How To Deal With Criticism

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Why does certain criticism sting so much? I’ve come to believe that it’s often not for the reason we suspect.

When doing creative work, especially in public, you are essentially inviting feedback. I’ve said before that those who work in public are essentially painting a giant target on themselves, and thus must be willing to deal with the sting of the arrows. However, while I believe this to be true in principle, in practice it is often much more challenging.

Which leads me to this question: have you ever considered why certain forms of criticism sting you more than others? Do you respond with more anger, defensiveness, or aggression with certain types of feedback than with others?

If so, it could be that there is some form of limiting narrative or embedded belief/fear that is lurking just beneath the surface, waiting for an opportunity to pounce.

Here’s an experiment I’d like to propose:

  1. Pay attention to your response to critique and feedback over the coming week. If it suits you, perhaps even write each piece of feedback down.
  2. More importantly, see if you can identify why that feedback elicited such a strong response in you. Is it possible that there is some defining story that’s affecting your engagement?
  3. If you can spot some beliefs/narratives, consider how else they might be playing out in your life and work. Are they affecting the choices you make, the opportunities you seek, or your relationships? Is so, how? It’s often not the circumstances we learn from, but our response to them. Identifying limiting narratives or patterns of self-destruction can help us spot them when they crop up, then nip them before they cause us to implode or obsess needlessly over critique.

Understanding why criticism stings can help us learn from it and apply insights to life and work.

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