Taking the Sting out of Criticism (2-Minute Mommy Peptalk)

Taking the Sting out of Criticism (2-Minute Mommy Peptalk)

Rabbi Nivin explains why criticism stings, and what we can do about it.

Criticism stings. Right?
Actually, not necessarily.
My teacher, life coach Rabbi Aryeh Nivin, doesn’t seem to mind criticism. In fact, he welcomes it.
So I asked Rabbi Nivin if he could please teach us students how to remove the stinger from criticism.
In his 1st class on how to approach criticism, Rabbi Nivin explained something I found eye-opening.
Not all criticism stings every person.
For example, A person could tell one woman, “You’re fat” and it would hurt her feelings. And another person could say to that same woman, “You’re a dirty Jew” and it would make her laugh.
And yet another woman wouldn’t be offended “you’re fat” but “You’re a dirty Jew” would leave her fuming for a week.
Rabbi Nivin explained that how much criticism stings depends on a person’s sensitivities based on her personal history.
The first woman, for example, was overweight as a child, even though she isn’t anymore. But when someone calls her “fat” it triggers memories of the teasing and low self-esteem that overshadowed her childhood.
The other person grew up in the Soviet Union, and being called a dirty Jew brings back schoolyard insults and feelings of helplessness from decades before.
And here’s a personal example from my life.
Just this morning, somebody criticized me for losing something.
And it stung.
So I thought back on what Rabbi Nivin had taught us, and I wondered why this is a sensitive point for me.
And I realized that in the past, I was more disorganized. And this criticism brought back those old feelings of “I can’t get anything right!”
So when criticism hits on a sensitive point, as it did for me this morning, what can we do to remove its stinger?
We need to replace a false belief with a true belief.
So this morning, I replaced, “I am a disorganized, walking disaster zone” with “I used to be more disorganized, but now I’m actually relatively organized.”
In conclusion, next time you get criticized, and it really stings, try to figure out why this is a sensitive topic for you. What old, unresolved wounds is it jabbing at?
And then, replace your false belief with a true one.
For example, replace the false belief: “Criticism always makes me feel bad about myself” to “Criticism used to hurt, but it doesn’t anymore.”


  1. Thank you, so helpful. And thank you for writing your pep talks, I can finally take part in them!

  2. wow! that is a life-changing idea! (it also reminds me “the work” by Byron Katie)

    thank you!

  3. Hi. I know you must be very busy … but I noticed that all your mommy peptalk’s are getting very short now, and that leaves me with that feeling as if I haven’t seen you in a while. Would you consider every now and then doing a longer one as well, so I feel more like I’m getting to know you? I miss you! 🙂

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