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Women's Health

How to Silence Your Critics

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WebMD Feature from "Redbook" Magazine

By Jessie Knadler
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You didn't see it coming. You didn't even feel it land — until a split second later when you suddenly realize you've had the wind knocked out of you. What just hit you? Someone's nasty comment, and it's cut you to the core.

Sometimes a faultfinder disguises her disapproval as a quasi-compliment: "I would have never had the courage to talk to my boss the way you did." Other times, a jab takes the form of a cautionary tale: "You're going on a cruise? I still get nightmares about the time I spent two weeks in the lavatory aboard one of those ships." And occasionally it's just served up the old-fashioned way — cold: "Those vegetarian burritos you made? Gross."

Granted, not every critic is intentionally trying to smash your various hopes, dreams, and good intentions into a bloody pulp. Perhaps she is genuinely trying to be honest and helpful, or is completely clueless — or maybe this is just her weird, corrosive way of making conversation. Whatever her motive, you're left second-guessing your decisions (Was I being out of line with my boss the other day? Maybe taking a cruise isn't such a fabulous idea after all...), and editing — if not completely overhauling — your future behavior suddenly seems to be in order.

But here's the thing: "By giving in to the critical opinions of others, you end up relinquishing your own, and that dilutes your purpose in life," says Judith Orloff, M.D., author of Positive Energy. "In other words, the more authority you relinquish, the more dependent you become upon others to determine what's right for you — and the less confident you feel in your decisions." (The word "pushover" comes to mind.) What's more, because daring to try new things, follow your dreams, and go with your gut can be hard, a critic's negativity can stop even the strongest, most determined of us in our tracks. This is why you need to listen closely to your own inner voice, the one that cheers you on and helps you just go for it, no matter what the buzz killers say. After all, who can know what's right for you except you? So the next time one of these critical types crosses your path, here's how not to let her snipes throw you off course.

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