How To Deal With Negative Criticism – YoGeek Advice

23 May

Elsie Escobar at Anusara Therapeutics Pittsburgh Yoga Workshop

Handling Negative Criticism

It’s not easy to get criticism. I think it’s a little better received when it’s quiet and in private, by someone you love.

Wait, I take that back.

I know when the closest people to me give me some constructive criticism I tend to bite their heads off, not by my words but by my, um, shall we say, attitude? Yes, I admit it. I have a hard time listening to it, although to my credit I have gotten a *tiny* little bit better 😉

Looking straight into the eyes of my own shortcomings is no simple task. I had the opportunity to look straight into these mighty eyes (again) a couple of days ago…more on this later on in the article. 😉

It’s even harder when the criticism is public for everyone to read! OMGoodness gracious!

When I started podcasting in 2006 I was so fired up, I could barely contain myself. As soon as I had all my gear together I so wanted to get my first yoga class up on my feed immediately! I was so proud of all my work. I immersed myself in podcasting, asked questions as necessary and got myself going all by myself. I told all my yoga students I had a podcast, and sent them all over to subscribe. I was in heaven.

Until the next day. I went over to my iTunes page and lo and behold I had a review of my podcast.

It was scathingly critical.

Of course, it was 1 star.

I was devastated and mortified. My primary fear was of others seeing this. It was the only review in iTunes and it ripped me apart. I allowed that review to make me feel horrible about myself and it really shook my confidence as a teacher. I could not let go of the negative comment. I felt the negative words and harsh criticism for quite a while. I felt them when I closed my eyes. I felt them when I taught. I felt them when I meditated. The negative words consumed me.

I finally was able to let go of their power over me. How you ask? 😉

Almost 4 years later…

The Strength of Softening

When we get criticized the first thing that happens is that we get rigid, hard and dense: It’s a survival/defense mechanism. When criticism cuts to the core, it literally does that, cuts to the core = cor= heart.

The layer that gets rigid and hard is our outer layer. We do our best to tighten it all up, but while we’re doing that we are allowing our most valuable part to stay unprotected. Our inner layer, our essence, our desire, our love, that which we value, stays unprotected. We send all of our resources away from the source. In doing so we become less sensitive, and even dry, like desiccated barren terrain that crumbles from strong and pointed pressure.

What’s curious about our inner being and our ability to navigate through criticism, is that the softer, more receptive and expansive we are, the steadier and more unwavering our Heart becomes. As we soften and our sensitivity increases, it is much easier to connect to our own goodness, our innate wisdom, and our own courage. We are more able to discern whether the criticism coming at us is something worth recognizing in order to refine our worldly expression or, it’s something that holds no value to us. All of our resources are gathering around the Heart, allowing it to expand brightly, strong and unyielding.

The Courage of Listening

That whole softening thing is really just the first step to mold ourselves into the best that we can be. The next step is all about listening. Listening with every part of yourself. We listen with our ears, our eyes, our bodies, our gut, our root, our head, our breath and our heart. We listen. We don’t speak. We remain quiet.

That remaining quiet part is the hardest part for me.




I guarantee that if I stay quiet longer than my need to express, I will receive a deeper sense of recognition and understanding.

We listen so that we may align with the Highest. We listen so that we can recognize what serves us, and in serving us, serving all those around us. It is in this listening that we can begin to courageously choose to act in ways which will more efficiently communicate and deliver the best of ourselves, in truth, without making ourselves less than, nor more than we are, but fully as we are.

I use the word courage because that is what’s needed, an unbounded desire and discipline for continual self-affirmation, regardless of the situation. We see the beauty, we see the goodness, we see the steadiness. Now we move into action.

Sustaining Action

Sustaining courage is something that I’m always cultivating. When the situation is immediate, I can muster it up pretty quick 😉 but as time goes on and the outward immediacy of the situation has subsided, my courage slowly dissolves.

I am content in staying right were I am.

At least that is my ‘comfort’ zone.

In order to truly evolve and transform there MUST be action: action which is grounded in the best of ourselves. Action that takes responsibility to refine, to grow and expand from our remembrance that we are the stuff that stars are made of – all the time. It is our duty to step in and engage even when it becomes uncomfortable and gosh darnit, really hard.

We have to follow through with our actions, taking responsibility for ourselves, always.

Criticism + Discerning Doing = Opportunity To Shine

I said that I had to look into the mighty eyes of my own shortcomings just a couple of days ago. I happened to go into iTunes again to check on my reviews. I do like to read the reviews. It helps me to feel connected to you guys as the online yoga kula, and it also informs me whether or not the podcast is effective and it’s being received in the way that I intended.

This is what I found.

Well, that was not exactly what I was hoping to find.

I was surprised upon reading the words that I was not affected by them in the same way that I was when I first started podcasting. I read this person’s experience and recognized a lot of what she said to be true. I was able to stay soft and abiding to my heart. I was able to fully listen, and not defend myself. I am able to do something about it.

I see everything she spoke about as an opportunity for me to be a better teacher.

I absolutely talk way too much when I teach. I believe that I’m getting better at it, but I have a lot further to go. Quiet holds within it, a deep power for a teacher. I remember when Ross Rayburn gave me the note to pause in between sentences and to say less, because it has more of an impact. He told me to distill my words so that the students ‘get it’ clearly. This is a challenge for me, and an art form that I absolutely aspire to cultivate.

I also don’t give students enough time to experience their own quiet. I crave it when I practice. I must grow the quiet within myself when I teach also, not just when I practice.

Now, I’m not so sure what in the world she was talking about butt crack in spanish business… I suppose I did say that, and I totally forgot. Kind of embarrassing!

When it comes to my ‘energy’ within class and the way that I use my voice and what not…I believe that is something of a preference. I get very excited when I teach and there are times when I look around the room and folks need a little pick me up 😉 I teach to what I see, and to who is in the class. As long as I’m tuned into my physical students and choose the best way to serve them, in that class, I’ve done my job. I do crack myself up. I do. You can ask any person that’s close to me. I also do make tons of noises…All the time. That’s just me 😀

A podcast and so many other people practicing along side at their own time, that’s a whole other ballgame. My intention is to put out classes that are fun, uplifting, encouraging, and that keep my students safe. This comes from the best of myself. Once the are offered,  I have no control of how they are received.

The Power of “Thank You”

I’m very grateful for this review. It was a great reminder that there’s always more and that what I do is important. It was also a sweet opportunity to see that I am steadier in my heart. I am getting better at discerning and staying sensitive to enhance who I am so that I may serve better.

How do you ‘deal’ with criticism?

Do you have tools that you use?

Why not share them with the kula?


NOTE TO SELF: Must replace first episode of Elsie’s Yoga Class: Live and Unplugged Podcast…


So how about joining my goofy discerning self to truly be quiet, listen and breathe?


15 Responses to “How To Deal With Negative Criticism – YoGeek Advice”

  1. Aurora May 24, 2010 at 1:42 pm #

    Lovely article. Very articulate and I love that you posted the review and agreed with it. It’s nice to see an example of how to deal with negative reviews well. That’s the one thing that has stopped me from being more public: the people who won’t like what I have to bring to the table. But as I move further out there, I realize there is a lot more support than criticism and that feels good. The criticism that I have gotten have been really good lessons:
    1. To learn to stay grounded in myself when I feel prickles creeping up my body ie Stand behind my what I say.
    2. To recognize where someone else is coming from and taking the opportunity to help them understand themselves better w/o taking what they are throwing at me personally. Or to simply know they are in a mode that cant be talked to and to back off.
    3. To know better where my own triggers lie.

    I’m still working on listening and taking the criticism in better.

    Thank you for sharing yourself and your reviews. Love it.


    • Elsie May 25, 2010 at 1:28 am #

      Aurora! Those 3 points are awesome. I found myself having a hard time with your number 1 today, not during a yoga class per say, but in a funky part of my neighborhood. There was a man who looked at me and kinda freaked me out a bit. It shook my ground…those are the times when the ground can’t waver! Ugh!

      Number 2, another great lesson. That I work on all the time. I give my students as much space as I can…

      Dude! Number 3…I haven’t quite figured those out yet! I gotta truly spend sometime distilling their roots so I can see where all this is coming from. That would be rockin’

      Thank you sweet Aurora for stopping by!

      And yes, getting out there is tough, and most especially because you are ever so much more vulnerable. In a way, you do cultivate a public face, it is you, but a little ‘extra.’ That way, you keep your Self in a sacred place, only for those you allow to truly get to know YOU.

      Again, Yes, there is a lot more positive than negative, why the majority of my reviews are awesome. It’s interesting how much power the negative ones have huh? Or shall I say…we give them 😉

  2. Ginger Coy May 24, 2010 at 3:29 pm #

    Elsie, you are DA BEST! I appreciate your candor and think you are rad for all your podcasts. I relate to your honesty with your teaching. I also like some umph and enthusiasm vocally from a teacher, so keep it up!

    • Elsie May 25, 2010 at 1:29 am #

      Yeay Ginger! DA BEST! 😀 Thanks for the love mighty one! I’ll be shouting from the rooftops here soon and I’ll tell my students, “Ginger said it was ok.” 😉

  3. April May 24, 2010 at 3:37 pm #

    This post reminded me of my teacher training – where I experienced more critiques than I’d ever hoped to hear in my life. lol At times we would practice teach a group who would then stand in a line and tell you one by one what they didn’t like. That was rough. and the very first class I ever taught to the public… when I cried the entire way home convinced that I was in no way capable of teaching a good class… after being told that the students loved it, but my teacher trainer agreed with me that it was boring and I was capable of doing better.

    I have never dealt well with criticism – generally I assume that no one does. In my teaching, I too have learned gradually how to soak up what I can from the bad reviews and turn it into something I can apply in a positive way.

    I tend to get quiet and turn inward… and after some time just steeping in the criticism – it’s like I boil it down to the most important points which I talk to my husband about until I feel good about where to go from here.

    • Elsie May 25, 2010 at 1:34 am #

      It’s so interesting that I see such a powerful pattern of distilling the criticism. We are called to step inward. Its necessary!

      If criticism didn’t feel uncomfortable, and agitating we wouldn’t really do anything about it. We wouldn’t choose to have conversations that deepened our relationships and how we navigate in the world.

      I know that having a conversation about criticisms with my loved ones have increased my ability to articulate why it hurts so much. Hmmmmmmm.

      How lovely that is!

      Thank you so much for sharing your process…oh yes, I have also cried! You have to let it go somehow no?


  4. hillary May 24, 2010 at 5:32 pm #


    OMG! The lessons are always there and I sooooo get this as I remember reading reviews that were not so great. What I do love is that she was honest and you were able to say ok – what can I learn from this. She is a great teacher and as always you are a great student.

    We can’t make everyone happy and the good news is more people love you than don’t. Love the touch in on how you were less reactive to reading the review which is a great testimony of your growth.

    Don’t change I love YOU for all you are sweet Elsie.

    Oh, and I love that she did the entire class that is pretty good when you are not a fan.

    So, I am going to check and see if there are any new reviews for me and use what you reminded me to stay clear to.


    • Elsie May 25, 2010 at 1:38 am #

      She totally did the entire class! Hee hee. I wonder if she’ll come back? I know that I’ve come back to folks that I initially disliked, and have softened to them 🙂

      I know! I was not bothered by reading the comment!…Well, the whole “she LOVES to hear herself talk” kinda flustered me. It could have been said in a different way…but I digress…It was very cathartic for me 😀

      Love you dear friend!

  5. Nicole in Korea May 24, 2010 at 7:44 pm #


    Somehow you always manage to teach me something at the EXACT moment I need to learn it! In my mind, that’s the hallmark of an incredible teacher! Learn to deal with criticism is always challenging, but the humility with which you wrote is what made all the difference to me. Softening in the face of criticism DOES take courage. Disclosing your experience meant a lot to me, and it enabled me to be more receptive to your message. Thank you so much for your candor and courage to put yourself out there so that we might all grow a little more. You are an angel!

    Nicole in Korea 🙂

    • Elsie May 25, 2010 at 1:41 am #

      Nicole in Korea! I really love to hear from Nicole in Korea! Thank you for your kind words lovely lady 🙂

      It’s not easy to see and hear criticism, and with each instance I do my best. I think this time what really made the difference is that I know who I am as a teacher now. I know who I am as a human being. I know that I do a good job. Although, one can always do a better job 😉

      Bottom line: I believe in myself. Who knew?


  6. Nan May 25, 2010 at 2:25 pm #

    Hi Elsie,
    I am a HUGE fan of your podcast classes, the way your sweet voice builds when a pose gets difficult gives me encouragement to stay with it, I think your enthusiasm is infectous, I always leave my mat feeling better than when I started. I heard that enthusiasm means something like “of God”, being an enthusiastic teacher myself I like that definition. I believe it also means we simply love what we do and want others to feel the same.
    On a side note, my husband and I are remoldeling a lake house and over the weekend we had a disagreement (think over budget, under pressure, taking much longer than expected)when he became frustrated at a coment I made I felt myself waiting for him to finish speaking so I could fire back (luckily he went on for some time and I was able to “soften” let him “get it out there” and respond in a healthier way than I would have even a few years ago)I love how you explain softening and listening in your post, I always get inspiration for classes from your podcast. I am so grateful you are my teacher. Many Blessings, Nan

    • Elsie May 27, 2010 at 12:57 am #


      Thank you so much for your kind words 🙂 I am glad that my voice gives a little support 😉 I am thrilled that you are an enthusiastic teacher. FANTASTIC! yeay!

      And yes, I absolutely enjoy what I do, and it is because of that that I get carried away.

      I hear you about pausing providing the opportunity to soften. I think that those moments are built in so that we can use them to our advantage. What if all those in opportune moments of interruptions or random happenings are really sent by God 😀 hee hee hee. Funky sense of humor, I would say 😉

      I am very thankful for you. Thank you so much for taking the time to come by and share your thoughts. Truly appreciated.

  7. Steve June 14, 2010 at 11:25 pm #

    Great article Elsie! As a musician, writer, web designer and developer I encounter criticism DAILY, a lot of it delivered bluntly. Reading your methods and approaches to this subject have given me a lot of insight and an awareness to strive for. Thank you!

    • Elsie June 14, 2010 at 11:53 pm #

      Thank you so much Steve for your comment! I’m glad you found the article helpful.

      You know, I also work within the tech industry and I find that these same principles are a bit harder to apply without the context of ‘yoga’ around them. By that I mean, the studio, the culture, the mats, the props, you know all that jazz 😉 It takes majestic and skillful mastery to apply this approach outside the resonance of what is comfortable (at least to me!).

      Again, thanks for stopping by and sharing. May we refine ourselves and rock it out!


  1. EYK 5: Interview With Donna De Lory, Inspiring Yoga Books and West Africa « Elsie's Yoga Kula: Free Online Yoga Podcast Classes - June 8, 2010

    […] If you do have a chance please head on over to iTunes and review the podcast or the podcast app. I cannot tell you how much it helps to keep the podcast visible. Oh and while on the subject of reviews…I got a pretty negative one the other day…It was kinda sucky, but hey, it happens and it really taught me a bunch, which I wrote in a blog post. […]

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