Addressing The Elephant In My Room: Is This Feedback a Heart or Hand Issue?

This is a series that I feel prompted to blog about for a few weeks. On this website, we will talk about personal elephants, and on sepiaprimecommunications.com, we will talk about workplace elephants. I would welcome your...ahem...feedback.


When feedback makes us feel defensive or angry, it might mean the feedback hit us in the heart, the place of our insecurities or self-doubts. We may rush to defend ourselves or justify our position. Take a deep breath and consider, were those words really aimed at your sense of worth, or were they an invitation to do something better?


As the oldest sibling and a high achiever, feedback about something I could do better can sound like saying I should be better. It is important to ask myself the real source of what feels like criticism, (likely me). If my reaction is defensiveness or self-condemnation, I have usually internalized a comment or feedback as an indictment on my value or competence, when the comment was aimed at my hands – something I can do better.


Those who care enough about us to suggest better ways of doing things are not our enemies, but our inner perfectionist can be. Here are four strategies to consider implementing if you struggle with receiving feedback:

  • When you feel defensive or condemned after feedback, take a deep breath, pause, and listen to what is being said, and then inwardly evaluate: is this a heart issue (mine) or a hand issue (ours). If we judge our own worth based on what we do, a comment to do something different may feel like a personal criticism. Before you respond, consider the request: is the feedback to do something different, or to be something different?

  • Learn to recognize the voice of your inner critic. The idea that any feedback other than "you are the greatest thing since sliced bread" is an attack against your worth, could have come from someone else but the culprit is likely your inner critic. If we were valued as children for what we did (excelling in schoolwork, not complaining when we didn't feel well, getting chores done, etc.) rather than who we are, we could have developed the habit of performing for emotional or physical rewards. When we receive feedback, the inner critic says, "See, you are the problem," while the reality is simply that a task is could be handled better.

  • Aim for excellence, not perfection. If you struggle with performing for others' validation, you might be tempted to aim towards perfection in everything from relationships, to appearances, to how you show up daily. In truth, there are no perfect relationships because there are no perfect people. In truth, some days we show up so well that we amaze ourselves, and other days while everyone is giving us compliments, we are secretly hating our hair or regretting our choice of outfit. Aiming for excellence in how you relate to those in your circle is more about being a good listener than about buying the perfect gift. It means honoring those you care for, even when you don't agree with what they are doing. Aiming for excellence also means doing your best with the tasks assigned to you, and understanding that even you can improve.

  • Finally, say thank you for the feedback, even if it feels weird. The feedback gave you something to examine and learn about yourself if you are willing to hear and address it.

Some days you might miss it, but most days you will be exactly what the world needs, imperfections and all. If you aren't sure how to handle feedback, enlist the help of a friend who can be unbiased in listening and responding. Starting with these strategies can help you deal with the elephant that shows up in your room whenever you hear from someone else that might not actually be perfect.


You are loved.


Michele Aikens is CEO & Lead Coach of Sepia Prime Communications & Coaching. Her passion is to help leaders and their teams see clearer, accomplish purpose, and enjoy the journey of life.


30 views0 comments