Question: What is the best way to respond to criticism?
Answer: Whenever you feel criticized, the first thing to do is determine whether you are being criticized or whether you are simply being given feedback about yourself. If it is feedback and not criticism, you would be wise to listen carefully and respond appropriately. Is there something being shared with you that you need to hear? It is foolish to defend against feedback that might reflect areas of unconsciousness within you.
But in an unconscious world, people are often critical or judgmental. It is important that you do not take on that energy. It has nothing to do with you. At some level, they feel judged or criticized themselves. They are still living with those energies, which most likely originate in their childhood and they will project that onto you rather than feel that hurtful energy within themselves. It is an avoidance strategy.
The question for you is: Why do you take it on? It is your need for approval or acceptance that causes you to take on the judgments or opinions of others. If you did not need their approval or acceptance, then their judgments or criticisms would not affect you.
Therefore, I suggest that you bring to consciousness all the ways that you lose yourself in others by seeking approval or acceptance, and then gently disengage from that behavior. It will lead to freedom. You will no longer be giving your power away to others.
Finally, I would say that it is toxic to associate with people who are continually judging or criticizing you. Share with them that it is not acceptable to you. If they persist, then consider terminating your association with them. But do so out of love for yourself and with compassion for them, and not as a judgment of them.