There is no way around it: criticism stings. Even well-meaning, constructive criticism can ding your self-worth and make you feel like you’re doing something substandard or even bad. But, as someone who’s done things that have landed me in the court of public opinion can tell you, criticism is just unavoidable in life.
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Whether it’s on that project you did at work or that blog you posted online, other people will always have something to say about what you’ve put out there.
The good news is you don’t have to let negativity drag you down, and you can even learn from criticism you receive.
Try the following three ways to get a grip on criticism and handle it in a healthy, constructive way.
1. Look At The Source
The first thing you need to do is consider where the criticism is coming from. Is this a friend or someone who is just out to hurt you? Consider the tone of the comments; even if you don’t personally know the commentator, you can still figure out where they are coming from simply by how the words are phrased.
Nasty criticism, with harsh words and very little value in terms of how you can improve from it, often comes from a place of anger and insecurity on behalf of the commenter. These types of words can really sting, but you’ve got to learn that it’s not necessarily about you but the person leaving the comment.
Acknowledge any glimmer of genuine criticism that has merit in it, but don’t dwell on or waste time arguing with this type of commenter. Essentially, treat this type of criticism as water under the bridge, and move on from it quickly.
Take criticism from friends more seriously. Even a serious comment from a stranger that has criticism in it but is devoid of a nasty tone or personal insults merits some thought on your behalf.
While it can be tempting to dismiss negative comments about your work or performance from strangers, there will be well-meaning commenters out there who actually have good points you can learn from and improve on. The key here is to learn how to distinguish between the two, and the tone and style used is often your strongest clue.
2. Keep Yourself Separate
Your work is part of who you are, but it doesn’t completely define you. If you’re too personally attached to what you’re presenting, you may be taking any form of criticism too much to heart, and this can have a detrimental effect on what you do as a whole.
Learn to separate yourself from what you do so you’re not distracted by or focused more on responses to your work than your work itself. Accept that you can’t control the perception that people in your life have, let alone perceptions of complete strangers.
This can be difficult in general but even more so if your work involves the internet, as people tend to be braver when they can anonymously comment from behind their screens. You will have to work on achieving a true separation of yourself as a person from your product, but in the end, you’ll be much more focused, less stressed and happier as a result.
3. Have A Blast From The Past
A past example of well thought-out and helpful criticism can really help you remember what true feedback looks like. Criticism you can learn from shouldn’t make you feel bad as a person or as a worker or artist.
Genuine feedback from anyone, including a stranger, means someone thought enough of your work to take the time and tell you how they think you can improve and make it better. Not only is this type of commenter willing to help, but they also see potential in you, and that is a truly high compliment to receive.
Review past criticism you’ve received that was helpful in tone and overall to see what you’ve learned since then. This can also serve as a reminder that not all criticism is bad or meant to make you feel poorly about yourself or what you do.
Look at what you’ve done since you received the helpful feedback. Have you improved in those areas? What else can you do? If you haven’t fully addressed the meat of the constructive feedback, use this opportunity to work on those weak spots and emerge from the experience as a better artist or worker in whatever you do.
Turn a negative into a positive and feel proud of your maturity to do so.