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Recovering from Invalidating Criticism and Feedback

Have you ever received a comment from someone and it felt like you just got stabbed in the heart?

What did you do?


Sometimes it is helpful to distinguish between criticism and helpful feedback.

Criticism looks like this:

  • Criticism is focused on your character rather than your actions. It gives the message that something is wrong with you or what you are doing.

  • Criticism does not build you up. It often points towards the problem without giving solutions or pointers.

  • Criticism can be framed as meaning to control or pressure you into doing what some else wants.

Example of Criticism:

“You’re applying for THAT job? That’s funny! You know you’re not right for that job and you

should consider something else because you can’t pull it off.”

Feedback is:

  • Focused on giving you information to build you or your relationships up

  • Honest and a specific explanation of what they have observed

  • Not assuming intent of the other person

Example of Feedback:

“You said you are excited to apply for a Senior Manager position and I’m glad you are excited

and I’m a little concerned. Most managerial positions require supervisory experience and I

know you have not yet had that experience. It might be helpful to do an informational

interview to see if the company has a training program or to apply for other positions giving

you the experience to gain a position like this in the future.”

Do you see the difference?

Even when you know you are receiving feedback, it can be hard to hear and can feel invalidating.

Try these tips to help you better receive feedback:

  • Check all your facts to see if your responses are valid or invalid. Check it out with a person you trust.

  • Acknowledge when your responses don’t make sense or when they do make sense.

  • Admit that it hurts to be invalidated by others, even if they are right.

  • Drop judgmental self-statements

  • Work to change invalid thinking, comments or behaviors. (Blaming is usually not productive either)

  • Practice self compassion.

  • Remember that being invalidated, even when your response is valid, is seldom a complete catastrophe.

  • Practice acceptance of the invalidating person. Acceptance does not mean agreement.

  • Consider the source of the information and check the facts about the person’s intention. How well do you know this person and do they generally have your best interest in mind?

  • Most importantly – Validate yourself the same way you would validate someone else!

Receiving feedback can be difficult, but it is important for your own growth because we do not always see the full picture when it comes to ourselves. It can help you to become the best version of yourself.

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