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How To Become Bullet Proof From Criticism

By Bill Lee-Emery

If someone has ever wounded you with careless, unkind or sarcastic remarks or criticism then read on!

By the end of this article you will be armed with useful and practical ideas to save yourself from internal and external damage.

Let me first say that "criticism can be useful. In fact, we need to be able to hear and process this kind of feedback in order to progress in life. Otherwise we would be "legends in our own lunchtimes and it would be hard to improve our performance or behaviours.

But - words can hurt! And they can go deep - last for years - decades & lifetimes and severely constraint people's lives. They can also be meant in other ways that we take them. So let's get to it. There are two ideas I will cover I this article.

First of all, do you know the difference between a fact and an opinion?

A fact is something that is provable. It can be tested and shown to be true. An opinion is someone's ideas or perspective about something. Hold a pen in your hand. Now if you were to say, `This is a beautiful pen.' is that a fact or an opinion? Obviously, that is an opinion. I might think the same pen was unattractive or any other subjective remark. If on the other hand you were holding a red pen and you stated "This is a red pen' that would be a statement of fact. One is objective and the other subjective.

Too often people will state their opinions as fact whereas it is their opinion.

So if someone calls you a "goose (the language could be a lot worse - just insert your words of choice!) check out how you look. Have you suddenly grown feathers, started walking with a waddle and feel inclined towards making honking sounds? In which case, it could be a fact! Get yourself to the nearest doctor (or vet) and see what they can do for you.

If however, no, you haven't changed your physical appearance, then it's just someone's opinion. Here's the burning question! Whose opinion of you is the most important?

Now at some stages of life, we make other peoples opinions more important than ours. Teenage years are one example. At this time, we often judge ourselves by our peers opinions. That's OK, as long as we grow out of the habit. Sooner or later, we need to make the life decision to have our opinion about ourselves be the most important to us. After all in all of our lives, we will always be here longer than anyone else!

The second idea is choosing your "frame of reference". A "frame of reference is the criteria by which we judge something or decide its validity. There are two options, internal and external.

Let me ask you this: how do you know you have done a good days work? Does someone tell you - "Great job, Joe or do you just know?

The first is external and the second internal. Neither are good nor bad as both have their place.

For example, when learning something new it is useful to have an external frame of reference otherwise it is very difficult to learn anything new - as you think you know it all already. There is no room for more information. So when learning, go external first until you have enough criteria and information to start to decide what is valid and what isn't.

An internal frame of reference means you decide what is valid, good, bad or otherwise. If when asked the above question about how you know you're done a good days work, you have an internal response (a feeling), then that indicates you are operating from an internal frame of reference. If you know your job well then that would be appropriate. But if you were new perhaps you may still need external validation until you can make good distinctions about what works well and what doesn't.

When you are thinking about your self and how you are regarded, it is healthy to create solid, positive internal frames of reference. People with healthy self-esteems (how they view themselves) operate from a positive internal frame of reference in regard to their human worth. People with low self-esteem operate from an external frame of reference in regard to their own worth. In simple terms - they allow others to decide their worth. Not a useful place to operate from!

So how do you change this? While this has been the subject of thousands of books articles and conversations, let me add a few simple ideas.

  1. Listen to and edit your own conversations about yourself. Don't allow negative self talk into your headspace

  2. Start to notice things you appreciate about yourself

  3. Make a "gratitude list of your life and what you have had to learn along the way

  4. Understand this is a process - a transition into a new way of thinking. Give your self time and be patient

  5. Practice forgiveness about the past - email me for a worksheet. 6. Read quality self help books

  6. Attend seminars on self esteem

  7. Seek professional assistance. Work with a coach.

The sooner you deal with this issue the better off you will be. Your real life may be waiting for you around the corner!

About The Author
Bill Lee-Emery is an Executive and Life Coach. He has been a corporate trainer and facilitator for over 20 years. Bill is author of 'Stop Procrastinating' and 'How to get out of your own way and play better golf!'

You can get his newsletter, 'On Track' by visiting his web site

You are welcome to reprint this article as long it remains unaltered and contains full attribution as follows:

© by Bill Lee-Emery 2004


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