Sell Your Soul: Dealing with Criticism

November 15, 2016

Whenever somebody creates, there will always be critics. Most of those critics will be people you don’t know, and that will be hard enough. However, some of those critics may be your family or even your friends. It’s incredibly hard to continue going in the face of intense criticism, especially from people you love.

Even to this day, I take criticism 100 times harder than I do praise. Nice things roll off my back, but no matter how many people praise my work, if even one person criticizes it my entire day is ruined.

And that’s massive improvement!

It used to be that my entire month was ruined. Then I cut it down to my entire week and I eventually got that down to a single day.

I’ve gotten exceedingly good at dealing with criticism, but it took a lot of work. There are several tricks that I learned in my career that allow me to keep going even in the face of extreme criticism and negativity.

  1. Surround yourself with positivity. The first step in being able to survive criticism is to surround yourself with other people who are as crazy as you, who believe in you, and are working toward the same goal as you. For work to be good it can’t be for everybody. Work without a point of view doesn’t resonate, and if you have a point of view some people won’t agree with it. That’s natural, but it’s incredibly important to have some people who believe in your point of view if you want the energy to keep going.
  2. Cut out negative people. There are certain people in your life you can’t cut out, such as family members. However, we can mostly silence them by unfollowing their profiles on social media and being around them as little as possible. This doesn’t mean cut out people because they raise valid and helpful criticisms. These are spiteful and negative people we are talking about here. There is a big difference from somebody giving constructive criticism of your work and somebody that is just negative to be hurtful.
  3. Don’t rely on others for validation. Part of why we create is so other people can experience what we do, and on some level love it. However, there is a difference between wanting other people to experience your work and needing them to like it in order to validate your creation. Relying on other people for validation means that if they don’t like it, you won’t do it. That is a very negative viewpoint and it has stopped thousands of talented artists. If you can validate yourself, then criticism with sting and rejection will hurt, but you will still be able to move on from it.
  4. Understand that showing your work brings more positive than negative. Most artists hole up in their studios unable to show their work for fear of criticism. However, the positives of showing work far outweigh the negatives. Even if your work gets a universally bad reaction, if you ask the right questions then you can understand why it was reviled and improve for next time. That’s never the case, though. You will be able to find some people that like your work, and if you can find those people it will give you the strength to carry on. Each time you release a piece more and more of those quality people will find your work, and you will be able to build a following. The more positive reinforcement you receive, the more likely you are to continue.
  5. Know that because one person didn’t like your work doesn’t mean everybody won’t like it. One person is only one person in a world of 7 billion people. For every person that dislikes your work, there is probably one that loves it. If you focus your efforts on finding those people that love it and away from people that don’t, you will be better able to survive criticism.
  6. It’s usually not personal. Just because people don’t like your work, doesn’t mean they don’t like you. I have plenty of friends who don’t get my work, don’t buy my work, and don’t care about my work. That’s okay. Those people can still love me without financially supporting me, just like I love them without supporting their work as an accountant or lawyer or whatever they do. Sometimes it is personal, and those people need to be taken out of your life, but usually criticism or lack of interest has nothing to do with you as a person.

It is always hard to deal with criticism no matter your age or success level. These tricks have worked for me only because I was willing to get out into the world and try things.

That’s the most important part of dealing with criticism, you need to get out into the world and show your work to people because it’s in the showing that you build a thick skin and develop the resilience to carry on.


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