Friends, criticism is real. And when it’s not delivered with GENUINE intentions of wanting to see the other person grow, it’s just hurtful. The more I put myself (and my creative work) out there, the more I open myself up to others’ opinions of me. One of the toughest lessons I’ve learned in the past 5 years is how to BE A DUCK.
That’s right. A DUCK. Letting criticism roll off my back like water on a duck’s back is one of the best skills I’ve learned in the past 5 years. And I’ve only learned this skill through facing into all the pain the criticism has caused. I cried for a long time. I people-pleased even longer. And then, finally, I figured it out. I needed to stop responding to criticism as if it were real. It’s usually the other person’s projection of their own wants, values, or negative beliefs onto you. The negative words from their mouths will always say more about THEM than it ever will about YOU. My solution? Be kind. Be consistent. And turn your ear toward more positive relationships.
Tuning out the noise has been THE hardest lesson of my adult life. It’s not easy. But it is possible. If you’ve been the object of others’ criticism, this post is for you. And I write it with the hope that it brings encouragement.
Here’s a list of criticisms I’ve received :
- My work is too “magazine-y”
- My work is too “perfect”
- My spirit is too restless
- You’re just showing off your lifestyle
- You’re too impatient
- Your posing isn’t perfect – there’s a hand or a foot or a wisp of hair that’s out of place (wait a second – doesn’t this conflict with the earlier criticism that my work is ‘too perfect’?!)
- You’re not a “grown up” (because . . . ???)
- You have too many graduate degrees
And honestly, this is just a short list. At first, these criticisms (especially the one about my work being “too magazine-y”) devastated me. And you know what? All these criticisms came from people I loved, respected, or sought acceptance from.
The greatest conflict of my life has been an internal one. I guess you could say that the greatest antagonist in my personal story is actually myself. I used to think it was “them.” The ones who used to be my good friends. The ones who say nice things to my face, but say biting things behind my back. But now I know that the greatest antagonist in my story is actually me: am I going to believe the lies? The criticisms? The anger? Or am I going to seek out new loves, new friendships, new partnerships that are encouraging and loving and exciting?
I never knew that launching a creative business would bring in so much ugly criticism. But it has. And it’s real. The important question, then, is: Who am I seeking to please? The critics? Or my clients and myself?
May we all learn to encounter unkind criticism with kindness and grace, but also with a sense of strength and unrelenting courage.
* * *
Want to see more of my photography & daily thoughts? Let’s connect:
* * *
How To Respond to Criticism | Seattle Documentary Wedding Photographers