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Here’s How I Responded to Some Negative Feedback


I used to strive for perfection – good grades, kind friend, receiver of positive feedback, praise and love no matter where I went. To add to this, I used to care very much about how others perceived me.

So what would happen the moment someone threw some criticism or negative feedback my way? Cue tears, anxiety, and a disconnected feeling from self.

Eventually, I got a little wiser as I learned that perfectionism was no way to live. It’s no fun hanging my worth on other people’s words.

Although as a founder I put myself out there on a daily basis, and I live by “progress not perfection,” I still need a reminder that perfection is bullshit and you can’t please everyone.

The other day I received some less-than-ideal feedback on a work project. I took a step back to process, and as I gave myself time to assess, I started to feel grateful. Two years ago negative feedback would have sent me into a very dark place. This time, I handled it differently.

Here are the four things I did to move past negative feedback, push through perfectionism and continue as a mission-driven founder.

(1)  Feel like Sh*t

I’m fine…really. That moment of wanting to hurry up and feel better.

I’ve said this before, but it’s so important to sit with our feelings especially when we want to rush through them.

Do you feel like a failure? Fine.

Are your feelings hurt? OK.

Do the other person’s words infuriate you? 

Process it all – the hurt, the disappointment, the anger, whatever it may be.

Giving myself permission to feel bad is so liberating. It takes some time (a.k.a it will not take me one hour but rather a day or two), but this is the more productive path because I’m not putting a bandaid on the problem. Furthermore, it’s an opportunity to build my resilience.

If you’ve failed before or someone said something that seriously stung, I get it.

Sit with the sting. Let yourself feel bad for awhile.

(2)  Turn that Negative into a Positive

You may have heard that if you’re not failing, you’re not trying hard enough. This is an important reminder especially when you’re getting that painful feedback or someone says your work is crap.

There are several reasons someone could give you that type of feedback from they’re a hater to they can’t take responsibility for their own lives and outcomes or they have a legitimate point that can help you grow.

The reason right now doesn’t matter. Celebrate the negative feedback as it’s a sign you’re putting yourself out there. And what will the result be?

Whether you’re in a 9 to 5 or running your own business, the growth you experience will lead to improved output. How will the growth you experience impact your work moving forward?

(3)  Develop a Framework for Analyzing Feedback

It’s easy to get some feedback at work or on a project and think – I must make changes immediately. I’ve fallen into this trap so many times, and I’m constantly working on it.

Whether it’s getting feedback on a career transition or a project at work, have a list of questions and criteria that can help you analyze what’s being shared with you.

For example:  

  • What’s the role of the person providing the feedback, and how are they connected to your work?
  • What are her goals and how do they differ from yours? Do you even have the same goals?
  • Have you heard this feedback before?

A friend and colleague Lindsay Tabas, Founder of The Lady Engineer’s Secret Advantage, stresses identifying a pattern in your feedback before jumping to make any changes. For example, if you’re in the process of a 360-degree review, get feedback from at least a handful of people. If at least three people are sharing a similar evaluation, there’s a theme there.

(4) Release It

Whether you take the feedback to heart and implement changes, or you ignore it altogether, don’t hold on to it.

Go back to making progress and striving for excellence, but know that perfectionism will only hold you back.

Have you received any negative feedback at work? How do you process it? What’s one thing you can do differently when processing negative or positive feedback?

Belma McCaffrey

Author Belma McCaffrey

More posts by Belma McCaffrey

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