Edwin Rubis is a spiritual life coach and mentor currently confined in federal prison, where he is serving a 40-year sentence for a nonviolent cannabis conviction. While he fights for his freedom, supported by his loved ones and the restorative justice nonprofit Last Prisoner Project, Rubis continues to spread the messages closest to his heart - those of love, reflection, and empowerment - encouraging readers to open their best selves to the world. Here, he explores different types of criticism and how we as humans respond to them. From tips shared by Jennifer Lopez and Naomi Osaka to Rubis's own experience with social media trolls, this advice is invaluable.

How To Handle Criticism

By Edwin Rubis

"She looks a little rough around the edges."

"Although he's a tremendous player, he isn't a team player."

"The movie had its moments, but it fails due to the main actor's performance."

"She can sing, but she ain't no Aretha Franklin."

"She looks like she isn't the right person for the job, at least from my perspective."

"That's your partner? That yokel?"

We live in a critical world. That's the truth of the matter. Television, magazines, newspapers, social media, books, people in general, all vivify this part of our culture; always criticizing people (famous or not) for the way they dress, the way they perform, and even for the way they talk. Criticism is a popular thing. Some even get paid to do it on a consistent basis.

How Do We Respond To Criticism? How Does It Affect Us?

What about us? How do we respond to criticism? Do we take it in stride? Or do we sulk and cry and get depressed about it? Many suggest that "sticks and stones may break our bones, but words will never hurt us." I disagree.

Words can still painfully hurt us. Just like philosopher and author Robert Fulghum says, "Sticks and stones may break our bones, but words will break our hearts."

When someone criticizes you, don't automatically shut down and fret about it. Examine the source. If it's coming from a person who sincerely cares about you and is attempting to challenge you to make a positive change, or wants you to perform better the next time around (in whatever life challenge you're trying to get better at), then value it. Take it as constructive criticism.

But on the other hand, if the person (or persons) criticizing you is doing it merely because of envy, hate, or whatever other reason, with the intent to tear you down, then dismiss it offhandedly. Never give fuel to the negative fire. The worst thing you can do is try to defend an untrue position, knowing full well it's based on an invented illusion of some sort by some hateful individual who doesn't have anything better to do in life but to criticize others.

To guard against criticism requires a magnanimous attitude. What do I mean? Don't get caught up in the arrows of negativism, thinking, "Oh, I knew I wasn't good at it." "What they are saying must be true." "They are saying I'm ugly... that also must be true."

Like I always tell my students during my spiritual mentor classes: "Stop it, yo! No one has the right to hurt you without your consent."

Jennifer Lopez at the Versace Spring-Summer 2020 runway show (2019) (C) Salvatore Delle Femmine, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Criticism Case Studies: Jennifer Lopez And Naomi Osaka

A while back I watched an MTV documentary on Jennifer Lopez, the famous actress and singer. She stated that at one point in her career, criticism ruled her life. The more popular she became, the more vocal her critics became, so much so that it began to affect her emotional and mental life in an unhealthy manner. Then a friend gave her a book on how to deal with criticism and how to effectively respond to it. Soon she began to face her critics with wisdom and common sense.

"The negative comments said about me were false. That's not who I was," she later stated. Now she's living a better quality of life without allowing her critics to define her.

You also likely heard the story of Naomi Osaka, who in 2018, at the age of 21, beat Serena Williams to win the 2018 U.S. Open in tennis. While standing on the winning podium, the crowd booed her and screamed negative comments due to the controversial calls made by the referees during the match. She took it in stride, later giving an interview for Time magazine in which she said, "In a perfect dream, things are exactly the way you would want them... in real life, things aren't the way you planned... but they come to you, and I think those things set up for further things ahead."

Naomi Osaka in the 2020 US Open Finals (C) Andrew Henkelman, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Handling Criticism From Social Media

I myself received criticism for a while from social media trolls. Something new to me because I had been in prison for eighteen years. My brother posted a clemency/pardon petition on change.org to President Barack Obama in 2016. Hundreds of comments began to pour in. People couldn't believe I was serving a 40-year sentence for a non-violent marijuana offense.

But within those comments criticism also emerged. A few people were saying, "He deserves to die in prison." "He was a drug dealer, he deserves life." "Mexicans need to remain in jail." These negative comments left me extremely depressed. I couldn't believe people were judging me without knowing the full scope of my story. And I am not even Mexican.

In the end, my clemency/pardon petition was denied, but I learned a valuable lesson in the process: negative criticism can affect you if you let it. It can affect your self-esteem and self-image.

Also bear in mind, the higher your success, the more critics you'll find standing next to you; always questioning your abilities, gifts, skills, and talents. Never allow them to control your life.

Get Rid Of Toxic Criticism

One last thing, never entertain negative criticism long-term. It can affect you for years to come. Many people today are still clinging to the criticism they received as a child. They are always questioning their self-worth and what they are pursuing in life.

Don't be one of them.

Whatever your success is, keep on succeeding (despite your critics). Whatever your life-path, keep on treading it (despite your critics). However you see yourself in the mirror (beautiful and one of a kind), keep on believing it (despite your critics).

What matters in the end is your individual life - not what others negatively say about you.

Edwin Rubis (C) Last Prisoner Project

How Can You Help Edwin Rubis?

Edwin Rubis has been in prison since 1988; his release is slated for 2032. To help his family and friends advocate for his release, contribute to Edwin’s fundraiser: https://www.plumfund.com/fundraising/help-edwin-rubis-find-his-freedom

You can email Edwin at: edwinrubis@aol.com - or Text him: (256) 695-0233.

Take Action For Cannabis Prisoners With Last Prisoner Project!

Last Prisoner Project works to free people incarcerated on nonviolent cannabis charges, like Edwin Rubis. The organization provides resources to help with release efforts, including access to reentry services and grants so that formerly incarcerated citizens can build successful lives after leaving prison.

To find out more about Last Prisoner Project and how you can get involved to aid in the release of thousands of cannabis prisoners nationwide, visit lastprisonerproject.org. Click here for detailed actions and campaigns.

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Featured image: Jennifer Lopez in a still from the documentary HALFTIME (C) Netflix