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Are You Stressed By Criticism?

Last updated on September 21, 2015


You can’t see it in this small photo, but the chisel slipped at the edge of the central flower of this wood inlay. What a shame.

Have You Ever Done Something Beautiful?

And then had someone criticize you for some small flaw?

It can feel like abuse when you first hear some criticism. And it can make you feel so angry. “Here I’ve made this amazing creation, and you are telling me about the one thing I did wrong! Aaarrrgh!”

But No One Can Cause Me To Experience Stress Except Me

So how do I break out of this stress? How can I experience criticism without stress?

This is where the The Work of Byron Katie can be helpful. First identify the stressful thoughts you are thinking in the moment of your stressful reaction to criticism. Then question those thoughts.

The result for me is an opening to criticism. And a clear distinction between the criticism and my stressful reaction (which I start to see is optional).

This Is Not Something Anyone Can Do For You

You have to go through the process and do it for yourself.

I do it by identifying the stressful thoughts, writing them down, and then questioning them.

Here’s How I Did It Recently

I have created what I think is an excellent system of customer service for my clients, with good communication, and an attitude of fairness and respect for my clients. I actually pride myself on how I treat my clients.

But a new client found a flaw in my system. And he criticized me for how I unintentionally treated him, and he discontinued working with me after one session.

The reason was I missed an important distinction.

I Didn’t Communicate My System to This New Client

I normally automatically charge the credit card I have on file for client sessions. This avoids having to spend time on payment during a session. Normally, if you book through my website, this is communicated clearly and taken care of automatically.

But this new client didn’t come through my website. So he missed all that. And I treated him like any other client, by billing his credit card automatically.

The problem was, we had never had that discussion. His card was on file from another purchase, and I used it, thinking it was OK. I never asked him.

Which was my mistake.

Of course, mistakes like this are understandable. We all make them.

But My Stress About It Comes From Blaming Him Instead of Owning It

It was my reaction to the criticism that hurt me. It was my pushing it away that hurt me.

That’s why I wrote a Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet on this client. I identified all of the stressful, blaming thoughts I used in that moment to avoid owning my part.

Line 1: I am shaken by him because he hurt my pride.

Line 2: I want him to see I did nothing wrong.
I want him to fully understand my system before accusing me.


The worksheet goes on in more detail, but you get the point. When I question these stressful thoughts, I find the other side of my stressful story. I find my part. And through that, I learn how to make my peace with this feedback. And to make peace with myself, who still makes mistakes.

Doing my work is not about understanding what happened. I already understand my mistake. It is about taking the emotional charge out of it. And that requires surgery.

The Work is just that surgical tool to remove the sting from criticism.

I encourage you to give it a try yourself.

Have a great weekend,

“Feeling hurt by any criticism, feeling the slightest urge to defend yourself, means that there’s something you don’t accept and love about yourself. This is the very part of you that you want to hide. You want to be loved and understood, but not there.” Byron Katie, I Need Your Love, Is That True?

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About the author

Todd Smith has been doing The Work of Byron Katie on an almost daily basis since 2007. He is just as excited about this simple process of self-inquiry today as he was when he first came across it. He also enjoys writing about The Work, and training others in the subtleties of this meditative process. Join Todd for The Work 101 online course, private sessions, virtual retreats, and his ongoing Inquiry Circle group.

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