Don’t mind criticism. If it is untrue, disregard it; if unfair, keep from irritation; if it is ignorant, smile; if it is justified, it is not criticism, learn from it.
As we develop our inner artist, regaining a sense of our power, it is important to understand the long-term effects that shaming may have had on our abilities. Some of us just never get started, or we find fault, second-guess and nitpick our creations until we have gone sour on the whole process. We may, in fact, perfectly replicate the toxic situations that wounded our child artist long ago.
Shining the clear light of truth on those wounds is the first step. But it is also important to understand that, as artists, it is a fact of life that some people will not be impressed, will be critical, and will continue to want to shame us. So our task, then, is two-fold. First, to recover, heal, and strengthen our artist self, so that he or she can fearlessly create, regardless of the opinions around us. But also, we must be strong enough that we can hear criticism, without emotional bloodshed.
As long as our secret shame continues to fester and latch on to every attempt we make, even the kindest criticism will feel like a shaming. But as beginners, we are learners, and we need helpful feedback. So healing and empowering our inner artist is critically (pun intended!) important!
Julia notes, “Let me be clear. Not all criticism is shaming. In fact, even the most severe criticism, when it fairly hits the mark is apt to be greeted by an internal Ah-hah! if it shows the artist a new and valid path for work. The criticism that damages is that which disparages, dismisses, ridicules, or condemns. It is frequently vicious but vague and difficult to refute… There is nothing to be gleaned from irresponsible criticism.”
Like baby plants in early spring, our immature, vulnerable shoots must not be exposed to extreme conditions. But once we’re stronger, more resilient, and at home with ourselves as artists, we can handle the ups and downs of outside opinions. So as a recovering artist, please be very exclusive about with whom, if anyone, you share your creative visions with at this point.
By being much more aware that it is our Younger Self, our inner child, who is deeply affected by criticism, we can understand how to proceed. Like dealing with a child, unfair, abusive criticism leads to rebellion, shutting down, and block. But our child also needs some discipline and direction. So here’s how to deal with any form of criticism – fair or unfair; kindly meant or vicious attack:
1. Receive the criticism all the way through and get it over with.
2. Jot down notes for yourself on what concepts or phrases most bother you.
3. Jot down notes on what concepts of phrases seem useful.
4. Do something nurturing for yourself: read an older, good review, or recall a compliment. Go back and re-read your affirmations.
5. Realize that you are somewhere in a learning curve. Nothing is a failure, if you view it as a helpful stepping stone to your next work. Julia wisely reminds us that, “Art matures spasmodically and requires ugly-duckling growth stages.”
6. Look at the criticism again. Is it hitting buttons from your past shaming or hurts?
7. Write a letter to the critic. DO NOT MAIL IT, but do defend your work and acknowledge if anything was at all helpful.
8. Get back on the horse. Make an immediate commitment to do something creative.
9. Do it. Creativity is the only cure for criticism.
Can you think of any recent examples where you could apply these steps? Please feel free to share. Tomorrow, some interesting exercises for regaining our power and strength as artists.