Turning Criticism into Growth


Cynthia Lan

Having an open mind can turn criticism feedback into your own growth.

Cynthia Lan, Photojournalist

There is a saying that “A heartfelt advice can be jars to the ears, yet it can benefit one’s action.” This is like how medicine can taste bad, but it’s good for your health. Everyone loves to hear people’s compliments; still, your loved ones like to point out your weaknesses and things you did wrong. Even though you know you should listen to some advice, you also feel like sometimes they’re not quite right. This article can guide you through the process of criticism and how to turn that into your own growth.


Before all, it is important for readers to understand that there are different various forms of criticism: some can be constructive and helpful, while some may be destructive and harmful. Learning to distinguish between these two can lead you to an easier life. 


On one hand, positive criticism is feedback that can help you improve the things you did. It is objective, actionable, and is said with regard to the person’s feelings. For example, after you finish your presentation in class, your friends tell you that you might need to be more confident and increase your body language next time. Besides that, they love your slides’ design and ideas. This is acceptable criticism from others that is for your good.


On the other hand, destructive criticism is feedback that is intended to hurt or belittle you. It is vague, subjective, and unhelpful. For example, you have a passion for writing articles to spread your ideas. After finishing a paragraph, you want to let your friends read it to make sure it sounds good so far. Instead of the nice comment you expected, your friend showed a shocked reaction and tells you that your paragraphs are terrible and says that you should know why. Now you think in your head that you are foolish and have a laughable dream, which  bothers you. This is deconstructive feedback because it doesn’t offer any specific suggestions on how to improve. Instead of thinking if you didn’t get the point, forget it and move on, or get feedback from someone else such as a language art teacher. “When I think [the criticism is] correct, I confirm it, and when I don’t agree with the criticism, I won’t let it bother me” Journey Mou (9).

When I think [the criticism is] correct, I confirm it, and when I don’t agree with the criticism, I won’t let it bother me.

— Journey Mou (9)

Moreover, when receiving criticism, it’s crucial to consider the source: who are you taking it from? Is the person someone you trust and respect? Do they have experience in that area you are asking about? The comment would be more valuable if the answers are yes. However, you can’t fully rely on just one source. Some critical thinking would be needed as well, even if the person who’s offering feedback is trustworthy. Since everybody can make mistakes sometimes, you need to discover yourself which part you can take and use.


In addition to considering sources, it’s also important to maintain a growth mindset when criticized, instead of seeing criticism as something negative, think, what can I learn from this? What else can I learn? The transition from “I’m right” to “I could be wrong” is tough, but if you take it as an opportunity to grow and learn, you can become a more knowledgeable person. Never take it personally; if you don’t fully understand what the person is saying, ask for clarification, document solutions, listen and think. This skill is not easy to learn, but step by step, you will get better.


Likewise, when you are critical of another person, it is important to approach the situation with empathy. Visualize why they made this decision from their perspective, and then think about how you would express your criticism. Express your concerns first and offer criticism in a constructive way to help them in the future. Avoid attacking the person’s character and personality and focus on specific actions that need improvement. You can also provide examples for him or her to fully understand. It is also important to listen to their reactions and be open to their views. Remember to end on a positive note, offering encouragement and support as they try to make a difference.


All in all, criticism can be an invaluable tool for personal growth, but it is important to distinguish between constructive and destructive criticism, consider the source, and maintain a growth mindset. When offering criticism to others, approach the situation empathetically, focus on specific behaviors or actions, and make suggestions for improvement. Overall, criticism can be challenging, but if approached correctly, it can lead to personal development and success.