Use It For Your Good: Responding Positively To Negative Criticism

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January 7, 2013 ‐ By Kendra Koger

Will you please come with me to the Celine Dion concert?

When I was in high school, there was no way you could have told me that those relationships I fostered within those halls weren’t going to last.  When people would say:  “You’re going to forget the friendships you had in high school, but the ones you make in college are going to last,” I was determined to prove them wrong.  Well, those people were partially right.  I did keep a few of those friendships, I had no problem ending a few, especially one particular friendship over what I felt were unnecessary words.

In high school I was very thin though I never really exercised.  However, I was very active.  Besides being extremely hyper and constantly bouncing off the walls, I was also in marching band where we would have 2 to 6 hour practices that had us moving and marching for hours.  So, I could continue to eat very unhealthily (I’m a burger girl) but still stay thin.

When I got to college, I didn’t engage in physical activity but continued to eat extremely crazy, resulting in massive weight gain (30 pounds in a semester).  I rarely came home on breaks, so I didn’t see one of my high school friends for about two or three years.  I finally come home and she comes to my door and picks me up to go out to eat.  The moment I opened the door, her eyes immediately zoomed in on my stomach.  Honestly, I was in partial denial about my weight gain, and was still attempting to pour myself in clothes that I couldn’t fit; therefore looking like an overstuffed burrito.  (God, sometimes I’m too honest in these stories.  All right, let’s continue with my shame…)

The entire time we’re at the restaurant she’s looking me over and kept uttering comments like:  “I mean, but what happened to you?…  You used to be so pretty.  I mean… you gained so much weight!”  I tried to ignore it but when I was absentmindedly flipping through the menu and reached the desert section and she quickly reached over and turned the menu to the salad section, I got offended.  We ate, went to a movie, she dropped me off, and I immediately erased her number from my phone.  At that moment, I was too done.  Though I was still trying to fit (unsuccessfully) into my old clothes, I knew deep down that I had turned into a “big’um.”  I wasn’t ignorant to the fact that the only comfortable item I had to wear was my oversized college hoodie, I was just HOPEFUL that I was being too hard on myself and I didn’t look as bad as I did.

For a very long time I held that grudge.  It wasn’t until someone asked me about a year ago why the friendship ended and I began to tell them.  The other person I talked to started going in on my ex-friend.  That’s when I surprised myself by defending her:  “You know what, yeah, she was bogus for how she went at it, but honestly, I had gained some weight then.  Even though she was rude by how she said it, it did make me more conscious about what I ate and it did encourage me to work out more.”

Now, whether we want to admit it or not, humans are very sensitive beings.  No matter how much people want to argue with:  “It’s unprofessional to get angry at negative criticism,” we all know that the moment someone goes in you, your natural reaction is to get defensive.  But what I’m addressing now is that even during those very rude moments that you can’t avoid, try to find something positive from it to better yourself.  People can always use more tact with the way they criticize you, and they’ll never put themselves in your shoes and think:  “Is this a way that I would like to be talked to?”  But once you get past the ridiculousness, there might be something in that nugget of insults that you can use to make yourself a better person.

Now, I’m not as thin as I was in high school, but I’m definitely not as fat as I was when I saw my former friend.  But whenever I feel very sluggish and don’t want to work out, that conversation encourages me to make healthier decisions in my life.  Whether she was trying to help me, I don’t know, but without that conversation I honestly couldn’t start helping myself.

Kendra Koger is on twitter @kkoger.

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