We all want to be liked. The desire to be “liked” runs deep in the human condition.
However, whenever something new is created, whether it be a post, a photograph, a work of art, a new business, even an idea, there also comes the risk of being criticized. It's hard not to take criticism personally, especially the more involved you are with your work. It's hard to draw the line between what you do and who you are.
Can we avoid criticism?
One answer might be to not create anything new. What then? Are we safe from criticism then? No… then comes the criticism of complacency, and the reality that nothing new has been done, and the danger of falling into obscurity.
Another option would be to stick to the tried and true. This could work, we can all do well enough following the path that others had blazed for us. Why reinvent the wheel? Would we be safe from critics then? Possibly. But in an over-saturated market sticking with the herd could be the kiss of death if you have dreams of making it big. Besides who said the “herd” is heading in a good direction?
The truth is, when it comes to criticism, it's a “damned if you do, damned if you don't” situation. Whether we take risks or take it easy, it's not going save us from critics.
If we can't avoid criticism, what do we do?
“Fear of shame is a powerful tool to modify behavior, and those in power have been using it for years. They want to be able to change us by delivering shame and we've been taught to listen it I, believe it, and swallow it.
It's fine to acknowledge that there are those who will seek to shame you. But that doesn't mean you have to accept what’s given. We don't work for the applause, and we'd be foolish to read the anonymous comments on Amazon or the tweets coming from the back of the room. That attempt to quiet you down and make you conform doesn't belong to you unless you want it to.”
Learning when to take criticism or leave it can be a process, especially if you are sensitive. I am a sensitive person. It's hard not to take things to heart whenever I hear of people dissatisfied with my work.
How do we learn to deal with criticism?
I had always wanted to be a creative person for a living. Going to art school was tough because we'd have to put our work on the wall, drawings, paintings, prints, etc. And the teacher would walk around critiquing everyone's work, and the class would join in. So whatever failures that happened were always public. Sometimes they were great, and sometimes it was brutal. One teacher would rip the drawings off the wall when he felt the student didn't put their “all” into it. It was scary, but it was less scary than receiving a failing grade, and even less scarier still than not progressing as a creative.
Walking through that fear allowed me to have the creative career I always wanted. It sucked, but nothing bad happened compared to how terrible it would be not living my dreams. As long as people have different opinions, creatives never escape criticism, there will always be someone who doesn't like your work, or doesn't agree with it. Always. Even after years of dealing with a of people saying “I don't like this” criticism still stings. I still get mad. But I've gotten better at deciding when to take criticism and when to leave it. Because more often than not, criticism is more about the person dishing it, than it is about the work.
The trick is, not letting critics get in the way of trying our best, and putting everything into what we do (remember the teacher who would tear down the work for not trying hard enough). They'll be there no matter what, so trying to protect yourself from criticism isn't going to help, we just have to get better at knowing what to take into consideration. Godin acknowledges this by discussing how we should put enough into our work where we are still vulnerable.
“But if we allow shame to be part of our vulnerability, we allow it to destroy our work. It's impossible to do art with stakes that high. You can't say, ‘If it works, fine, but if it fails, I'm shamed.' The only way to be successfully vulnerable is to separate the results of your art from your instinct to feel shamed. And that's possible, because while someone can attempt to shame you, shame must also be accepted to be effected. We can't make you feel shame without your participation”
In the end, it's choice. It's a choice if our fear of failure is greater than our fear of not succeeding. It's a choice of whether we take critics to heart. So why not go for it, take a risk and do our best?
[Image source: Shutterstock.com]