Is Criticism a Bad Thing?

It’s been a busy week.

And usually I worry about this. I worry about a lot of things, but what worries me the most is bending. By bending, I mean letting things get to me, letting others actions slow me down, and most of all, letting something affect the way I want to live my life, then stopping my passions as a result.

That being said, I take criticism as a tool to better myself.  Whether it be constructive or not, not everyone is going to like what you are doing, and either they will tell you what you think in a way that will help, or bluntly discuss how you are not in the right.

So, why are we afraid of criticism?  Yes, hearing the truth that comes off as “negative” hurts, but in life, this is how we learn and grow.  I sometimes need a day or two to digest criticism as a professional and reflect on what the stated observation.  However, I have found my peers to need weeks, or even worse, stop their passions.

When it comes to dealing with criticism, it is knowing that fear and doubt will be visible to the other person.  This is vulnerable, and for a lot of millennials, in my opinion, are afraid to deal with vulnerability.

In an article by Kim Quindlen, she states 15 reasons why we as a generation fear success.  One that she states so eloquently

” It’s much easier to daydream about the idea of success and the idea of happiness than it is to actually go after it. Because if you go after it, there’s a chance it won’t happen. And then the illusion is ruined and your daydream is no longer safely tucked inside the inner pockets of your mind.”

Why can’t we get past our insecurities? Why can’t we push through the toughest of the tough?

I read an article last week about how college campus as of the past 20 years find teaching sensitive subjects in classrooms hindering and almost impossible. A great read, actually! And I read what Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt had to say in “The Coddling of the American Mind“, and felt like no matter my issues-at-hand in the past, I made sure that I listened to critical subjects, thoughts, and debates in class.  It not only helped me learn, but grow as a person.

I reposted the article on Facebook, thinking nothing of this, and found more of my peers either didn’t read the article and commented (another issue-at-hand, which we have a habit of doing living on  social media), or voiced their concerns towards the article.  I didn’t take any of their comments personally, since they were voicing their opinion, but found that they worry that not everyone can handle cognitive behavior, and therefore “trigger words” or “trigger warnings” are imperative to the classroom. This includes discussing rape, suicide, anxiety, anything that might set someone off towards a painful and traumatic time in their life.  These peers felt that we need to stay on target of protecting people from getting hurt.

I admire these peers.  They are for the common good and for the right to protect others from harm.  However, what I felt jarring is that we learn from pain.  We learn from facing issues, even when traumatic.

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So what can we do to level us in this subject? In the arts, we are vulnerable, emotional people, but what makes those stand out from others is developing a thick skin.  We need to acknowledge the negative attributes in our lives as stepping-stones.  We also need to see that if someone does not like our work of art, we cannot bend.  If someone says something sexist to a person, face that person, or talk to someone who can settle the issue. And by doing so, find a way to work with it, and use it as a tool to get through the next obstacle.

So here are my thoughts on how to handle critics:

  • Soak it in-know what the person is saying and why.
  • Feel it briefly, and I mean briefly.  But to know that it makes you feel a certain way is important when dealing with these issues.  You are not blocking feelings, therefore it will not come up later.  You are in contrast, not living what they say, and ruining your lifestyle.
  • See what the critique has in store and research solutions to better yourself. Maybe you need to write more fluid. Or maybe you are composing the same type of music over and over again. So…
  • Get out of your comfort zone!  Find a solution that is a little out of what you normally do, and experiment.  Life is about exploring, and as artists, and even more in general, as people, trying new things can only help grow a person!
  • Let your past be a lesson, not a living.  If you live in the past, it will make you stall in the moments passed by, making you miss the now.

So when life is busy, and you are taking on criticism and negative events, remember: you are forming a new tool at hand.  I am no expert, and this is how I feel from my experience. Live your life from your experience, and run with it.  At this moment, I am looking for jobs, composing, waiting on projects, and dealing with some personal stresses.  But to tell you the truth, I know that this day will make me stronger, make me grow, and will pave my way towards what my life’s purpose will be.

Find yours! Don’t be afraid of what people say, and go for it!

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