Illustration by Rory Kurtz
The fear of criticism is legitimate. Many empowerment gurus will tell you to “Just do it!” and “Don’t let fear hold you back!” But the truth is, as soon as you brave your gifts into the world, it’s very likely that the wolves will appear to say you aren’t doing it well enough. So the question shouldn’t be if you will be criticised, but whether or not you’re willing to take the hit.
Before you make your decision, it’s important to know that there are two major consequences to your shrinking back: The first is the truncation of your soul’s purpose. Ouch, right? Well, something inclined you to create in the first place and, as most creative folks know, the creative cycle can’t complete itself until your gifts are received — for better or worse. Also, that urge to create? It’s not going away. The second consequence is the loss felt by everyone who will never receive the unique medicine you are meant to bring.
So ultimately you have to decide; are you willing to take the hit on behalf of all those who need exactly what you’re bringing? Or will you let them take the hit, by your remaining quiet?
Criticism is essential to our being shaped as individuals, as well as creatives. Given respectfully, criticism can be one of the most precious gifts in the world. But of course there are those critics who take cheap shots just be contrary, or to parade their own virtue.
Learning to differentiate between cheap and meaningful criticism is a huge part of becoming resilient. You can tell the difference between a critic who is an ally, and one who is a frustrated creative themselves, by how kindly (and privately) they deliver their reflections. An ally-critic will take as much care in offering you their reflections as you did in creating your offering.
If what they say resonates for you, even in an uncomfortable way, it’s meaningful criticism. Criticism like this will help shape you into a better writer, a better artist, a better person. But if it’s delivered with poison or shame, and doesn’t connect with some part of you that feels the same way, then it isn’t worth giving any energy to it.
Easier said than done, hey? How do you not let a cheap criticism get under your skin? In a way, you don’t have to. Even cheap criticism can serve you in that it forces you to articulate, even for yourself, what you stand for.
But just because the voice of your critics is loud, doesn’t mean it’s valuable. Once you’ve figured out where you stand, it’s important to listen to the other voices, which are likely far more numerous, letting praise or gratitude really penetrate you. If you have trouble receiving encouragement, I recommend buying a special journal in which to collect positive feedback about your work. You can also chronicle the moments you feel in alignment and well-being in your creative process.
Resilience is also trusting in the goodness of your intention. There is a vibratory signature on everything we create, whether we intend it or not, and this signature will be recognized by anyone who is on the same wavelength as you.
None of us are perfect, even though we feel enormous pressure to be, say, and do everything right. But if you are trying your best and putting your imperfect thing into the world, you are already defying the odds.
So be willing to be seen, that others who need what you’re bringing will also be emboldened to give their gifts. You won’t die from criticism. Either it will shape you into a better version of yourself, or give you an opportunity to pivot towards what you really value.