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The Fear of Criticism

Updated on March 5, 2010
Mimosa pudica  Source: Wikipedia
Mimosa pudica Source: Wikipedia
President Obama making a speech
President Obama making a speech

Facing Your Fears

Most humans, even animals and plants have some kind of fears or phobias. Some of these can be mild forms of fears or extensive debilitating phobias that paralyze a person. According to The New Webster's Dictionary, fear is defined as "anxiety caused by expectation of evil, danger, awe or dread.' The online Dictionary defines fear as:

1a. A feeling of agitation and anxiety caused by the presence or imminence of danger. 1b. A state or condition marked by this feeling: living in fear. 2. A feeling of disquiet or apprehension: a fear of looking foolish. 3. Extreme reverence or awe, as toward a supreme power. 4. A reason for dread or apprehension: Being alone is my greatest fear.

What are some of your fears? Most living things; plants, animals and people exhibit some form of fear. The Mimosa pudica plant closes up when touched; you could say that it is reacting to fear or danger. Most of us at one time or another smelled the effect of a skunk's fear. Humans also have many fears and phobias. According to Napoleon Hill, author of the book, Think and Grow Rich, there are six basic fears: 1. the fear of poverty 2. the fear of criticism 3. the fear of ill health 4. the fear of loss of love of someone 5. the fear of old age 6. the fear of death. Dr. Joseph Murphy, author of The Power of Your Subconscious Mindstates that fear is man's greatest enemy. He further states that fear is a thought in your mind. Iyanla Vanzant in her book, One Day My Soul Just Opened Up declares fear as False Expectations Appearing Real.

Why do you feel fear? According to Jack Canfield, author of The Success Principles, millions of years ago fear was our body's way of signalling danger; it gave us the burst of adrenaline needed to run away. Anthony Robbins in his book, Awaken the Giant Within, argues that fear serves a purpose. He posits that "fear is simply the anticipation that something that's going to happen soon needs to be prepared for." It sounds like these men are expressing similar views on fear; that fear is a preparation to do something, either to run away or to attack. It is therefore of importance that when you feel fear, you must get prepared or become proactive. I believe that before one gets to the proactive stage of handling fear, he must first understand what are the underlying causes of fear.

The Fear of Criticism

The fear of criticism can be very destructive to one's initiative, imagination, self-reliance and individuality. Some writers believe that this fear came about from the time that politics came into existence. Some writers also point to the Bible sighting various violent criticisms therein. Others posit that the fear of criticism is a learned behaviour. They argue that based on one's socialization one can learn to become fearful of criticism. They point to critical parents, teachers and peers as the earliest ways in which the fear of criticism is learned. Children and people in general have a sense of belonging whether to a family or a group. Sometimes to secure membership to that group one may be ostracized or criticized as a test of worthiness of membership. I refer here to some of the initiation rites that happen at some workplaces, schools or the army. These situations can create much anxiety and stress that eventually lead to fear. A young recruit to the army learns some form of grooming and is criticised if he does not comply.

It is said that most people are glossophobia,which is the fear of public speaking. Above the fear of death, glossophobia is said to be the number one fear of most people. The underlining reason for the fear of public speaking is the fear of criticism. No one wants to be perceived as a failure, to look and sound stupid,uninformed or unintelligent. This kind of thinking, creates self-doubt, the result is nervousness, anxiety and possible lost of concentration. You forget what you were going to say and end up looking like all those descriptions that you were trying to avoid in the first place. A vicious self-fulfilling prophecy.

What are some of the symptoms of fear of criticism? According to the website Some of the symptoms of fear of criticism are:self -consciousness, lack of poise, inferiority complex, extravagance, lack of initiative and lack of ambition.

How do you effectively deal with the fear of criticism? Like any other fear, the solution is to face it; not to run away from it. Anthony Robbins suggests that you should review your feelings and evaluate what you must do to prepare, in other words, be proactive. So the fear of public speaking which is underlined by the fear of criticism can be effectively addressed by making sure that you do your research and understand whatever you will be speaking about. You have to step out of your comfort zone and feel the stage fright or anxiety that is related to public speaking; acknowledge the feeling. Jack Canfield suggests that you focus on the physical sensation that you feel when you experience the fear, then focus on the feelings that you would like to feel. For instance, if when you are fearful of public speaking, you may feel nervous and awkward. Try focusing on feeling confident and poised. Jack Canfield suggests that after doing this shuffle back and forth, you will soon begin to feel the fear dissipating.

Facing your fears is no small feat. However the only way to overcome your fears is to face them head-on. Being aware of your fears and understanding how to manage your reactions to them will effectively allow you to transcend all fears, including the fear of criticism.


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    • profile image

      PRANITA DESHPANDE 3 months ago

      Thanks for nice article, first time i am visiting this site. Very important information.

    • profile image

      Bma 3 years ago

      Beryl , what an Beryl , what an amazing ripcee, I followed your directions to the T and it was amazing my wife and 2 children 3 & 5 yrs old all ate it up. AMAZING , That night the kids slept wit my wife & I because they do that some nights and all 4 of us were in our king size bed and Laughing because those beans gave us some wonderful anal artillary. I will check out some of your other video's as wellBlessings and Grace,Warren Tibbs , KC Missouri

    • profile image

      Daddypapi 6 years ago

      Should that read ´try reliving the experience abroad and see ....`..that's what I have been thinking to do. Thanks.

    • DynamicS profile image

      Sandria Green-Stewart 6 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      Daddypai, sorry for just getting back to you. I have been busy with school, but now I have a break so I have time to catch up.

      Your situation is unusual as most people tend to develop fears when they are outside their normal environment, but you are the opposite. You feel uninhibited and free away from your familiar surroundings. Perhaps you have some very traumatizing experiences at home. If that's the case, then that would definitely explain why. In any case, you are aware that it is possible to be fearless, therefore, you should try reliving the experience abroad at home and see it you can recreate the experience of living without fear at home.

      Good luck.

    • profile image

      Daddypapi 6 years ago

      What if the fear of criticism, interaction etc disappears when you are in a different country? Is it possible that the brain turns of its ´fight or flight reaction¨ automatically/unconsciously when in a new environment that had no previous history of affecting the person this way? only time my fear literally disappears is when spent time abroad and I thrive on social life there.thinking this might be a long-term solution if therapy doesn't help. Thanks

    • DynamicS profile image

      Sandria Green-Stewart 6 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      hazelbrown, thanks for your visit and for your comment. It is sometimes difficult to accept criticism, especially when it is given in a negative way. I try to see the positive of all situations and so I first try to see the positive from criticism. Sometimes however, there is no positive; criticism that makes you feel really bad about yourself can be debilitating.

      Public speaking is something that I've often shy away from. This is weird because as a child I was always reciting poems in front of large audiences. Even in high school I was often told that I did very well speaking in assembly and in front of large audiences. Anyway, I know that I can do it and I'm stepping more and more out of the comfort zone and do it.

      I'm feeling the fear and do it anyway.

    • hazelbrown profile image

      hazelbrown 6 years ago from Central PA

      Uh oh, I think I have all of those fears! I am more afraid of criticism than of public speaking... maybe because my public speaking experiences have been great. I used to be terrified of it though. Lately I have been trying to get over my fear of criticism, because I have noticed that it makes me reluctant to share things with others - especially when I think I have done something less than perfectly. This is a great and encouraging hub!!

    • DynamicS profile image

      Sandria Green-Stewart 8 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      flameater, thanks for your input to the discussion of fear of criticism. I recently discovered that this is one of my limiting fears and so I am exploring how to handle this fear. You are right, not all criticism is meant to be useful or uplifting, some are mean spirited and meant to harm. However, constructive criticism is meant to give suggestion for improvement, not redicule. I try to see the latter in all criticism that I receive.

      I mention the fear of public speaking, which I realize is a fear that I have. For the last five years or so I find myself shying away from public speaking at work. This is primarily because I hear some of my colleagues negatively criticising others who are public speakers and in my need to fit in and not be the brunt of their chatter, I don't do it. I realize now how silly that reasoning was and how sad those people who negatively criticize others were. I have to unlearn my fear of public speaking.

      How do I handle it? I force myself to do it even though it is easy for me just to refuse and get someone else to do it. The more I face the fear, the more confident I become and the less I think about the nay sayers.

      Stepping out of your comfort zone is not easy, but once you say "what the heck.." and go for it, it gets easier and even fun.

      As a wise person said "Feel the fear and do it anyway."

    • flameater profile image

      flameater 8 years ago


      Fear of criticism can be harmful, but you are right when you pointed out that fear is one of our built-in self-defence response. So that burst of adrenaline actually saves lives, sometimes.

      The fear that one feels when criticized may not be entirely baseless. In office politics, or in a competitive marketplace for example, the point of criticizing another may not entirely be moved by altruistic or constructive motives.

      When we are facing such criticism, especially in public, there are so many things to be orchestrated at the same time. First, we need to maintain poise and grace, in order to maintain public or observers' confidence. At the same time, we need to listen and weigh the criticism, to determine whether it is genuine or not. we also need to comprehend and dissect the criticism, be it baseless or founded, in order to either thwart it or to act constructively upon it. At the same time, we may need to think about the presentation of our response, so that it is delivered as simply and clearly s possible, emphasizing on our main responding message and cutting out the noise that an emotional response may generate.

      No wonder then that our adrenaline gets rushed in such a situation. However, the adrenaline that helps in a fight or run situation, may actually impede us in a more intellectual context.

      The old remedy of taking a huge breath is a good thing to begin with. Being aware of your emotional state helps during these episodes, as you correctly pointed out, but remembering to be aware is the difficult part. It helps to not be too dependent on the situation. I find that not having too much stake at hand actually improves the way I handle the situation.

      How do you handle these sort of testing moments?

    • DynamicS profile image

      Sandria Green-Stewart 8 years ago from Toronto, Canada


      Thanks for stopping by and for your comment. The fear of suffer can be overcome by being optimistic and being proactive. No one has to suffer if he/she takes action. Even if the circumstance is out of our control, such as a devastating earthquake, you can find peace even in such chaos. My grandma would say "once there is life, there is hope" So the treatment for the fear of suffering is a healthy dose of optimism and hope.

      Have a blessed day.

    • James A Watkins profile image

      James A Watkins 8 years ago from Chicago

      I have overcome many of my fears as I have aged. I still fear suffering. I may never get over that one. Thank you for a fine read. Well done.

    • DynamicS profile image

      Sandria Green-Stewart 8 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      Jessica, very interesting plant, no doubt. I will definitely check out the site. Thanks for stopping by and for your comment.

    • profile image

      Jessic 8 years ago

      If you want to grow your own Mimosa pudica - now know as the TickleMe Plant because it really moves fast when you Tickle It! Just go to The leaves instantly close and even the branches droop when Tickled!

      See video now anyone can grow it indoors year round in the TickleMe Plant Greenhouse or TickleMe Plant Party Favor!

    • DynamicS profile image

      Sandria Green-Stewart 8 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      JannyC good to see you and thanks for the visit. You are first through the door and I welcome you woleheartedly. I appreciate your comment.

    • JannyC profile image

      JannyC 8 years ago

      Dynamic...that was a Dynamic hub.And wow Im first!!! yay!!


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