Credit: Jason Weiss for Fredi
In my line(s) of work, I receive a lot of feedback. From a lot of people. On a lot of things.
As a Co-founder, my business partners often serve as mirrors for me. They show me where my strengths are and where I still need to grow. They point out my mistakes, they see into my messy creative process, and they help me filter the bad ideas from the promising ones.
Over time, I have come to learn how to appreciate hearing the things I don’t want to hear about myself. I’ve had to adjust my mindset to one that is grateful — excited, even— to be exposed to my own weaknesses, rather than feeling down on myself or discouraged. This is because I have learned that with every step I take to grow into the best version of myself, my self-doubt shrinks, and my confidence grows.
Don’t get me wrong, this process has not been linear. Self-doubt does sneak its way back into my mindset at times, but ever since learning how to lean into my growth areas and use constructive feedback productively, I’ve felt my confidence soar. I’ve been able to prove to myself time after time that I can strengthen my weaknesses once I face them.
"I’ve had to adjust my mindset to one that is grateful — excited, even— to be exposed to my own weaknesses."
This may sound uncomfortable to you, and it absolutely is. Growth in general is full of discomfort— but trying to keep your weaknesses in the dark only leaves room for self-doubt to lurk in the shadows.
Changing your mindset to embrace constructive feedback and to grow through it all comes down to one key characteristic: In order to continue to learn and improve as leaders and professionals, and to grow into the strongest, most confident versions of ourselves, we must carry with us a sense of humility.
In essence, to be humble simply means to be grounded (literally, the latin root “hum” translates to “of the earth”)! In practice, it means to have a sense that we are not fundamentally better or worse than anyone else, and that the ideas and values of others are equally important to our own, whether or not we agree.
"trying to keep your weaknesses in the dark only leaves room for self-doubt to lurk in the shadows."
Remember: confidence is not arrogance. Confidence is a feeling of self-assurance or certainty in your own worth and capabilities. Arrogance is an exaggerated sense of your own abilities. When we lose sight of humility and let arrogance creep in, we instantly start to fall behind.
I love to remind myself that innovations are being made every single day, and every person on this planet knows something that I don’t.
If we are unwilling to be honest about our weaknesses, or when we shut down our minds with the belief that we know everything or that our ideas are inherently the best, or that our way is the only right way, we shut out opportunities to learn and improve.
"Confidence is not arrogance."
It’s no wonder that so many people struggle to receive constructive feedback. We are often told from birth that we are special, that we can do or be anything — in fact, we can do or be everything! We’re told to reach for the stars, so despite our human instinct to stay grounded and do things in our own way at our own pace, instead we try to prove our worth by rising higher, until we’re all struggling and straining to keep up with and exceed one another. This is a recipe for instability— for wavering between crushing self-doubt and limiting arrogance.
We get so hung up in our narratives of success (or failure), and it can be challenging to recognize when we’re in a pattern of missing out on everything those around us have to teach us. We want so badly to just be the best, that we forget about the practice of becoming. We forget that we’re allowed to feel steady and confident in who we are, even when we’re not the best. We forget to trust in our own ability to strengthen our weaknesses whenever we encounter them.
Here are a few ways to check your humility and lean into your growth areas:
Acknowledge when you're being defensive.
Criticism bumps into our arrogant egos and makes us feel threatened by self-doubt. This is why our knee-jerk reaction is so often to defend ourselves against criticism. It’s totally normal, but it is important to recognize when it’s happening. That’s not logic talking, that’s your ego talking. Your ego is fragile, and it likes to see itself for all of your best qualities and achievements— and nothing else. When your ego hears negative feedback, it feels misunderstood and it wants to prove its worth. Simply acknowledge this protective voice in your head, and kindly remind your ego that it’s not being threatened by the opinions of others, and that finding a weakness doesn’t mean your strengths are any less amazing.
Ask yourself: is this sound feedback?
While it’s important to keep an open mind and keep that ego in check, there is also an art in knowing when to stand your ground. If you acknowledge that their feedback is making you feel unsteady, wavering between self-doubt or ego-driven arrogance, consider whether the person giving you feedback has the best intentions for you, if they are informed with all the context of the situation, if you trust their judgment, and it the feedback is specific and constructive.
If you can’t say yes to all of those questions and you’re feeling defensive against the feedback, you can still keep an open mind by filtering through their feedback for the valuable nuggets of wisdom that do apply to you. Only you will know the difference between your ego flaring up and your self-confidence getting bruised— slow down, and listen to what your gut is telling you.
If you do feel they are a well-intentioned, informed, and trustworthy feedback-giver, it might be a good time to give your ego some coaxing reminders to chill out.
Listen to the feedback, and really consider what they are saying before deciding whether or not to take their advice.
Start asking for feedback more often.
Everyone can feel caught off-guard by unwelcome criticism. We’re far more likely to be defensive when we hear feedback in this way, and we’re less likely to grow from it, even when it’s valuable.
Get in the habit of asking your peers questions like: “How could I have communicated that better?” and “If you had to choose one thing to improve about my presentation, what would that be?”
When we create a safe space for our egos to receive constructive feedback, we give ourselves the opportunity to get used to hearing it, and trusting that it’s not meant to hurt us.
Remind yourself: “negative feedback leads to good results.”
This is a quote from a great episode from the WorkLife Podcast with Adam Grant. You must teach yourself to remember that feedback may feel negative in the moment, but it usually comes from a place of positivity, care, and optimism.
Understanding and addressing your weaknesses is how you grow! The more you can internalize this, the easier it will be to stay humble and receive feedback.
Being open to learning and growing from feedback is a skill that requires practice. We must train our fragile egos to trust that feedback is not meant to hurt us, but in fact is here to help us grow into a better version of ourselves, so we can continue to grow.
"Finding a weakness does not mean your strengths are any less amazing."
Next time you’re feeling criticized, challenge yourself to change your mindset and see the negative feedback as an opportunity to grow. Remind yourself that you have strength, even when you’re facing a weakness. Trust yourself and your ability to strengthen your weaknesses, and to grow as you go.
Stay humble, take your ego out of it, stay open-minded, and feel your confidence soar.
Keep growing, gals!
PS: check out that podcast, “How to Love Criticism” from WorkLife with Adam Grant!