friends or those you love is a sign of emotional intelligence (EI or EQ) and maturity. The single most common effect of criticism is that it can easily and negatively impact on your sense of self worth. If you've given clients or people in general permission to influence your self-esteem, you're vulnerable to damage.
Self-esteem is the value we privately place on ourselves - and it's a feeling. You may perceive yourself to be a competent, worthy person, or you might consider yourself to be unattractive, without special merit, inferior, unassertive, socially unskilled or the like. The range of choices is wide. We choose whether our self-worth is internally developed, maintained and championed - or whether it's at the mercy of vested interests or the distorted personal agendas of other people.
There's a relevant story told from the life of the Buddha. It is said that a man began abusing him. The Buddha didn't respond. This made the man even angrier. Eventually he raged, 'How can you remain so tranquil when I abuse you so?' The Buddha looked at him calmly and said, 'If you offered me a plate of food, and I refused to accept the plate, the food remains yours.' The same principle applies to criticism.
Critics are usually unhappy, unbalanced people. Generally trying to make themselves stand taller by trampling on the self-worth of those they crush underfoot. They're usually incapable of seeing the potential or the positive upside of a situation or idea. To quote thinker and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson, 'Taking to pieces is the trade of those who cannot construct.' That's them. Criticism can reveal inappropriate competitiveness or jealousy. Jealousy is the direct product of a sense of inferiority. Inferiority is the outcome of poor self-esteem. So, it's a vicious downward cycle. Critics don't realise that each time they attack someone or something they're exposing and further undermining their own impoverished sense of self-worth.
How should we respond to criticism? I use a simple evaluation mechanism in my own life. If the criticism consistently comes from just one person, I ignore it. They need to be in a hospital ward marked 'Self-esteem repair unit.' However, if the criticisms and observations come from a variety of sources in different circumstances, the chances are that they're valid. I then take them seriously and have, over the years changed many things that I do or say, as a consequence.
If you're a contrarian or pioneer in any shape or form, ahead of your time in thinking or innovation terms, you'll inevitably be attacked. Swami Vivekananda referred to the three phases through which new ideas have to pass: Rejection, ridicule and then acceptance. Understanding this makes it easier to handle the lack of receptivity or criticism you'll encounter from some quarters.
If you allow the critic's words to have a negative impact on you, you're giving her or him permission to manage your self-esteem on your behalf. Considering they're not doing too good a job in their own self-worth department, this just doesn't make sense! Remember that bad behaviour of any sort is a symptom of physical, emotional or psychological pain. They're in pain - don't add to it - but also, don't collude with it.
Criticism can be a useful self-management barometer. Listen to what people say and engage in a bit of introspection. It's an effective way to keep your ego in check. There's a fine line between ignoring the views of other people and being seriously affected by absolutely everything they have to say. Finding and maintaining a balance is the key.
Teaching children how to cope with criticism is a healthy early-life lesson. Quite frequently, our most damaging self-esteem messages are embedded in our formative years. They may be related, as were mine, to impoverished financial circumstances, obesity and a lack of athleticism. Being able to review past messages and press the 'delete' or 'overwrite' button is an important self-esteem and mental health skill. Make sure you remain in charge of it.