You never learn anything from critics.
Sometimes inspiration and insight come from the strangest places. Yesterday, none other than Shia LaBeouf turned on a light bulb in my head. I know, right—how strange.
I was reading Dazed and Confused Magazine’s piece on him. It’s a fascinating article about (who I feel) is a young man struggling to find inner balance in the face of personal turmoil, professional mistakes, and fame. I was fascinated as I read the article, but when I came to one simple line: you never learn anything from critics—I was inspired.
In my first year as a published author I’ve experienced criticism first hand. I think every author fears being judged, we’re terrified of bad reviews, and we’re terrified of failure. But we’re brave because we risk facing these things. When someone criticizes us, we take in every word like poison and let it weave its way into our minds so that we doubt ourselves.
We must STOP doing this.
We live in a society full of critics.
Every day we see tabloids cutting up celebrities, FB posts against this or against that, parents criticizing each other, politicians criticizing each other, people criticizing people.
Professional critics aside, the definition of criticism is: The expression of disapproval of something or someone based on perceived faults or mistakes.
Just the word “criticism” guarantees a negative outcome, and even when the criticism is well intentioned, if it’s unwelcome, it offers nothing constructive, what does it do for us? It cuts us down.
In one breath we hear people say: Don’t judge others. And then in the next they have a “criticism” for us. Hmmm…Something isn’t right here.
The only thing I ever learned from critics is that I’m not made of steel.
It’s taken me some time to figure this out, and here’s what I’ve decided: unless I ask for advice, unless I’ve solicited an opinion from a friend, peer, or professional, the criticism I receive does NOT require my intention.
Imagine if we all spent our days listening to what we were doing wrong. Even the toughest person would crack, eventually. Doubt is a sneaky monster, and it feeds off of criticism—in fact—that’s its favorite food. So by paying attention to criticism, you are feeding your doubt, and only hurting yourself.
In the last year I can honestly say that I’ve never learned anything constructive from true criticism. Actually, I think we should scrap the phrase “constructive criticism” from our vernacular altogether. It’s a complete oxymoron. “Constructive” means to build, criticize means to point out faults. Unless it’s advice, it’s main purpose is to tear down.
Sure, I’ve taken advice from those I asked for advice, I’ve grown based on the opinions of those I admire, and respect. But when it comes to true criticism—the kind that tells you nothing but your faults, DON’T LISTEN! DO. NOT. LISTEN.
Be wary of constantly searching for reviews of your work. Be wary of Googling yourself. Be wary of those who force their opinions (of you) on you without your consent. Be open to advice. Be open to change. Be open to growth. But when that uninvited friend called criticism knocks on your door—slam that damn door shut and don’t even THINK about peeking out the window.
Even as I write this blog, the doubtful voices in my head are screaming at me: But criticism is a valuable tool. We can learn from our critics. We NEED criticism to grow.
Maybe those statements would if be true if we didn’t live in a society where we feel the right to judge each other so harshly and, often, without understanding.
Spend a day listening to your critics and you’ll find yourself deflated. Spend a day listening to your advisers, those whose opinions you value, and you’ll continue to grow.