The Best Advice For Dealing with Critics and Naysayers
September 28, 2020
Being a creative person requires a delicate emotional balancing act. We need a thick enough skin to shake off unconstructive criticism while exercising enough humility to be teachable and moldable. It’s been a long-term project for me to develop this balance.
The same principle applies to other areas of life also. Even if you aren’t a writer or some other type of creative, it applies to work, family, and relationships also. Definitely a great asset to one’s emotional toolbox.
My husband is a man of great patience and wisdom. He is a tempering influence, steadying my occasionally high-strung responses to life. When I’m miffed by someone’s behavior or criticism, he speaks soothing wisdom. It’s one of the countless reasons I love him.
One of his best pieces of advice is a statement for which I can’t nail down an original source. But that doesn’t matter because it stands on its own merit:
Don’t take criticism from someone you wouldn’t take advice from.
What a freeing thought. If someone attempts to assume the role of naysayer in your life, run it through this filter. Is the person criticizing or downplaying you someone you respect and admire? It is someone you’d go to for advice? If not, dismiss and move on.
If so, glean truth from what he or she is saying. If possible, talk through it to get perspective. If you can’t discuss, reflect on how his or her criticism might be worth considering as constructive advice.
The longer I work as a high school teacher and develop myself as a writer, the more relevant and valuable this advice becomes. Rejection and criticism are part of life. We must learn to discern between what has value to sharpen and improve us and what is a noisy distraction from our growth process.
It takes practice and some soul-searching to get there. I continually aim to internalize the good and dismiss the bad, often after some initial floundering.
Consider being proactive. Seek out advice or constructive criticism from someone you trust. I have a small group of trusted writer friends I know will be honest and helpful regarding my work. I have colleagues I know I can count on to help me or set me straight when needed. These people are treasures.
Fix your eyes on your goals. Work towards them. Embrace the criticism and advice of those you trust to help you grow. Release it from those you don’t. This formula has helped me both professionally and personally, and I hope it helps you also.
Tracy is a New Jersey writer who loves Earl Grey tea, spending time outside, and painting. She lives with her husband and children in a home where birdsong and rainstorms provide the soundtrack for her creative life.