Which Fight do You Want to Win?

criticism fighting Feb 17, 2022

I read an old article from Sports Illustrated where they interviewed Tom Brady when he was quarterback for the New England Patriots, a week after his Super Bowl win. They asked him about some of the negative things that some people were saying about him. I was so impressed with his answer. This was at the time when he was involved with the controversy of the deflated game balls for the AFC championship game. He had every reason to be bitter and plant seeds of vengeance on the NFL and Goodell for what they had put him through, but he never did. This is what he said when they asked him about the events of the past two years. 

“I guess the point is, when you subject yourself to a lot of criticism…I don’t want to give my power away to other people by letting my own emotions be subjected to what their thoughts or opinions are.  What’s the best way to fight that? There’s only one fight I can win, and that is how well I play…you start giving your power away to other people when you react.” Tom Brady 

I think this applies to all of us in life, sports, business and in our relationships with others.  As you put yourself out to the world and share your talents and gifts, not everyone is going to agree with you. So, you are going to have to ask yourself,  “Which fight do I want to win?” 

You have to decide:

How much time, effort and emotion do you want to spend on things people say about you that you know are not true? How do you react to people who criticize you?  Do you give control to the people who may not understand what you’re doing and why you’re doing it? 

Not giving away our power is something that we all have to learn. I guarantee that if you get “visible” enough, or if you put yourself, your thoughts and your opinions out into the world enough, you are going to get criticized. So, the important thing is how you react to that criticism. Do you move forward in a positive mindset, or do you let your emotions and the negative thoughts towards those people control you? 

Here are some suggestions for handling criticism:  

Identify the specific feelings you experience from the criticism.  Does it bring up feelings of lack, failure, or feelings of not being good enough? 

Believe it or not, most people who criticize others have low self-confidence themselves.  “Hurting people hurt others”. It’s their way of making themselves feel better. Most successful, positive, happy people don’t have a need to put others down.  The mind of a person who lacks self-confidence is usually full of negative messages they dump on others. If you can understand that, you have a better chance of not reacting emotionally to the criticism. Don’t give your power away. 

Try to recognize the intention and don’t turn defensive. 

Don’t ever respond to a critical comment quickly before you understand the intention behind it so that you can think of the best way to deal with the person who said it. One of the biggest mistakes people make when dealing with people who criticize them is turning on the defensive side right away by trying to give explanations for their actions. Instead of doing so you must first find out whether the critical comment makes any sense or whether it’s out of jealousy or lack of self-confidence. 

You CAN’T always change how others act, but you CAN always change how you perceive something.  

Treat it as a learning experience. After analyzing what was said, is there something you can learn from it? 

Receiving criticism can feel awful, and sometimes it can lead to feelings of self-doubt. Treat criticism as an opportunity for growth and as a learning experience.  Analyze what was said and keep an open mind in case some of it may have been true and something you can grow from. Maintain your self-esteem and look at the situation as an opportunity to learn from your mistakes. Criticism, when constructive, is meant as a helpful tool, not at an attack, and should be treated as a positive learning experience. 

Use the negative criticism as weights in your mental gym. 

Just as lifting weights builds your muscles, processing negative criticism builds your mental defenses. You will find that each time you are criticized it becomes easier to “let it go” and not let the feelings that come up control you.  

“You cannot let your own emotions be subjected to what their thoughts or opinions are.”   


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