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Words By Tara Wagner

7 Reasons They Criticize Your Goals, Hard Work, or Success

Tara talking to a group of women around a table in a coffee shop

Have you ever had this happen to you where you are working on your goals, you’re building up momentum, you’re excited, you happen to share it with somebody, and all they do is criticize everything that you’re working on?

Let’s talk about that.

Watch here or read on below.

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I want to share why people will criticize and tear down your dreams, your hopes, your aspirations, all of your hard work, even your success, things that you’ve already accomplished, and they like to go and criticize it.

My number one hope with this blog post is that you understand what motivates people to do hurtful things so that you can learn to QTIP, which means “quit taking it personally,” because let’s face it, how other people act says more about where they are than it does about you.

Reason #1 – They think you’re judging them

The number one reason people will criticize your goals is that they actually think you’re judging THEM.

This is especially true of family members, even critical parents.

When you’re doing something outside of the norm of what other people expect of you (or what other people have done in their own lives), they’ll often feel defensive, as though you’re doing it because what they were doing was not good enough.

This is also why most criticism tends to come from the people that love us most. It’s not because they’re D-bags, although sometimes it might seem that way. It’s really just because they feel uncomfortable with what we’re doing, because they think that it’s some sort of judgment on what they have done.

I’ve definitely been there with my own family.

When we make radical choices in our life (which we tend to do a lot of), we tend to make people uncomfortable. And in the beginning, that was really difficult and very triggering for me, but I got to learn how to not take that personally. That way I could do the things that I was called to do and still love others exactly where they are.

As I learned to do that, they learned to appreciate and accept me as well, because they came to realize that I wasn’t judging their choices just by making different ones.

woman talking to another woman who looks critical
Reason #2 – They’re Jealous

The second reason people will criticize your goals, your hard work, or your success? It might just be because they’re jealous of it.

And I don’t mean jealous as in just a nasty, snarky person who wants what you want, but a person who really is trying to express their needs and desires, but they don’t know how, and so it’s coming across as criticism of what you’re doing.

Remember that jealousy is an emotion, and the things that express jealousy are simply behaviors, and all behaviors are simply there to express our emotions and express our needs. Negative behavior is expressing unmet needs. So their jealousy doesn’t make them a bad person, it just means they don’t know how to express what they would like to create in their own lives.

Reason #3 – They’re Ashamed

The third reason people will criticize you is that they actually feel ashamed.

This goes back to what we were talking about in terms of that defensiveness. If they know that they should be doing something similar to what you’re doing and they’re not, they’ll put up their defenses to guard against that feeling of shame. “I’m not showing up, I’m not doing as well as this other person is doing, and so in order to feel better about myself, I’m actually going to tear them down.

Reason #4 – They don’t agree with you

Number four, and this is the hardest one for people to grasp: They just don’t agree with you.

They might have different beliefs and different values. So, for instance, let’s say you’re working on a goal to make a lot of money, but their values are more aligned with a simple life. They’re not going to like what you’re doing, and that’s okay, they don’t need to. They can have different beliefs, they can have different values.

They might express that through criticism, but you can still know you’re doing the right thing, as long as you’re aligning your actions with your beliefs and your values.

In a world of 7 billion people, we don’t all need to agree, and even when other people want you to do what they want you to do, that doesn’t mean you have to do it. You can still be compassionate, you can have boundaries, you don’t have to be a D-bag back to them, and you can just simply continue to do what you know is right for you.

Reason #5 – They’re Actually Trying to Help

The fifth reason people will criticize you is a really hard one to wrap your mind around, but trust me on this, it happens more times than you would believe: They are actually trying to help you.

Now, this can go 2 different ways. Maybe they actually want to help you succeed, and they’re trying to give you feedback; they just don’t know very helpful ways to do that, so it’s coming across harsh or critical or negative in some way. Or, if it’s a friend, a family member, someone who loves you, they may even be trying to protect you from the risk that they perceive.

In other words, if they think what you’re doing is going to fail because they have their own fears, worries, and doubts based on their own stuff, maybe nothing to do with you. But if they’re struggling with that and they want to protect you from that, they’re maybe going to criticize you to keep you from doing something that might expose you to that risk. Again, it’s not very helpful, but many people just don’t know how to express these things or handle their own emotions, and so they’re doing the very best they can with the limited tools they have.

The other thing with this is they might not even realize that they’re coming across critical.

Some people think they’re being funny, some people think that they’re teasing, and that’s the way they actually show love. Some people just don’t realize how they sound.

And let me give you an example of this. Have you ever heard yourself on a home video talking to someone that you love, especially if it’s a child, and you were like, “Holy crap, do I sound like that? I sound terrible. I sound mean, I sound depressed, I sound negative, I sound all these things that I didn’t hear when it was coming out of my own mouth.“?

This happens to us all the time, but we have a hard time seeing that it also happens to other people. So many times, people don’t even realize how they sound when they say the things that they’re saying. Maybe they’re saying it out of habits, maybe it’s just what they’ve learned, but they don’t really realize the impact that it’s having.

This kind of ties into #6…

Reason #6 – They’ve Been Criticized

The sixth reason that people will criticize you is that they’ve been criticized.

You have to remember that hurting people hurt people, and people who have been criticized harshly have learned to do the same thing to other people.

So again, they might not even realize they’re doing it, but maybe that’s the way they were spoken to, and so they’re just naturally carrying that forward into their relationship with you. Now, this by no means makes what they’re doing right, but we do get to have some compassion for other people, not because of who they are, but because of who we are, because of how we want to show up in a relationship, even with somebody who’s not showing up very well for us.

Reason #7 – They’re actually not criticizing you

And then the number seven reason they may criticize you is, and this might be one of the hardest for us to see, is that they’re actually not criticizing us at all.

Here’s the thing that happens with the human mind. When we fear criticism, when we are critical of ourselves, when we fear rejection, when we worry that we’re not good enough or what we’re working on is not good enough, we will create something called confirmation bias. This means that your mind will look for proof of the belief it already has.

So if you’re dealing with a belief like “I’m not good enough” or “I’m going to fail at this” we’re going to actually filter out any potential positive and any potential support, and our brains will only focus on the thing that will confirm how we already feel or believe within ourselves.

So, if you’re feeling like “I’m going to fail” you’re going to notice in other people things that might not even be there.

I’m sure you can think of an example of this, where maybe you were hanging out with a friend, and you said something, and they heard something completely different. That’s because whatever was going on in the back of their mind filtered the words coming out of your mouth and interpreted them in a completely different way.

We do this all the time as human beings. We do it in healthy ways and definitely do it in unhealthy ways. But the louder, the more obnoxious, the more overwhelming (even if we’re unconscious of it), the more active those thoughts in the back of our mind are, the more we are going to create that confirmation bias and see things that aren’t actually there.

Playing with perspective

Here’s what I want you to do to test this out.

It’s challenging, and most people cannot do it just with this one exercise. So if it doesn’t work, that’s okay, it’s normal. It takes a lot of time to be able to sift through confirmation bias and really be able to perceive things in a helpful, healthy way, or in the way that they’re actually being given to us.

But an exercise that you can try is to write down some question like:

  • What’s actually happening here?
  • How am I perceiving it?
  • How could this actually mean something else instead?


  • What are some alternative views to what I’m just experiencing?
  • How might someone else in a different state of mind pick up this same thing?”

And what I like to do when I’ve really been triggered, when I really worry that somebody’s criticizing me, and I’m feeling hurt or frustrated or angry, I will take a step back for sometimes days, even weeks at a time until my emotions are not in the same place when I think about that situation. Then I’ll try to go back into that situation and see if my perspective has changed.

This is really helpful when criticism has come in through a text, email, something you can go back and review. If we’re just trying to pull it up in our memory, our confirmation bias has already been laid over that. We’re going to have a hard time remembering it in any different way than how we first experienced it. But with an email, how many times have you done that? You’ve gone back to an email, and you’ve re-read it, and you realize, “Oh my gosh, they were saying something completely different than I thought they were saying the first time around.

We do it all the time. We do it in ways that are completely harmless, just misunderstanding people, but we also do it in ways that are harming us by misunderstanding intentions.

Playing with perspective is something that I highly recommend that you do whenever you can think to do it. Play with this idea of perspective just in your everyday life. Watch somebody at the grocery store and try to interpret what they’re doing 3, 4, 5, 6 different ways. The more that you can train yourself to look at things from other angles, the more that you’re going to be able to do so in a moment where something like you feel triggered, you feel criticized, you feel upset about something. You’ll be able to find a more helpful perspective.

Maybe you won’t know that it’s actually true, but if it’s helping you to do good things in your life, then that’s the perspective you want to go for.

Playing with perspective is a really important mindset tool

It’s a very important practice to learn how to master. It’s why it’s in my Breakthrough Boss course. If you haven’t gotten the teaser for that course: Bottleneck to Breakthroughs.

You can learn more here or grab it by clicking the button below.

What about you, boss lady?

What is your first thought when people criticize your goals, hard work, or success?


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*This post may contain affiliate links and I may earn a small commission when you click on the links at no additional cost to you. You can read my full disclaimer here.


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Tara Wagner

I’m Tara Wagner, creator of the Breakthrough Boss®. I help small biz owners overcome burnout and create part-time schedules with full-time profits. Not with some new marketing strategy, but with a holistic approach to how you operate. Click here to learn more.
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