It’s inevitable, really. If you spend time with people, you will get criticized. Not by everyone (hopefully) or about everything (hopefully), but people, by nature, can’t seem to get by without offering (supposedly) helpful advice or feedback.

Let’s get clear on one thing- criticism never feels good. Nobody likes it, especially when it feels unwarranted or is very severe.

The most you can do, really, is reshape your thoughts and feelings about criticism. I’d like to start by sharing with you that no place in life is as rife with criticism as graduate school.

In the guise of intellectual integrity or sophisticated discourse, there is a great deal of back-stabbing that happens. All of this can get in your way; muddying your feelings and making it hard to focus on the dissertation.

I spoke with someone about this earlier today. She is working on her dissertation and is also working full-time as a lecturer. She is struggling because she has little time to work on her dissertation (though she desperately wants to finish) and she’s having some interpersonal problems with the chair of her department, who seems to be constantly criticizing her teaching skills, style, and approach to the subject matter in her classes.

As you can imagine, she’s already overworked, kind of stressed out, and is having trouble focusing on the dissertation.

Now, I don’t expect anyone to focus 100% on the dissertation when "LIFE" is going on, but, really, for this particular individual, finishing her dissertation is the fastest route to get out of her current situation.

In the meantime, though, here’s what I suggested to her about dealing with the criticism, and I expect it will be useful for you too:

Criticism hurts more when you don’t have enough social support in your life. When you don’t have at least 5 people who think you’re wonderful no matter what criticism cuts more deeply.

Criticism hurts worse when you are tired, stressed, or have run yourself ragged. When you are feeling good, it’s difficult to take criticism so personally.

Criticism is not always in your best interest, and isn’t always meant to serve you. If it hurts you, it’s never helpful. You can ask people to provide feedback in more constructive ways.

Finally, when you have been (or felt) criticized, your best bet is to try and distract yourself as soon as you can. Don’t relive the criticism over and over- that just makes it bigger and feels worse.

Talk out any criticism with people who love you, and aim to work through it as soon as possible. Don’t pretend it didn’t hurt. Instead, find a way to make it better.