How to Deal with Criticism

As I get ready to show a sneak preview of my film Opening Our Eyes this week in Traverse City, Michigan, I do so with excitement – but also trepidation.  I have to be prepared for whatever the response and feedback might be.  Most likely, it will be a mixture of praise and criticism – and everything in between.  I also know when taking a chance and entering into new territory – like making a feature film – I open myself up to both positive and not so positive thoughts and comments.

It’s not easy to accept criticism, yet I have found that if I stay true to what it is that I am trying to accomplish and put the criticisms and comments in perspective – I’m far better off.

I try to keep the following things in mind:

Not to take harsh comments personally.  This is tough, because let’s face it when you’ve put your heart and soul into something, it can be very hurtful to hear unkind comments and criticisms. Since, I have made my life’s work – my life’s passion – there’s a fine line between the personal and the work. So I remind myself to think of all criticisms as related to my work.

Consider the source.  I try to remember that this is just one person’s opinions and even if that person is an “expert” or think they are – their perspective can be coming from a whole different place than what I had envisioned.  I’ve also found that many times, the worst criticisms come from people who may have their own issues they are reflecting on.

Step back and think before reacting.  I have learned “to be still” and to take time to digest all comments before reacting positively or negatively to them. Many times harsh words need to be heard – and can be the push I need to make “it” better.  Then it’s up to me to decide if I should respond to those comments and incorporate those suggestions into whatever I am creating – or not. In the past, I have made the mistake of taking everyone’s helpful comments and suggestions to heart, only to end up with a big mess that’s neither “here nor there”.

Trust my instincts. I try to keep in mind that I need to stay true to my own vision. If comments and suggestions are helpful in guiding me there – then I take them to heart. There are times when even though I know the message or story that I want to tell – I need guidance on how to do that.  So, I try to consider all feedback, but to keep it in context with my own vision.

Remind myself that I have done something. This is the most important thing of all – to remind myself that even though what I have created is not perfect – I have done what a lot of others never do and that is bring my idea to reality.  Many times the harshest critics are people frustrated that they have not overcome their own inertia.

Steven Pressfield writes about resistance and criticism in the The War of Art:

“ If you find yourself criticizing other people, you’re probably doing it out of resistance. When we see others beginning to live their authentic selves, it drives us crazy if we have not lived out our own.

Individuals who are realized in their own lives almost never criticize others. If they speak at all, it is to offer encouragement.  Watch yourself.  Of all the manifestations of “resistance” most only harm ourselves. Criticism and cruelty harm others as well.”

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