Monday, December 15, 2014

Addressing Fears in the Creative Life: Part 5—Criticism

The fear of criticism, I wrote in Part 1 of this series, pops up when we realize that once we expose our work to the world someone might freely tell us how it is flawed, and in less than a constructive manner. Or even if we receive a constructive critique, it might not feel good. 

Furthermore, even if we have thick skins, we might be dismayed by the response we receive.

But I thought it was one of the best parts. 

But I thought it was, well, at least nearly perfect! 

I need to . . . try again?

Ouch. Criticism, no matter how it comes, can embarrass or hurt or both. Putting ourselves out there in the creative life requires some realistic expectations, bravery, and preparation.

Here are four suggestions for how we can address the fear of criticism:

1. Ditch “perfect.” Even if perfect were achievable, crafting is a lifelong process and so we would probably see perfect only just before we take a last breath. What fun is that? Realizing that less than perfect is not the same as failure helps to make some criticism of the flaws in our work more palatable. "A man would do nothing if he waited until he could do it so well that no one could find fault." ~John Henry Newman*

2. Seek critique. Being brave enough to find othersa mentor, teacher, critique group or partnerwho will not only assess our work at our request but also have a heart for the creative life can help make "criticism" a building block, not a stumbling block. (Then, of course, we must be willing to do the same for others when it is our turn.) "He has the right to criticize who has the heart to help." ~Abraham Lincoln*

3. Compliment . . . ourselves! Let’s not go overboard here, letting go of some of that humility that keeps us from believing perfection is even possible. But if we think we have done good work, it is not necessarily conceited to tell ourselves so—especially if compliments from others are currently in short supply! Be honest; you know if and when you have done some good work. "When you cannot get a compliment in any other way pay yourself one." ~Mark Twain*

4. Embrace confidence. Without confidence, we are stuck. If our work reaches a point when we are satisfied (having let go of perfect), when others have given us some thumbs up (having sought and acted on invited critique), when we think the work is good (having given ourselves a compliment), then we should have the confidence to post on the blog, display the painting, enter the contest, submit the proposal. Criticism may still come, but we will be less likely to let it shatter a confidence we have appropriately embraced and acted upon. "The best way to gain self-confidence is to do what you are afraid to do." ~Author Unknown*

Fears in the creative life—the fear of mediocrity, indifference, insignificance, and criticism—are real. But if we are called to a creative life, the leap fully into it despite those fears is worth developing the courage we need as an antidote.

"Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgement that something else is more important than fear."  ~Ambrose Redmoon*

*The Quote Garden 

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