Kelly Spartonos, LCSW

Feedback used to be a dirty word in my book. 

Well- I was okay with feedback if it was positive, because in the story I’d told myself as a massive perfectionist ONLY praise was acceptable, anything other than a glowing positive statement meant to me that I’d failed somehow. I’d recoil, cry, lash out defensively, feel discouraged or worst case-abandon the task I’d started out of fear.

Then I grew up, went out into the real world, and found this feedback concept wasn’t something I could avoid, and I learned (somewhat painfully) that I needed to open up to it in order to grow into the woman I wanted to be, and have a professional career. I learned I wasn’t alone in this, both in my experiences as a psychotherapist and in discussions with family and friends. I read one of my favorite little self- development books “Love is letting go of fear” and delved deeper into the topic.

Life brought me this lesson time and time again- in the form of an employer (not so nicely) putting down my work, a mentor giving me a laundry list of pointers to elevate my therapy sessions, a coach correcting my technique as I deadlifted. 

Gradually, I learned not to vilify the people who provided me with this feedback, saw them as my teachers, and applied the lessons to my life. I honed my techniques, made changes, and grew as a person. 

Once I learned to notice then drop the “I have to be perfect all the time in order to have worth as a person- therefore any suggestion for improvement is a threat that must be neutralized” complex it was easier to shift from a lens of attack and fear to one of love when something needs to be improved.

I still have to fight off that initial pang of fear that creeps up when I’m given constructive criticism, and catch myself from time to time being defensive. As it is with any habit we are trying to break- this isn’t an all or nothing path. It’s not the complete absence of fear I’m going for, but instead reduce the time spent in the feeling before I identify it and choose to return to love. 

Here a few of my tips to help you step out of fear move to gratitude when feedback is sent your way:

  1. Recognize that you don’t have to believe or apply this feedback, just accept that it is happening and remain calm
  2. Give yourself permission to be human, and make mistakes
  3. Get excited that this is an opportunity for growth
  4. Bring in some Gratitude- name three things in that moment that you are grateful for, even if they are small.
  5. Breathe. Now is a time to use your mindfulness tools, say a short mantra, then return to the situation with a new perspective.

For more on seeing feedback as a gift, check out a blog I recently recorded for Fitposium.