When someone tells you that you’re wrong, that your work needs work, there are three likely and extreme ways to respond. Two of the most powerful are anger and sadness.
Assuming the criticism is given with the best intentions, if you react to it with anger, you either missed the point of the feedback or you misunderstood the person giving it to you.
If you react to criticism with sadness, you definitely missed the point of the feedback.
Other than the negative responses of anger or sadness, the other likely and extreme response to criticism is learning, feeling empowered.
Responding to criticism with a learning mindset means ppening your thoughts to the possibility that the person giving you feedback doesn’t have all the facts, that they are only speaking from personal preference, or that – and I really hope you underline this point –you don’t have all the facts.
Even if you’re wrong, even if you don’t have all the facts or didn’t see the picture clearly, criticism gives you the opportunity to do so. The feedback helps you see what you might not have seen before, or explore the areas of thought you didn’t look down.
Criticism enables us to learn and grow.
Unfortunately we live in a world where being wrong, or being criticized, is often confused with living an unsuccessful, powerless, lonely, down‒in‒the‒dumps sort of life. Which isn’t true at all.
Just look at those who have been the most successful in life. Chances are you can easily spot moments in their life when they had to fail a lot and be told about what they were doing wrong before they could consider themselves successful. They had to receive criticism and deal with it just as you and I do. One difference between those who are creatively successful and those who aren’t is that the successful ones took criticism as an opportunity to learn and grow.
Strive for criticism. And when you do get it: try not to get upset or down about it, instead: attempt to learn something from the experience. That’s what criticism is there for.
Illustration by the incredibly talented Evan Lovejoy.