How Do You Feel When Someone Criticizes You? by John Cali

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I had a chance—two chances, in fact—to answer that question recently. The answer in both cases was “Not very good.”

I generally respond to criticism kindly, even if the critic is not being kind. Within this past month two people have harshly criticized my spiritual work, and me personally.

The first I had never met and did not know. In fact, she obviously knew nothing about my work. Except one thing—she didn’t like it.

The other was a formerly close friend who’d enthusiastically supported my work for many years. We’d drifted apart but had stayed in touch, and were friendly. Then suddenly, “out of the blue,” she launched into a vicious personal tirade against me, detailing all the ways she thought I was a failure.

I fussed and fumed about both incidents for a few days. Then I realized I was making myself miserable for no good reason. My spirit guides and I have written and spoken about this very topic many times. Why was I not listening to their and my own advice?

If we create our own realities, as I believe—and as many teachers say, then I created these two experiences.

Clearly, there was something in myself I needed to look at. The obvious answer (at least it was obvious to me) was it really doesn’t matter what people think or say about me. But if I cannot divorce myself emotionally from other people’s opinions, negative or positive, then something is lacking in me.

While we are all teachers and students for each other, this world needs a lot more positive energy than we’re giving it. The more we can uplift and inspire one another, the more we help to heal others and ourselves.

So, after a few days, I decided to take a lighthearted approach to those two complaints, and to all others from now on. (If you’ll closely examine the above image, you’ll see the humor in it.)

If folks want to complain to me, that’s their right. And I’ll listen if it’s well-intended. But if it’s mean-spirited, as were the two recent complaints I received, I’ll just ignore them. No response is needed, as that only adds to the negative, downward energy spiral.

Anyone who puts her/himself out there into the public eye, as many of us do, is never going to please everyone. As Abraham Lincoln supposedly said (it’s not certain he actually said it, but the words are still wise): “You can please some of the people some of the time, all of the people some of the time, some of the people all of the time. But you can never please all of the people all of the time.”

Here’s a wonderfully uplifting video from Gabby Bernstein, a delightful woman whose wisdom far exceeds her relatively young age.

Related links:
Does It Matter What Other People Say or Think About You?
Opinions: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
Other People’s Opinions
Detachment: The Road To Inner Peace


How do you feel when someone criticizes you? How do you react to their criticism, especially if it’s harsh or unjustified? Please share your thoughts and comments with us below.

What other subjects would you like us to talk about in these posts? Please email me.


About John Cali

John Cali is a writer, blogger, and channel for a group of spirit guides. His next book is Real Answers to Life’s Pesky Questions: Conversations With Spirit, Book 1. John lives in northwestern Wyoming.

29 Responses

  1. Sarah D

    Hi John,
    I was sorry to read that you were the butt of some unpleasantness. Its inspiring to read that you came through this with a positive outlook.
    I, personally, have always been sensitive to criticism and this has caused me a great deal of discomfort in the past.
    I’ve been practising Mindfulness and this is helping me greatly. Mindfulness, as you probably know, is paying attention to the present and allowing events to unfold and arise as they will without judgement. So if painful things arise, then they are acknowledged and observed but then they are released without judgement including self judgement or criticism. I find this very therapeutic and combined with the meditation it brings me a lot of peace.

    • John Cali

      Thank you very much, Sarah.

      I thought I was pretty immune to criticism — and I am mostly. But obviously there was still a bit of that sensitivity for me to clear. So I’m grateful these 2 incidents provided me with that precise opportunity.

      I think mindfulness is a powerful tool. As with you, I’ve found present-moment awareness and meditation great tools for creating more peace in our lives.

  2. Sarah

    This is great, thank you! I have been finding it hard to stay positive, or even neutral, lately when my choices as a person and parent have been scoffed at and made fun of and I’ve been on the receiving end of some pretty nasty behaviour from my mother and father-in-law. It can be so hard!

  3. John Cali

    I want to thank all of you who sent me so many public and private messages of love and support in response to this post.

    I’m deeply grateful to every one of you, and feel truly blessed to have you in my life.

    God bless you all!

  4. Jeannie

    When people criticise another it is because they are afraid of them. There is something in the person they are criticising that they fear are within them. Everything in life is a reflection. It can hurt a great deal until we say……..I am me and whatever they see in me isn’t me but their own idea’s about themselves reflected onto me.
    It’s hard not to feel hurt from others but as you said don’t engage with them. The moment you try to explain yourself you are adding fuel to the fire, walking away the negative energy doesn’t increase and in a way you not only help yourself but help dampen the negativity.

    Knowing you over the years I find that I am blessed. I was led to you because of your unique qualities, compassion, joy and love. When a person cannot see that then they are not seeing you.

    love and hugs

    • John Cali

      Thanks so much, Jeannie. You’re most kind, and I really appreciate it.

      Love & hugs to you, my dear!

  5. Susan

    My thanks to you, John, and to all who have contributed to this wonderfully helpful thread — a very colorful and powerfull one! Much more open sharing from the heart is what is changing the world even as we speak.

    • John Cali

      You’re most welcome, Susan — and thank you for being a part of this thread. I agree with you — more sharing from the heart is definitely changing our world for the better.

  6. Dan

    Nice outpouring of support, insight, and experience of what works for people facing criticism and negativity.

    With that, I will put in my 2 cents as well. I quote a lyric from one of my songs –

    “I try to hold on to my positive feelings when people are putting on airs,
    it doesn’t matter what other folks think, but truthfully I still care”

    I think it is ok to feel bad when someone critiques us – seems normal to me – but better to let it pass right through… my current thinking anyway.

    Not letting it in or through probably just reflects it back on them – maybe that’s ok too… being a mirror as someone else mentioned.

    I love Shirley’s method of acknowledging and quickly moving on … I also concur that almost invariably anytime I am bothered by another person’s behavior – it is something which has also bothered me about myself. The more I accept myself – the less I am bothered by what others do or say.

    I guess the logic therefore is that when someone is critiquing me they are critiquing themselves…

    but it still doesn’t feel good …

    and like you, John, I prefer to feel good… and as a result of feeling good I encounter much less negativity.

    Thanks for all the wonderful articles and discussion.

    • John Cali

      Thank you very much, Dan. We are such great mirrors for each other, are we not? But, as Abraham is forever saying, the important thing is to simply feel good, always.

      • Dan

        Yes- what I have heard of Abraham’s messages I have liked – however, you and spirit wrote “the book of joy” 🙂 . Seems incredibly simple the way you have laid it out as well.

  7. Pam Maxwell

    What I have realized within myself, was when I am criticized, that the part of me that gets hurt is my Spirit is untouched by it. I came to earth to dance My dance, those who wish to dance with me, are welcome, those that don’t can walk off the dance floor. Those who like to criticize (to me) are just spiritually immature. It feels much better to praise than to criticize.
    I appreciate your stepping out and doing the GOOD work you do. I have gained a lot from you, and Thank You very much for sharing your wisdom and knowledge with many. It has made my Life Better and a lot more fun. Thank You, John and Chief. Keep up the Good (GOD) work.

    • John Cali

      Thanks very much, Pam, for sharing — and for your kind words. I especially love where you say it feels much better to praise than to criticize. How true!

  8. Shirley White

    ah yes.

    I know we can each find our own way to deal with these type of comments. I have been very fortunate that spirit has shown me the perfect way for me.

    I have stopped reacting. Our learned reactions are generally very defensive if not angry. What I do these days is to let the actual complaint sink in. Take a deep breath and SMILE. Often there is some element of truth to what the person is expressing, or at least the truth as they are seeing or feeling it. Then I chuckle or laugh and say these magic words that I learned from Dr Dwyer, You know, you might be right about that. I agree with them that what they said may be something I need to be aware of and change. Once you have said those magic words, there really is nothing concrete the person can continue on with.

    I always laugh a little and silently bless the person knowing that they just are where they are along their path. And that their path may not look or feel much like mine. Everyone is entitled to their opinion and perspective. I don’t attempt to talk them out of it or make excuses, I just know they are just where they are in that particular moment. Bless them and send them love.

    It always works for me.

    I cut my teeth on blogging on a couple of very large and popular political blogs and have been blasted more than a few times for my views that did not sit well with others. I was shown very quickly by spirit how to diffuse the situation and understand that others views often are quite opposite mine.

    It always works for me. If it helps any others, then I have done my job by suggesting a way to deal with such things.

    Blessings and loves and hugs

  9. Joseph k

    Yep it can be tough
    Some people aren’t just ready for this type of information ,going beyond the status quo
    Pioneering leading edge information ahead of its time, som just can’t handle it ,it would mean. Complete change of mind ,heart and everything else in their life
    Information and peopl ahead of its time has always faced ridicule and criticism
    I’d say pretty much everyone in th field has found that in some way or another
    I think consteuctive critism can ho you how to improve.,evolve an grow nd learn from the feedback then readjust
    New age ideas etc have always been controversial
    Partly why a lot of this type o information was kept secret down through the years in societies etc, thy knew a oo of people wouldn’t b able to handle or it would beprone to abuse
    David icke is a real example of this
    You just have to be careful how you present these kind of thing publicly etc
    PeRhaps that’s a test of ones wiadom and tact dealing with people
    People were killed for spiritual free thinking in eras gone by, called witchcraft and all therest of it
    But things are much freer and open now especially with the information revolution
    Some good advice I got on criticism was in one of paddy mcmahons grand design books
    To look at the criticism objectively an weigh it up and then see wht it means to you
    Some people are just allergic to revolutionary thinking
    Criticism is essentially feedback
    And we do live in a quick to judge society and people are judged by what they do etc
    I have an aversion to insipid criticism etc as well
    I think you just have to rise above it and see what it means for you
    The insights of guides/higher conscious can help clarify th issue too
    It could also be a sign that your work is getting more out there and crosspollinting more minds and souls, so the more people you reach the more you get a different reaction
    Im quite sensitive to criticism or put downs, derogatory comments too
    Which is explained by my numerology profile which says I’m a number three
    And it says critism is torture for number three
    It’s not so bad though, some people have to deal with fierce ridicule all eir lives
    I think also its important to find your tribe that supports and nourishes you cares fo and comforts you through life’s sometimes rocky road
    If you look at exactly what the person said objectively you might see its just part of their psychology and mindset/attitude towards life
    Or they might hav a point although not tactfully or aptly, sensitively expressed
    When I run into problems like this i find lots of helpful wisdom in books eg orin dabens work
    Something that comes to mind is
    Whatever people say to you that upsets you reflects an image you carry about yourself
    In other words people mirror our inner state and he world is a feedback loop to learn from or an echo of our inner state of being
    Another thing , I’ve had a lot of strong criticism of a family member on his crusade to save h world as I have been going into the subject matters in more depth in lots of ways and then tell him about all these things going on, essentially an newer to his constant user for ‘change’
    I get hardly any reply or response and he’s still banging the same drum of we need change,we need change , over and over all over the media and the country
    So my critism and reservations about him nd what he’s doing are intended as
    Well this can really be done in a wiser more informed way rather than rallying around everywhere chasing ones tail
    Also someone enlightended such as krishnamurti said just to look at the insult just observe it and let it go away ,so someone who really knows themselves and has strong self knowledge
    Can look beyond fleeting insult and approval
    Society offers plenty of approval and disapproval
    Just gott take the rough with the smooth I think
    Also another spiritual practice is not to take oneself too seriously
    Being able to laugh at oneself is seen as enlightened
    Also I think we have to learn to rise above criticism etc and no get dragged down by nitpicking o petty behaviour, remaking detached or non attached is he way to peace and equanimity
    I find when I get a pang of other people negative energy I find just to detach from the energy that doesn’t feel right to you ,an isn’t who you are is. Good way to del with it
    Also I think we all need each other, Everyone has something to offer , to bring to he table
    And I think our current way of you have to put yourself out there to succeed ,be famous etc
    Doesn’t feel all that comfortabl to me, there is oing to b a backlash when you put yourself out there ,vulnerable to others who want to tear you down
    You see his all the time with public figures nd celebrities
    As they say t, they build them up to knock em down
    That’s the way of the world these days
    But humanity is coming together and the more unity,peace and harmony there is the more people
    Can live in that way
    I think wold change is not about an overall standardised systematic control or plan
    But in step by step everyday evolution of people
    In heir lives
    The microcosm is the macrocsm
    Individual change leads to global change
    Thank for reading

  10. Conshana

    Maybe, John, the way you responded (or DIDN’T respond) was a lesson THEY needed to learn from YOU, and not a lesson YOU needed to learn from them. You said it well – We have our noses out front, and someone, somewhere, somehow is gonna poke it.
    IF it is deserved, after examination, then the critique is valuable. IF it is NOT deserved, then the problem is a vast difference in maturity and growth levels, which only time can overcome.
    Treat the situation as two ships passing in the night.
    I have followed you and Chief Joseph for several years, starting with “Sentinels”,,, and I’ve never regretted it. I may not always AGREE in FULL, but NEVER have I DISAGREED in FULL.
    Always there’s been positives to take away with me for “Food For Thought”.
    Some folks live in a box which is their own prison. And only they have the key to freedom. Other folks cannot abide the box, and roam. Some roam under control, yet free. Others are a train wreck waiting to happen. In any case, that is the choice, at some level of Being, of the Individual.

    It’s all based on the courage and the maturity level. At ALL levels of existence.

    Motor on, My Friend. You have a lot following you. And a lot of work ahead of you.
    Blessings to You and Yours~!

    • John Cali

      I agree, Conshana — at least one of those two people had something to learn from me, specifically my non-response. Without going into details, it was obvious her criticism had nothing to do with me — she was only projecting her own “stuff” onto me. Which is why I did not respond in kind. She is, as you clearly described it, “a train wreck waiting to happen.” It’s sad, but that is her choice and part of her growth.

      I know, and appreciate, that you have been with us so long. I can’t think of anyone, among my many dear friends and family, who agrees with me all the time — nor would I want them to.

      Thanks very much, Conshana, for your constant support and love over so many years now. YOU are deeply appreciated by all of us here.

      Many Blessings!

  11. Louise

    When people are negative, spew bad energy, one of the things I try to remember is that what they say and do is about them, not about me. It is about what is going on within them at that moment. I send them light and blessings. Of course, I do re-center myself because of the negative energy sent my way.

    I have provided this insight to my teenage son, and it has helped him. Over time, he has begun to understand and respond, not react, to similar situations.

    • John Cali

      Thank you, Louise. I love your approach with your son — teaching him to understand and respond, not react.

  12. Jenelle

    Dearest John~

    I don’t know how anyone could leave you a negative message! You are the epitome of compassion and love, and your wisdom is an eternal light illuminating all of our paths.

    You’re so right…negative comments don’t deserve your attention or energy, for they are not a part of your positive realm.

    Sending hugs and infinite love,

    • John Cali

      Thanks very much, Jenelle. I deeply appreciate your kind words and understanding.

      Much love,

  13. Pat

    I have a serious complaint about you, John. Gabby, too. You’re too damned beautiful! You do give me something to live up to, though. While reading your article something I read recently came to mind. It was a picture of an attractive female with the caption, “If you have a complaint about me please write it neatly on a piece of paper, place it in an envelope, fold it neatly and shove it up your ___ (fill in the blank.) Nemaste, y’all.

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