No matter what, criticism and rejection are just a part of life. We’ve all faced disappointment at some point, but it never seems to get easier. Being rejected or criticized is just a fact of life if you want to put yourself out there. And if you want to accomplish your dreams or really anything in life, you’ve got to put yourself out there.
When I quit my job and started my company, I steeled myself for the inevitable hard times that come with being an entrepreneur. I knew that the road was not likely to be easy, and so I prepared myself for the criticism and (gasp!) even rejection that so many others who had gone before me experienced. However, because I knew that I would have so many more challenges to face as an entrepreneur, I came up with a game plan to minimize the heartache I’d feel every time someone didn’t like my product or an investor told me “no.” I figured if I could build a strong strategy to ward off the depression that so often comes with criticism and rejection, it would be one less entrepreneurial hurdle to overcome.
So I set out to figure out the best ways to overcome criticism and rejection and tested them in action – the first time we got a bad review, the first time someone said my idea wasn’t a winner – and then finetuned them based on my own experiences. What resulted are these 5 tips which I believe are the key to getting through criticism and rejection, in no matter what area of your life you experience them, like a champ.
Acknowledge How You Feel
Not to get all therapist on you, but I think the first step to overcoming criticism and rejection is to acknowledge that it sucks. There are too many self-help books and voices out there telling us to let negativity roll off our backs but what they fail to realize is we need to fully acknowledge and accept something before we can let it go.
So when I receive a criticism or a rejection, the first thing I do is loudly state how I feel (this is usually done alone in my office so as to not concern the people around me). I will literally stand in the middle of my office and yell “This really sucks!” (and yes, there is a usually an expletive thrown in there).
Once I’ve acknowledged that it does in fact suck, I’m in a better spot for two reasons – first, because I’ve had the chance to let go some of that negativity through verbal expression. If you don’t know what I mean, the next time you are upset about something, find a quiet corner in your house and scream at the top of your lungs. Trust me, it works. Secondly, acknowledging how I feel is my way of giving myself a hug – I’m telling myself that it’s okay to feel bad about the situation instead of feeling guilty about it. Once I’ve given myself that compassion, it’s a lot easier to find the strength to move through it.
Remember That This Is Normal
This is a hard thing to remember, but it’s so important. EVERYONE GOES THROUGH CRITICISM AND REJECTION. No matter who you are, no matter how successful you are, no matter how much money you have, everyone has faced criticism or rejection at some point in their lives. While it doesn’t necessarily take the sting away, I find it is calming to remind myself that I’m not the only one this has happened to, and that facing criticism and rejection does not diminish my chances of being successful or achieving my goals.
Having compassion for yourself is important, no matter the situation. I mentioned above that it’s important to have compassion for your initial feelings about criticism and rejection, but it’s also critical to maintain that compassion as you work through the situation you’re in. Often times receiving the criticism or the rejection isn’t the end of the story – there may be more for us to do (for example, responding to a negative review, following up on a customer complaint, etc.). How we handle the criticism and rejection says a lot about us as business owners (and humans!), but it’s not always easy to craft and deliver the appropriate response. Have compassion for yourself as you work through handling the situation, understanding that you may stumble and won’t always get everything right. We are all works in progress and that’s okay.
Discover Your Coping Method
To make it as an entrepreneur, you must figure out what you need to cope with the tough stuff. For some people, it’s finding an outlet to let out your stress – perhaps yelling (see above), working out, or singing at the top of your lungs. For others, it may be more of a calming activity – taking a hot bath, drinking a glass of wine, or going for a walk. Whatever it is, figure out what it is that calms you down enough so that you can get to the next phase – dealing with it.
For me, my coping method changes depending on the situation. If something happens that makes me angry, I need an outlet that lets me get that extra angry energy out, like yelling or singing. It something happens that makes me sad, I allow myself the room to have a good cry over a glass of wine. Either way, I’ve stopped pretending like I can get through anything and everything without my coping methods; now, when something negative happens, I immediately call a time-out and take the steps I need to work through it.
Learn From It
You know those super annoying people who say “everything happens for a reason” or “there’s a lesson in everything.” Well sorry, but I’m about to be one of them (and I HATE those people, so bear with me). Here’s the thing. For most of us, we don’t have the luxury of wasting our time and resources because both are likely somewhat limited. Therefore, I have to make the most of everything I have. I am nothing if not efficient – if I have to take a meeting in a far-away part of the state, I will plan networking meetings and other business opportunities just to take advantage of the disruption to my schedule. So it’s no surprise, then, that I try to make the most out of criticism and rejection.
When I receive a criticism, instead of disregarding it, I take it as an opportunity to learn. I figure that if the criticism is correct, then I’ve been given an opportunity to improve, and if it’s not, I’ve at least completed a performance review of sorts on myself and my business, which I think is a valuable thing to do regularly. So when I receive a criticism, I immediately ask myself these three questions:
- Does any part of this feel true?
- Is the person giving the criticism my target market? If yes, what can this potentially tell me about my target market?
- If there are suggestions embedded in the criticism, can I easily and inexpensively implement them and then measure those results?
As a business owner, I recognize the importance of listening to my customers, being open to feedback and creating an environment that encourages new ideas. I have to balance this with staying true to my and my business’ principles, which is no easy task. But when I keep an open mind about criticism and take every piece as an opportunity to learn something, I am able to view criticism and rejection as adding value to my business’ journey.
There’s no question, receiving criticism and rejection is no fun. No one enjoys it and nothing I or anyone else tells you is going to change that. But with a slight mindset shift, a solid plan to cope and an open mind, you can turn criticism and rejection into an opportunity to improve yourself and your business instead of a situation that cripples you.