Confusing Criticism For Failure

I long for validation. I’m not talking about kind words from an acquaintance. I’m talking about weighty validation from someone I respect. But many times I sabotage a compliment before it can even come.

Have you ever created something that you loved and then felt like you hated it?

Failure & Criticism

I’ve actually apologized for my creativity. I’ve done it before anyone could make a comment just so that I can protect my heart from criticism.

There are some people to whom I will freely admit that I consider myself a writer. I have no problem accepting compliments and feeling proud of my accomplishments.

Then there are people I consider “real” writers. I don’t go around calling myself a writer in front of them. I talk about how much improvement I need. I talk about how I don’t write enough. I find every criticism I can think of. I do it many times without even being aware of it.

Criticism Is Not Failure

I find that I criticize myself in front of those I respect so that they understand that I don’t think that I have arrived. It’s my way of promising that I’ll get better. I feel that if I criticise myself first, it will lessen the blow of any criticism they may have.

I believed that criticism from someone I respect is a failure. But criticism is not failure. Criticism is either validation for what you intended or an invitation to improve.

Regardless of what kind of criticism it is, be it constructive or destructive, I have the choice to determine my perspective on it.

When I focus unnecessarily on criticism, it instills a fear of failure. It causes me to be safe with my choices. It causes me to devalue myself to protect my heart.

But with a healthy perspective on criticism, I can use to propel me forward rather than tear me down.

How do you handle criticism?
Have you ever criticised yourself in front of those you respect?

Comments

  1. I really appreciate your post and transparency. I too am overcoming my view on criticism. For some odd reason I believed that my success was measured by the number of people who agreed with my work/efforts.

  2. Criticism is so hard for me to handle. It totally does feel like failure, and that’s something I’ve had to continually work on. Getting the right perspective on things is often much tougher than I think it will be. But it’s a battle worth fighting.
    Loren Pinilis recently posted..Podcast Episode 1 – Renegotiating Commitments

    • It seems that the more I grow in finding my confidence in my own value and separating it from finding my value in my actions, I am able to better handle criticism. I’m not completely there yet but that’s the goal.

  3. Well this was a good thing to read today!
    Mandie recently posted..Aunt Tootie’s Christmas Story

  4. I have absolutely criticised myself in front of people I respect. It seems so much easier than looking like a failure in front of them. But I’m trying not to do that anymore.

    I think I take criticism pretty well most of the time. My first reaction might not be good. It hurts sometimes, but if the criticism is true, and from someone that is trying to help, I usually think about it and end up changing or learning because of it. Criticism makes me want to work harder.
    jenn recently posted..Hello Lonely – Its Been A Long Time

    • That’s such a great perspective to take, Jenn. There are a lot of people that go the opposite direction when they get criticism, even when it is constructive and delivered in a gentle and loving way.

  5. When I read this post, I thought it would resonate primarily with men, but it looks like quite a few women understand it, too.

    What I want most from others is validation…that I’m worth it, that I did something good, that I’m a good mom or wife, or a good friend. It’s not that I want flowery language or huge accolades, I just want to be seen and known for who I am. Sometimes that has come in the form of criticism. It is most certainly what propels me to be better. Even to be criticized is to be seen, in my opinion. That is better for me than not being seen at all. I think of my professor who didn’t just say I was awesome {because I totally was, of course}, but who said I could do even better and pointed out the weaknesses, not just the strengths.
    Keri recently posted..Kickstarter and the Crowd Funding Craze

    • “Even to be criticized is to be seen”

      Wow, such a great point! We definitely all want to be seen. I think that’s why some kids seek negative attention. Not necessarily because they are bad, but they know it’s the only way that they will be seen.

      You got my mind spinning, Keri!

  6. even worse than criticizing myself in front of people I respect, I say nothing. just… nothing. I don’t put forward my ideas. I don’t make suggestions. I don’t offer opinions. Then I walk away kicking myself. I’ve been so afraid that they will take me seriously that I’ve gone silent. That’s not me, normally, and it leads to some self-loathing, which, I could really do without.
    kristinherdy recently posted..The Love Discernment

    • I can definitely relate to that. Even in an environment where my opinions were welcome, I’ve struggled believing that I have anything substantial to add…especially when it’s with people I respect.

      These are exactly the types of things I want to overcome as I get over my fear of failure.

  7. I’ve been emailing with a photographer friend of mine about this today because she wrote something that really resonated with me yesterday. She said:

    “Don’t ever let someone, particularly another photographer, ever make you feel inferior. Or like your work is not of value.”

    Constructive criticism is rarely difficult to accept – I believe. However, to me it seems that when someone speaks into our lives out of turn, or uninvited, or says it in a way that is negative or doesn’t also tell you what you are doing RIGHT… then even if they mean well, it may not be good for your heart to receive and/or believe – you know? People have all kinds of funny motives behind things they say when you find yourself chasing your dream – so you have to be careful of dream extinguishers.

    What say you Writer of the Exceptional word Tony-Tone?
    Jenny recently posted..Walking the Photographic Wedding Aisle | Part I

    • Jenny…it is certainly those who I have invited to speak into my life that I listen to with open ears. The others, I will take with a grain of salt. They might have something of truth to share, but I will often take it and even sift through it with another person that I trust.
      Keri recently posted..Kickstarter and the Crowd Funding Craze

      • Yes, great response! I don’t completely discount criticism from people I don’t know like some people say. I try to remain open. At the same time, it doesn’t have nearly the same value as someone that I know has my best interest in mind and cares about me.

  8. the only thing that i am really good at is failing. the thing i can’t take is a complement.. when it happens i make all up all kinds of things as to why im a loser and your wrong.. i know deep down that i am not a loser but if i come across that way you can’t hurt me with telling me what i did was wrong, or how i can make it better. being around people of God and them telling me possitive things about me makes me crazy, cause i can’t believe you don’t see all the faaults i have,,,lol.. sad as it is thats how it is in my world.. but these crazy God fearing friends i have made just keep saying good things and s l o w l y i am changing.. Tony keep up the good work, your inspire me..

  9. bettylaluna says:

    If I may offer ONE criticism – you are perfect in God’s eyes because he created you and he doesn’t make junk – and I for one enjoy your writing…keep up the good work…

  10. OK, Tony- You are really going to have to stop reading my mind… it getting annoying! LOL
    I do this all the time. With my singing, dedication to my work ethic, and other abilities. I grew up with a father who criticized and disapproved of just about everything I did. It’s messed me up pretty bad. I often times think that I have no right to feel accomplished, or “good” at something. It smacks of pride (the wrong kind of pride) to me. I think you made a post about a similar thing. The difference between **pride** and confidence in ones own abilities is extremely difficult for me to discern. Which, ironically, makes taking criticism just as hard. Even though I know, somewhere in my heart, that Jesus loves me and thinks I’m awesome- I still try to find validation in the opinions of other people. Why? I dunno… I’m working on it. :-P
    Thanks again for your beautiful blog. It helps to know that I’m not as screwed-up as I think I am. <3
    Sarah

    • Validation is so important and something I’m planning on writing more about. Why is it so important to us? What happens when we don’t get it? These are things I think about a lot.

      And thanks so much for your consistent encouragement, Sarah!

  11. In front of people I respect? Dude, I criticize myself EVERYWHERE. It’s been a constant struggle in my life all my life. When I’d accomplish something instead of enjoying the moment I’d immediately begin thinking how I could top it or how I could win a second time and if I didn’t hit that goal I would crush myself.

    It’s still something I struggle with, if I’m being honest.
    Jason recently posted..Giving control of your family to God

  12. I used to criticize myself all the time in front of those I thought were better than me. I don’t do it all the much anymore. I’ve realized that I need criticism to grow – to have someone who will point out my flaws and help me improve them. I’m not going to be the best at something right away, I need that direction to push me to be better.
    Jason Vana recently posted..Deeper: Don’t Settle

  13. I’m afraid I’m not very good at handling criticism. Particularly the personal kind. It’s an area of growth for me – as I learn to handle difficult critical people. Our pastor just started a series on this and sometimes with criticism – you just have to walk away and consider life from their point of view – which often times comes from a place of brokenness.
    Cindy Holman recently posted..This New Year

    • It’s definitely an area of maturity. How do you distinguish between valid criticism and everything else (including jealousy)?

      There isn’t an easy formula for discernment, is there?

  14. Being an artist I find that I am my own worst critic, not just on canvas, but in every area of my life. I always feel like I could do better.

    I wasn’t always kind to my critics, but one after a showing my art to someone, they told me “I don’t like it!”. It made me walk away with my head hung low, and I guess a little bit of my pride was affected also. Then my brother told me something that changed my whole view, and in fact, challenged me to better myself, and my art. He simply said “Everyone is a critic.”
    Ed recently posted..Broken Egg Shells

  15. Yikes, this hits home. For some reason, especially with those close to me (like my wife, my parents) I take criticism as failure. During those times I need/want to intentionally remember that these are people who want whats best for me — and trust that God is using those people, during these times, to ultimately edify.
    dustin recently posted..Investments

  16. I have to admit that you must have peered into my soul on this one. I can relate so much on this that I could have written it, although it would have been hastily done, not quite finished, and probably not worth posting.

    Seriously, I understand exactly what you are saying. And I would probably say these same things and make these same excuses to you and those who have posted here above me.

    I seek validation every day from my wife, I can’t wait for her to tell me she read what I wrote and what she thought. If she doesn’t mention it then I feel like I have really failed.
    Sele Mitchell recently posted..The Apostle: A Life of Paul

  17. “I feel that if I criticise myself first, it will lessen the blow of any criticism they may have.”

    I do that more often than I’d like to admit but it’s only the things that I care most about. It speaks to my insecurity. I know I was an awesome social worker and I never, ever apologized or criticized myself in that department. But I hold writing closer to my heart and a career as a novelist is my deepest dream so anything approaching criticism scares the living daylights out of me. Best to sell myself short before anyone else does. As I’ve waited for feedback from my test readers, I’ve steeled myself for the worst instead of hoping for the best. I know that I know that it’s wrong and so I’m trying to embrace myself as a writer and an artist. Regardless of what anyone else says.

    (And ironically, my test readers have bowled me over with positive responses to my WIP. So now I have to hope that an agent and publisher will feel the same.)
    HopefulLeigh recently posted..Embracing 32

    • It seems that the more you love something, the more terrified you are of failure…and the more you need to be validated.

      And as far as your WIP, I’ll be on the sidelines with my pom poms, cheering you on!

  18. As Tony already knows, I don’t really handle criticsm that well. Especially when it’s something I care about and/or already feel like I need to do better (like writing more or my relationship with Jesus, etc). I don’t throw things or fall to the floor in a crying heap. I just deny that I need any help thankyouverymuch and then argue my side and make excuses (I shoulda been a lawyer).

    To answer the other question (Tony and I were just talking about this the other day), I tend to apologize for the way I look; like saying “I know I shouldn’t be wearing a bikini, but I just really need some sun” or “I know I need to lose a bagillion pounds, but if I don’t eat this leftover Christmas candy I’m going to regret it for the rest of my life” (I’m also an exaggerator…just in case you didn’t know that). I feel that I need to apologize to Tony, someone I love and respect, about the way I look because I want him to know that I don’t think it’s okay to be this way. But the thing is…I honestly don’t feel bad about it. I think I look pretty dang good. I just feel like he must be thinking I’m gross, so I better apologize.
    Katie Alicea recently posted..Let Me See…

  19. Thanks for sharing Tony.

    This past weekend a friend asked me if I considered myself an author. I demurred, saying something along the lines of “Well, I haven’t published anything, so I’m more comfortable with ‘writer.'” Although I do think there’s a distinction to be made between the two terms, it was a small bit of self-criticism, demoting myself to “just” a writer. It wasn’t until a year or so ago that I even began to feel comfortable with calling myself “just” a writer.

    And this is likely fodder for another post, but why do aspiring writers and artists and actors often have difficulty claiming their identities? You never hear a firefighter say, “Well, I’m just a firefighter.” They own their identity.

    As for handling criticism, I try to take the words to heart if they’re from someone I respect. There’s always wheat to be gleaned from the chaff so long as you can remove the emotion of the moment from the criticism you’re receiving. If it’s highly critical, remind yourself of the dozens or hundreds of people that have told you otherwise.

    • I think the difference may be in task-based work as opposed to creative work. Creatives tend to be intensely sensitive to criticism as opposed to someone with a task that either gets done or it doesn’t. Creative work is more subjective and can be loved or hated in the same breath. That can be terrifying!

  20. I hate criticism and hate giving criticism on certain things. Yet I know it’s necessary to get better.
    LarryTheDeuce recently posted..Christian Is Not An Adjective

    • That’s a great flip side of the coin, Larry. Giving criticism isn’t always easy either but if I really care about someone, I have to be honest. Sometimes that means giving some constructive criticism to see them grow.

  21. I learned that you only value criticism from those you have allowed to speak into your life. If I based my life on everyone’s criticism, I would be destroyed. That’s why it’s good to have a handful of people to run ideas, goals, etc. Then, I can make a decision on whether the criticism is valid or not.

    And sometimes, you just gotta go with your gut. Often it takes time for people to “see” what you see.
    Moe recently posted..The Attention of A Soul

    • That’s a great distinction, Moe. Discernment is important but so is making a choice of allowing people to speak into your life.

      I “see” what you’re saying! #seewhatididthere

  22. When I think about it, seeking validation for something I write makes sense…I mean, you are putting apart of yourself, apart of your heart, into the words you apply to paper. Validation has been an issue for me as I’ve started blogging especially…Would I be getting more visits if I was a better writer? Would I have more comments if I was a better writer? These questions have passed my mind many times. But I imagine the same is true for anyone that is passionate about their craft…we all want to be awesome at something…especially if we love doing it!

    You’re not alone, bro…I criticize my writing all the time…half the time I won’t finish a blog or story I’ve started because I convince myself it’s not as good as another person’s writings…And I will especially down play my abilities in front of those that I think have, “arrived” in their writing or are better at it than me…

    It’s good to know I’m not the only one :o)

    • You said so much that hits home, man. I want to be awesome at everything I do but sometimes we want instant gratification. Part of becoming awesome is going through the process of sucking for awhile.

      The ones that live exceptionally are the ones that can withstand criticism and failure and come out better. I believe that is our story!

  23. I’ve always been told that I use humor as a defense mechanism. Put me in an uncomfortable situation (primarily where I’m intimidated) and out come the self-deprecating comments. I feel like the flaws in me are so glaringly obvious that someone will have to point them out, and the easiest person to accept criticism from is myself. So, I beat them to the punch . . . every time. I write it off as humor, I love to make people laugh. However, if I’m constantly beating myself down (funny or not) I’m leaving no room for others to build me up. And what I’ve found is my self critiques are harsh and destructive, while critiques from others aim more to encourage and improve me. It’s necessary, and when I let a little healthy critique slide through the crack in my wall, I’m always glad I did. So, good post, I need to work on this.
    Nikki Weatherford recently posted..Assigning Blame

    • Oh wow, yeah I can relate to humor as a defense mechanism. That was my go-to move for a long time. I’ve gotten better not just in my own life, but stopping people from doing it in front of me. I don’t like to hear people make fun of themselves so I always find a way to compliment them when they do.

  24. Yes, I’ve done this too. Not only have I apologized for my creativity, I’ve been embarrassed by it too. And, around “real writers” I can relate to your reaction. I feel a need to let them know that I know my stuff is not as good as their stuff. But you’re right, we have to learn to use criticism as a positive instead of seeing it as a negative.
    Eileen recently posted..Never Beyond- More Than Your Mistakes

    • It’s such a tough subject for me but one that I know it necessary to address. I’m going to be exploring our desire/need for validation later this week. I’m hoping to uncover some important truths about this topic.

  25. I’m up there with you when it comes down to my songs…

    i say things like, yeah..i wrote it in like 5 minutes and it’s no finished, or i’m not %100 feeling it…

    you know…something cool musicians would say…

    i fear the critizism…from both sides…

    I slowly begun to let it go and just write … and i remember that I have an even more favorable audience…HIM.
    Arny recently posted..Lessons From The Godfather #1: A New Plan

  26. I used to really struggle with criticism but through the years I have been able to get a bit better – I have my days when it still gets to me and I do not learn from it. Generally speaking – once I get past the sting of it – I try to find what it is I need to change.

    I used to all the time criticize myself in front of others that I respected. I would do it through self deprecating humor that would make others uncomfortable.

    Thanks for sharing this!
    Jim F recently posted..Negative Words

  27. “I feel that if I criticise myself first, it will lessen the blow of any criticism they may have.”

    I do this as well! Especially with the people you do this with the most…the people you respect! Wow! Yes…I know this!

    I have very little problem flying around being a writer in front of new people, or people that barely know me…because they don’t know my history.

    But you landed it wonderfully today, Tony… criticism isn’t failure. I needed this reminder today…thank you!
    Marni Arnold recently posted..Love: Trust It, Don’t Feel It

  28. Man, I’ve done it so many times, especially in front of those I respect or in an email to someone I respect. It’s a cop out.

    Regarding, criticism in general I think one must really consider the source. Things such as: Do I respect this person? Did they actually read/or look at what I have done? And things like like that.
    Michael Perkins recently posted..Complacency Kills

    • I’m getting better at responding to criticism from people that I don’t explicitly respect or give access to speak into my heart. But yeah, I definitely cop out as well. I know I’m better than that.

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  1. Approved! says:

    […] © Eva the Weaver via Flickr A few weeks ago, Tony Alicia wrote a post about Confusing Criticism for Failure.  In this post he opens by stating that he longs for validation.  This is a very forthright […]

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