Eleanor Roosevelt on “How to Take Criticism”

11 Aug

imagesNo matter how perfectly we try to do and say things, none of us are exempt from criticism. It’s an aspect of life we need to learn to understand and develop an expertise in handling. Someone who knew something about dealing with criticism was Eleanor Roosevelt. Although widely admired in later years, during her tenure as the longest-serving First Lady in United States history (1933-1945) she was often a lightning rod of criticism for her outspoken views.

In a column entitled “How to Take Criticism” for Ladies Home Journal in November 1944, Eleanor Roosevelt had this to say:

“I think it is salutary to read criticisms, even unkind and untrue ones. I do when they happen to come my way in the  natural course of events. I do not seek them out, but they certainly tend to keep one from being overconfident or getting what is commonly known as the ‘swelled head,’ but all of us must be wary not to have our confidence in ourselves completely destroyed, or we will be unable to do anything. Some criticisms I read and forget. Some remain with me and have been very valuable because I know they were kindly meant and honest and I admired and believed in the integrity of the people who expressed their convictions which were opposed to mine.”

Eleanor Roosevelt seemed to have the true measure of criticism. She recognized that criticism was necessary for personal growth and that it helped to keep egos from getting too big. She also knew the difference between helpful criticism – the type of criticism “kindly meant and honest” and destructive criticism – which she referred to elsewhere as “valueless” and that “anyone with common sense soon becomes completely indifferent to…” Finally, she was aware of the inherent dangers of taking criticism too much to heart and suffering a loss of self-confidence.

While we cannot avoid criticism, as Eleanor Roosevelt’s column above illustrates, we can learn how to face criticism and become adept at dealing with it.

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