Handling the exposure of critiques and reviews
Reviews, critiques, constructive feedback, pointers, tips, honest opinions…
Most performers are familiar with the edge of fear that comes up when your work is critiqued.
You’re putting yourself, your heart, your soul out there when you perform and others are judging it… You wouldn’t be strange to think, “Woah, am I naked here?” Having your creative output evaluated by others (whether positively or negatively) makes almost every artist feel exposed.
Pass me a fig leaf
When you feel exposed, your gut reaction, like Adam and Eve with their fig leaves, is to hide. Hiding can happen in a number of ways when you receive praise or criticism for your work:
- You can literally hide. Look down, look away, deflect, make excuses. This often happens with positive feedback, the fear of being seen masking as modesty.
- You can pretend. Pretend you’re not feeling exposed, you can handle this. Push straight to applying the feedback, living up to the praise, lifting your game… But in doing so you sideline your creative soul and neglect the thing most needing nurture.
- You can curl up. Cover up, stop creating. The exposure is too much. I’m not cut out for this. Pull back from your most powerful outlet at the most opportune time.
So why do we hide?
The reason performers fear exposure so much is because we’ve all felt the heart-snag of a really cutting comment, we’ve all felt the dread of needing to recreate something that felt like a fluke.
Both ends of the spectrum flood can you with self-doubt.
As Eat, Pray, Love’s Elizabeth Gilbert so finely explains in her TED Talk on success, failure & the drive to keep creating (which is a very well spent 7mins IMHO), success can disorient you and shift you away from your safe sense of normality as much as failure can.
Positive feedback can have can have you inwardly back-pedalling just as quickly as constructive feedback can. And the solution in both cases is to find your way back to the middle ground of your own self, what you know you’re about and staying true to that.
Owning up to the fact that you’re never as good as your greatest success and you’re never as bad as your worst failure you’re never as good as your greatest success and you’re never as bad as your worst failure is one of the best recipes for coping with the exposure of both compliments and criticism.
You are real, you’re a human being. You are genuine and your work matters.
To remain steady amidst the ups and downs of the ever-changing responses you’ll inevitably get from others, you’ll need an internal compass of confidence, courage and calm to direct you.
You’re the only one who knows where you’re at in your growth curve, what your goals are right now and where the creative process has you headed (and if you don’t know those things, grab a pen and a piece of paper right now and nut them out!).
[pullquote position=”right”]Yes, it can be confronting to hear how others perceive and receive your work. But remember it’s their opinion, not your truth.[/pullquote]
Don’t let any feedback, positive or negative, strip you of your own integrity in being you, where you are at right now.
You don’t have to live up to the limelight’s highlight reel. You need to be real and let the highlights sustain you through the mundane and inspire your growing ability to blossom.
You also don’t have to be crushed by criticism. Sure, pick out the pearls to put into practice, but not at the price of your confidence. Use criticism to clarify your goals and draw on your strengths to keep reaching toward them.
The biggest lesson is being seen
It takes courage to be seen – in your weakness, in your strength. But that is where the real lesson lies.
Learning how to handle the exposure of criticism and praise could be your most important lesson as an artist. Learning to be seen without giving in to the compulsion to hide will bring your forward in your boldness to be real in your work and move others by what you do.
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