What the Critics Say

Most of my posts are very spur-of-the-moment ideas and occurrences that I have no better way of comprehending than writing them out. So here I am. Grab some popcorn because we’re in for an interesting ride.

So I work for broadcast radio news. I’ve only had experience in print news, so since I began my internship in January, I have struggled trying to convert my writing style into one that is friendlier to the ears. (I have heard the phrase “don’t tell me a story, show it” too many times to count, but doesn’t that defeat the purpose of storytelling? Ugh.) I’ve definitely made improvements from where I’ve first started, but I know in the depths of my being that writing for the eye, like this blog allows me to do, is where I thrive. Fitting into a broadcast mold isn’t for me. But that’s just the background information here.

For the past months, I have been putting together a feature story, I kind of “crown jewel” project for my time here to show off my skills. I decided to choose a topic I am particularly passionate about, which is gifted education in my state and how it is virtually nonexistent. I got to go back to the camp I love (and raved about last week) and have really deep conversations about how important it is to support these kids. As I’ve been putting together all of the pieces of my story, really writing from my heart, my emotional attachment to this story is undeniable.

As with most projects I take on, especially when it comes to my writing, I become very emotionally attached to it. I’m someone who works very hard, putting my best effort toward everything I do. It’s just not a perfectionist thing, but a thing involving my drive and passion. And every piece of writing, whether it be a blog post, essay, column or news report theoretically becomes one of my children.

So here comes my dilemma. I’m on the second draft of my feature article. Now if I was writing this for print, I probably would have published this last week. I’ve taken a few points of improvement and applied them. My writing is an area of my life that gives me great confidence. But that makes it so much harder to take criticism. I read my piece to the editor, which basically led to him telling me to rewrite everything. Luckily it was a phone conversation so I could fake enthusiasm well, but once I hung up, I was about ready to burst into tears and just walk out of the office.

Don’t be a Simon Cowell to yourself. Cheer yourself on. If you know you’re doing your best, believe it.

I have always struggled with criticism. When you put so much effort into everything you do, when you receive feedback saying that what you’re doing isn’t enough is hard to swallow. I love encouragement and praise for my hard work. I like to be recognized when something I do is worthwhile. But if those words involve anything negative, it’s equivalent to a stranger scolding my children. I take that as a personal attack. I become defensive, and in those moments of fight or flight, I retreat from the uncomfortable.

I think it’s also hard to take others’ criticism because I am so hard on myself. As previously mentioned, I’m a perfectionist. If I feel like I’m not doing enough, that I’m disappointing anybody, I beat myself up for it. I work twenty times harder to make up for it. This mentality stems into every area, from my body and size to my schoolwork.

With all of this in mind, you’re probably wondering how to overcome this personal obstacle. Well, that’s a work in progress. In moments of distress, rather than overreacting, take a deep breath. Walk away from the situation if you have to. Take yourself away from that emotional defense mechanism and find your inner logic and understanding. If that piece of criticism is from a place of genuine improvement, to help you become even better, consider it. Rather than getting lost in your own thoughts, take that outside voice and see how you can apply it. Chances are doing so will just help you grow and achieve the higher caliber work you’re striving for. These people giving you criticism probably have the knowledge and skills to know how to be constructive with their feedback.

I’m no Buddhist, but this guy had a point. When we attach ourselves to work, we allow criticism to unintentionally affect our self-worth. While you the one producing work, that work is not you.

I had another instance last year in my Honors English class, the first time I’ve seen true distaste for my writing. I immediately shook with anger and frustration when seeing a lower-than-normal grade for my first essay, and when I approached him about it, I was practically in tears (I don’t handle confrontation well, if you couldn’t tell already). When he gave vague reasons for the grade, I spent the entire semester working to produce writing he preferred. I was in his office every week to discuss how to improve. Now would I ever write essays the way I did in that situation ever again? No, definitely not. His advice basically disregarded everything I’ve learned in previous English classes or will ever use in the future. But in that experience, I learned how to adapt, to not take myself too seriously, and to jump through a few hoops to maintain a high GPA. In that example, I took my emotional side out of my work to think critically to try and perfect my work in an unfamiliar way. I showed my professor that I was open to anything, that I appreciated his input. Especially starting my first semester of college, learning that lesson early was important, and looking back, I am thankful for it now.

Now if this criticism, once you’ve analyzed it, is not helpful or out of a place of support, toss it aside. Some people criticize without anything solid backing it up. Once you analyze these kinds of critiques, you realize that they just don’t make sense. Ultimately, words are just words. They allow them to have power over you that ruins your mood. Accept any feedback with a thankful attitude, but if it isn’t anything worth considering, don’t worry about it. I understand that is much easier said than done, but in these moments, rely on yourself to know that you’re doing your best and that your work and effort is valued. It might take a lifetime to truly believe in those words. I know I have a long way to go in that regard, but I know I have come very far from where I used to be, and I’m so proud of myself for that. If anything, treat yourself like you would a best friend who may feel distraught from criticism, an outside voice of reason to both comfort and analyze the situation.

Life is too short to dwell on negativity. It’s just not worth it. But what might feel like punches to the gut could be opportunities to produce work you never thought possible. Sometimes we need that little push to get ourselves out of our own heads. Just don’t take things too seriously. Life is a bumpy enough road already. Sit back and enjoy the ride.

Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie


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