December 4, 2023
Personal Growth

How to Accept Criticism and Learn from Your Mistakes: Overcoming Your Ego’s Defensiveness

How to Accept Criticism and Learn from Your Mistakes


In both personal and professional settings, receiving criticism can be a difficult experience. Our ego often responds defensively, trying to protect us from the discomfort of admitting mistakes or shortcomings. However, accepting criticism and learning from our mistakes is an essential part of personal and professional growth. In this article, we will explore why defensiveness is a common response to criticism, and how to overcome it to learn from feedback. We will also provide additional tips for accepting criticism and embracing a growth mindset. By learning to accept criticism and view it as an opportunity for growth, we can become more resilient, successful, and fulfilled in both our personal and professional lives.

What is Criticism and Why it Can be Difficult to Accept?

Criticism is feedback that is given to someone about their behavior, performance, or actions. It can be positive or negative, and it is meant to help the person improve their skills or correct their mistakes. However, criticism can be difficult to accept because it often challenges our sense of self-worth and competence. It can trigger feelings of defensiveness, insecurity, and inadequacy, making us feel vulnerable and uncomfortable. Additionally, our natural tendency to seek approval and validation from others can make criticism feel like a personal attack or rejection. This can be especially true in professional settings, where our performance is closely tied to our job security and career advancement. As a result, many people respond defensively to criticism, rejecting or denying feedback rather than using it to improve.

The Importance of Learning From Mistakes and Accepting Feedback

Learning from mistakes and accepting feedback is essential for personal and professional growth. It allows us to identify areas where we need to improve, and make changes to achieve our goals. When we accept feedback, we are showing a willingness to learn and grow, which is a valuable trait in any setting. By acknowledging our mistakes, we can take steps to prevent them from happening again, and develop new skills or habits that will help us succeed. Moreover, accepting feedback can lead to stronger relationships, as it shows that we value and respect the opinions of others. In a professional setting, this can lead to better collaboration, teamwork, and ultimately, better results for the organization. By learning to accept criticism and use it constructively, we can become more effective, successful, and fulfilled in both our personal and professional lives.

The final proof of greatness lies in being able to endure criticism without resentment.

Elbert Hubbard

Why Defensiveness is a Common Response to Criticism?

Defensiveness is a common response to criticism because it is a natural human reaction to protect our self-esteem and self-worth. Criticism can trigger feelings of vulnerability, insecurity, and inadequacy, which can threaten our sense of identity and competence. Our brains are wired to respond to threats with a “fight or flight” response, and when we receive criticism, our brains perceive it as a threat to our self-image. Defensiveness is a way to protect ourselves from feeling ashamed, embarrassed, or devalued by the feedback. It can also be a way to maintain a positive self-image and avoid admitting mistakes or weaknesses. In addition, defensiveness can be reinforced by societal and cultural messages that emphasize individualism, success, and achievement, and view mistakes as failures or signs of weakness. All of these factors can make it difficult to accept criticism and learn from our mistakes, but with awareness and practice, we can overcome defensiveness and use feedback to improve and grow.

How to Overcome Defensiveness and Learn From Criticism?

Overcoming defensiveness and learning from criticism can be challenging, but it is a valuable skill to develop in both personal and professional settings. Here are some strategies that can help:

  1. Listen Actively: When receiving criticism, listen carefully to what the other person is saying without interrupting or reacting defensively. Ask questions to clarify their feedback, and demonstrate that you value their opinion.
  2. Separate the Feedback From Your Self-worth: Remember that criticism is not a reflection of your worth as a person, but rather an opportunity to improve your skills or behavior. Try to view feedback as a gift, rather than an attack on your character.
  3. Acknowledge the Feedback: Take ownership of the feedback and acknowledge that you have heard it. Avoid making excuses or blaming others, and focus on what you can do to address the issue.
  4. Take a Break: If you feel defensive or emotional, take a break to calm down before responding. This can help you approach the feedback more objectively and with a clearer head.
  5. Reframe the Criticism: Try to reframe the feedback in a positive light. Instead of viewing it as a personal attack, view it as an opportunity to learn and grow. Look for ways to use the feedback to improve your performance and achieve your goals.
  6. Practice Self-compassion: Remember that making mistakes and receiving criticism is a normal part of the learning process. Be kind to yourself, and don’t let your self-worth be defined by your mistakes or shortcomings.

Additional Tips for Accepting Criticism

In addition to the strategies mentioned above, here are some additional tips for accepting criticism:

  1. Seek Feedback Regularly: Regularly seeking feedback from others can help you develop a growth mindset and become more comfortable with receiving criticism. Ask for feedback from colleagues, mentors, or supervisors on a regular basis.
  2. Consider the Source: When receiving criticism, consider the source of the feedback. Is it coming from someone you trust and respect? Are they providing feedback that is relevant to your goals and responsibilities? Evaluating the source can help you determine the value of the feedback.
  3. Take Time to Reflect: After receiving feedback, take some time to reflect on the feedback and how you can use it to improve. Write down the feedback and your thoughts on how to address it. This can help you internalize the feedback and turn it into actionable steps.
  4. Don’t Take it Personally: Remember that criticism is not a personal attack, but rather an opportunity to improve. Try to detach your emotions from the feedback and view it objectively.
  5. Be Open-minded: Approach criticism with an open mind, and try to see things from the other person’s perspective. Remember that their feedback may be valuable and can help you improve.
  6. Focus on the Behavior, Not the Person: Instead of taking criticism as a personal attack, try to focus on the specific behavior or action that is being criticized. This can help you avoid getting defensive and allow you to address the issue more effectively.
  7. Don’t be Too Hard on Yourself: It’s easy to be self-critical when receiving feedback, but it’s important to be kind to yourself and avoid negative self-talk. Remember that everyone makes mistakes, and that criticism is an opportunity to learn and grow.


In conclusion, accepting criticism is an important skill to develop in both personal and professional settings. It allows for growth and improvement, and can help avoid future mistakes. Overcoming defensiveness is a crucial step in accepting criticism, and can be achieved by listening actively, reframing the criticism, and taking time to reflect on the feedback. By keeping an open mind and being receptive to constructive feedback, individuals can turn criticism into an opportunity for growth and development.

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