Making Criticism Productive (and taking back your personal power)

“All criticism is a form of blessing.” – Oscar Simpson

There has been a lot of talk in the self help arena lately about critics and criticism and “negativity.” Some of the criticism has been harsh and inappropriate, some of it quite appropriate, and some of it entertaining.

I myself have been criticized by others in ways that have been hurtful and frustrating. On Amazon not too long ago, Joe Vitale and I were called the “Hitlers of the internet.” The comment was so absurdly ridiculous, I was surprised when Amazon decided not to remove it.

From going through that experience and many others, I have learned how to handle criticism from a number of vantage points. I thought that perhaps I would share some methods of handling criticism that are productive and not damaging.

Your reaction is not about the criticism you’re facing. First, we have to realize that the emotional reaction to criticism is not a reaction to the criticism itself. Instead, the reaction is more about what we feel about ourselves and what feelings and data are coming up. Obviously, I am nowhere near the Hitler of the internet, but having someone say this about me brings up old data where the criticism was much more dangerous. Perhaps it was a schoolteacher saying my work wasn’t up to standard, or maybe a family member criticizing something I said.

The strength of the emotion I might feel from criticism has nothing to do with what is happening now. The critic only gains power over me when I give that power to him.

Separate your emotions from the event that is currently occurring. You can definitely address the criticism that is happening, but you simply cannot do so from that emotional state. You can’t be effective if you’re acting from a defensive emotion that has been supercharged by data from your past. It is as if you are trying to meet a challenge to road race in a rocket ship… you’re not meeting the current challenge with the appropriate method, channel, or vehicle. While acting from that emotional state may FEEL good and cathartic, it is generally not appropriate and it will likely backfire on us.

Look for the intention. What is the intention of the criticism? Is it meant to hurt someone emotionally? Address a failing in our work? If the intention of the critic is helpful, generally there may be some validity to their statements. At the very least, it is valid to their subjective opinion, and it is generally helpful for us to communicate our thanks for their sharing of their opinion. This establishes good will with our critics, and there are many reasons why this is important.

Decide if the criticism is valid. If the criticism is nothing more than a personal attack, it is likely not valid. I’ve seen some people who have received criticism turn around and try to attack the critic personally. This then becomes a battle of wills and ends up being nothing more than one bully fighting another bully. This is highly unproductive, and these are the types of situations I recommend staying away from. Personal attacks do except put us in that highly charged emotional state where we end up just churning out energy that does nothing productive for anyone.

Take your power back. Even if criticism is hurtful, we have to take our power back by logically and objectively looking at the critic’s words and determine if anything that they’ve said is helpful in any way. This is the only clear way that we can take our power back. When we take criticism objectively and determine it’s place in our work and our world, we strengthen our position, strengthen our work, and hone our skills for the future. Just like a tree strengthened by the wind, critical analysis of our work strengthens our position.

For example, I do a lot of video editing. Sometimes I work on projects for friends and colleagues. Most of the time, I receive direction from these people, and sometimes it is critical of the work I do. I have to first look at what they’re saying and determine if it will be helpful for the project in the long run. If it is, then I incorporate it. If it is not, then I talk to the critic and explain why I feel that their criticism won’t be good for the project. And sometimes I will incorporate the results of critical comments even when I don’t agree with or understand them because it is important to one of my partners, customers, or colleagues. I separate my own worth and my self from the project’s success… and often times, some of those critical statements I didn’t agree with ended up making a bigger impact than I imagined.

My work becomes better because I am open to criticism. Not only does it meet the needs of the project beyond what I can see for myself, I learn something new that will help my other projects become even better.

It doesn’t mean I have to be open to personal attack. It doesn’t mean I have to be open to unfounded statements that are said with the intent to hurt. It doesn’t mean I become a punching bag. It only means I take the criticism at face value and separate myself from the emotions that may (or may not) come up when I receive that criticism.

Don’t hide from the critics. Remember, if criticism makes you FEEL bad, it is not because the critic is powerful over you. Those who hide from criticism, those who bury their heads in the sand and turn away from anything “negative” because it makes them FEEL bad are the people who end up creating lousy products. They put that emotional state as a higher priority in their world than the service that they provide. And if their emotional state is more important to them than creating a high quality product, then they’re putting an illusion before their desire to serve others with their work.

And those who are afraid to create anything at all because they’re afraid someone might say something “negative” end up hiding their light from the world. We all have something to give. Hiding from criticism only means those gifts to the world will end up coming out of someone who isn’t afraid of being criticized.

Of course, all of us like to hear that our work is wonderful, that we’re wonderful people, that what we do is helpful, good, or even amazing. But when we find ourselves in situations where that is ALL we hear, we end up living in a place where we become bored, lazy, or even arrogant… and our work and our lives suffer for it.

The key is to welcome and incorporate criticism from a place of personal power, a place where YOU decide where the criticism belongs, where it’s helpful, and how to best incorporate it. In that way, you separate the emotional reaction based on erroneous data from the gifts that the Divine wants to give to you — and through you — to the world.

The quotation at the top of this post is from my friend, Oscar. Remember Oscar the next time someone criticizes you… and thank the Divine for the blessings it wishes to give you.

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    1. Mark, it’s impossible for me to imagine that anyone, who has spent time in your presence, would ever consider using the term “Hitler of the Internet” to describe you. I concur that the comment is absurdly ridiculous!

      Clearly, the person that wrote that comment never shared a Rolls Royce Mastermind experience with you like I did. It was your authentic, mindful, soulful, presence.. along with your amazing gifts and talent that made that such a soul stirring experience for me. What an opportunity to to experience two very different “teachers” with vastly different energy, talent, and presence.

      I thrilled to hear that moving to Mt. Shasta was like coming home for you and your family. I look forward to hearing more about you and the work you share with the world from Mt. Shasta. I’m truly sorry that this Austin native didn’t follow-up after that amazing experience and spend more time with you when you were here.

    2. Dear Mark

      I am sooo grateful for this, it is very apropiate for me,

      Thank you



  1. Mark – When I receive criticism that I don’t believe to be either constructive or valuable to me, I say to myself “What you think of me is none of my business.” Then I let it go.

  2. Just discovered your blog, Mark, and now I have the pleasure of digging back through the postings. My sister and I got to see you and Joe in Austin last year, and I think you provide a nice counterpoint to Joe’s marketing emphasis. And vice-versa.

    I find this posting on criticism grounded and thought provoking. So many online product comments reflect emotional extremes that the person commenting is feeling at the time. Is this really the best selfhelp book ever written? Probably not. Is this really the worst selfhelp book ever written? Probably not. However, the specifics that hook people or turn them off can be really interesting.

  3. Mark;

    I’ve dealt with and handled “critics” for years. I have no problem going head to head with some – and at one point found the activity intellectually stimulating. While they would rant and rave – I’d always come back calm and cool with documentation to counter. It worked for a while because I was able to consed valid points they had and came from a point of concern and resolve.

    However, when points I made were backed up with documentation and research, I was met with defensiveness and elevated emotions.

    It was never about me personally – even if they had nothing to respond with but personal attacks.

    Over the last 6 months, I’ve had an awakening of sorts as the critics I had been dealing with got more and more desperate and increasingly foul and hateful. (My guess is out of frustration.)

    The entire activity just got too bizarre with nothing but pure emotion the fired and already heated topic. Rational thinking and an activity I thought could help resolve questions and issues for the readership became a spitting match of insults.

    So I dropped out.

    While I allow critics to continue with the personal insults and dirt digging in an attempt to discredit myself and my company – I actually find my life far more “normal” now. It’s also “moving on” at a faster more promising pace. I attracted many fans through this process and now have a readership and subscription base that are not only very loyal, but hang on my every word.

    Ironic huh?

    All because I was able to keep my power from the very beginning and kept the emotion out of a very volatile and heated activity for everyone else.

    The “issues” our critics have had for years may never be resolved. For myself, I’m stronger, much more educated because of my research, and far more confident in my own abilities.

    Thanks for your post. It’s helped me realize why I am were I am right now.

    And that’s grateful for the entire experience.

  4. Mark;
    I got a lot out of this post. I recently posted an article on my blog about the lack ethics of someone I had engaged as an internet business coach… some of the comments were critical of the fact that I used some strong inferences and they questioned my character, morals, and motives… my motives were simply to warn others… several comments left comments saying they had experienced the same thing with this person. Still it’s hard to not let a critical comment eat away at you and fire back something not so nice.

    I also wanted to leave a comment to your “Ho’oponopono, then and now” post that I’m really looking forward to your book/dvd.

  5. I really agree to what u wrote…The problem is the ego and all the memories we carry… in my humble opinion. If I see what is real and what is illusion in the present now, everything is all right. Love, Light and Peace

  6. Dear Mark,
    Thank you for your thoughts on criticism.
    I agree, if the fear of criticism stops us from being creative that would be rather sad, since criticism allows us to gain a greater perspective of our personal view or understanding.
    Here is what I am criticizing and it comes truly from my heart (I had already expressed it in an email earlier.)
    Your DVD ‘subliminal manifestation ZERO LIMITS’ promises to getting clear to our divine purpose using an ancient Hawaiian secret. What a great goal! But then to watch the DVD and have in the Subliminal Hypnotic Cleansing Immersion and in the 5 Minute SUPER Cleaning video ads appear for Faber Castell, Pink Pearl a.o.,
    ruined the purpose completely.
    I felt upset and offended that you used the hypnotic state of the viewer not to get clear to the divine purpose but to put more “staff” to clear into their minds. It’s my understanding that you can only have done this for the financial benefits from those companies at the cost of the viewers.
    I have got other DVD’s that are really supportive and the price range is between $19 – $25.
    I don’t know if you understand my disappointment, but here it is and it is as I said before truly coming from my heart.
    I beg for an explanation for my own sanity.

    Love and peace,

    1. Actually, Petra, that image is a stock image photo that was used in order to elicit the unconscious image of erasing and clearing. Neither Joe or I received any remuneration whatsoever from any company for any of the images used in any of the Subliminal Manifestation videos. In fact, we paid a stock photography service in order to use the images.

      In terms of the pricing for the DVDs, please keep in mind the intent of the DVDs. They are meant to clear unconscious patterns and beliefs quickly and easily. To do this type of clearing with a therapist would run hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Of course, the DVDs are meant to complement your clearing efforts and are not meant to replace working with a licensed therapist. But when working on yourself, these tools are very helpful towards those clearing goals.

      Thank you for your questions. It is important to ask questions before you become upset at a conclusion that you’ve arrived at based on erroneous data.

  7. Great post, Mark. I’ve been involved in a few discussions on this topic recently, as you know, and have seen just the kind of inappropriate, defensive responses to criticism that you describe (and worse!). In far too many instances, requests for information to support unlikely (to put it mildly) claims are responded to with condescending dismissiveness and/or outright attacks upon the critic/questioner’s intelligence or integrity. It’s not difficult to see the fear in such responses, which – of course – serves to further diminish the credibility of the responder. Ironically, the supposed “teachers” who exhibit such behavior seem incapable of comprehending just how much damage they do to their own images by behaving in such an immature manner.

    To be honest, I can’t help but chuckle at folks who will actually engage in this manner in a discussion on an easily-accessible online forum, make complete asses opf themselves, then go back and edit/delete any content that challenges them or that might make them appear less intelligent and/or evolved. Perhaps they think that once their “offerings” are deleted or edited, they no longer exist… talk about heads in the sand! People like this do more to damage their own interests than could any critic, no matter how scathing the criticism or how vitriolic the presentation.

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