Dear Puttylike reader, this is a classic Puttylike post. Meaning, it’s from the early days–from before I really found my voice or knew what I was doing. I’ve chosen to keep this post online for the benefit of Puttylike readers who have worked their way backward through the archives. And also to highlight the fact that everybody starts somewhere! xo, Emilie
“One bit of criticism cannot be overcome by fourteen complements.” – Barbara Sher
Surprisingly few productivity gurus out there are willing to admit this simple fact. Yes, they all address the issue. They tell you not to let criticism affect you. But rarely do they admit to being bothered by criticism themselves. They are beyond this. And they say that you too should be stronger than criticism.
We know, great wise sage, most criticism comes from people who have never created anything themselves and don’t know what they’re talking about. We’ve been told that if you’re successful, there will be haters. It’s a good sign, it means that what we’re doing matters. We’ve all heard these messages, and they’re true.
But is telling ourselves such things enough? What if it still stings? What then?
An admission: criticism bothers me
I’ve found that thinking about critics’ motivation helps, as does time, experience and confidence. But even now, after years of putting art out into the world, criticism still stings. And you know what? I’ve accepted that. It’s okay.
Instead of waxing poetic to you about how you must be bigger than criticism and not let it affect you, I’m going to grant you permission to hurt.
There’s nothing shameful about admitting that criticism stings like crazy! It doesn’t make you weak.
Give yourself permission to be hurt
I think that if the “successful people” of this world stopped trying to convince the rest of us to become immune to criticism and instead gave us permission to feel whatever it is we’re feeling, criticism would be easier to get over.
Instead, we’re expected to be bigger than criticism. To “learn how to deal with it”. And if it still gets to you? Well, keep that to yourself. For god sakes, don’t admit it! Admitting that criticism stings is a sign of weakness!… Right?
Well, guess what. I don’t care how successful you may or may not be. I don’t care how invalid, well-meaning, non-constructive, incorrect or misconstrued the criticism is, or whether it’s cloaked in positive reinforcement or delivered in the friendliest possible manner; criticism still stings. And being hurt by criticism is nothing to be ashamed of– it’s normal.
So by all means, get used to being criticized, learn to let it go, and develop a thick skin. If you get to the point where criticism no longer affects you, that’s fantastic. But in the meantime, I hereby grant you permission to hurt.
It doesn’t make you weak. It makes you human.
The only exception I’ve found is when I ask someone I trust for feedback on a project. That’s usually incredibly helpful and not painful at all. For some reason, that sort of critique– the solicited kind, feels… consensual?
Does criticism ever sting for you? Be honest.