Palms are sweaty and you can hear your heartbeat thump. Not a breath leaves you while you wait on the very edge of your seat for the answer.
You might have recently asked for a raise, submitted a work of art to a competition, or told someone you love them. Going out on a limb and doing something brave is scary. It takes a great deal of strength to put yourself out there with the potential for rejection.
A piece of your soul was sent out into the universe waiting to be caught and loved, or torn up into a million tiny pieces.
This feeling was ever-present when I recently submitted a story into a competition. Hopes were high that it would be published and performed live at an upcoming showcase.
The first cut showed my stories title made it through and I was filled up with validation and excitement. I could clearly envision this story being retold and shared for so many people. I had made it.
The final cut arrived and it wasn’t on the list. For a moment, it felt like this piece of work was everything I stood for, everything I was.
In it being rejected, I thought I was a failure.
It is vital to find a way to cope with the criticism and praise that comes with creating art and putting yourself out there. Riding the roller coaster of emotions can be exhausting and leave you depleted from continuing to stay positive and focused on your craft.
Needless to say, I was able to quickly collect myself and find a way to see beyond the rejection and learn from it.
Here are four things to consider when you are faced with feedback from a critic and how you can manage them.
1. Feedback doesn’t tell you about yourself.
It tells you more about the critic than you. In other words, if someone says your work is amazing, that just tells you about their taste.
When you make the shift to view criticism and praise as information about the people giving it, not a direct reflection to your soul, you will become more curious about the feedback as opposed to feeling rejected or accepted. You will want to better understand what they seek more of.
The next time you receive praise or criticism ask yourself:
“What does this feedback tell me about the person sharing their opinion?” and “What does this reveal about their needs, desires, and values?”
The book The Four Agreements highlights to not take anything personally. Always keep in mind that what others say and do is a projection of their own reality. Rejection and criticism is a great place to apply this life moto.
2. Your critic isn’t right for your work.
You wouldn’t ask a graphic designer to give product feedback on a surgical orthopedic device, and you wouldn’t ask a ballerina to judge a wrestling competition.
The same goes for your craft or your product!
Be sure your critics are in the audience your work caters towards. It can be easy to get stuck submitting to a crowd that doesn’t understand your voice or connects with your work.
Vet out where this feedback is coming from and whether you should continue to seek it out.
This has been a lesson to me, as a writer I have submitted works where I talk about sex as if we are visiting the wildlife zoo or stories where my vagina is named after every snack item in a candy shop. Of course, a group of elderly women critics isn’t going to be teething to publish it. It isn’t meant for them.
Find your audience, target their needs and desires and then seek feedback from them. The same goes for anything in life, if you tell someone you love them and they don’t reciprocate, you are likely telling the wrong “critic”.
3. Praise isn’t always what you want, or more importantly, need.
It can feel really good to be told how valuable, hilarious, gorgeous, moving, or inspiring your work is.
This type of feedback likely leaves you on the edge of your seat with the thought, “…and?”
Think about the beginning episodes of every season on American Idol. There is always one young kid who gets on stage having been told by his friends and family how wonderful his voice is. But, the moment he starts to sing, the judges, and the rest of America, immediately say no.
I am by no means saying get rejected because you are not worthy, I am saying we need criticism to see our strengths, where we can improve and what will make our work and art better.
Use feedback for what it is intended: to make your work go from good to great. If you applied for that new job and didn’t get it, perhaps there are things you must do first in order to be ready for it in the future. These steps are required to set you up for better long term success.
The next time you receive criticism express your sincere gratitude. Especially if it is in a more personal setting, consider how difficult it must have been for that person to be raw and honest. It takes a lot of guts and courage to tell someone the truth, and a deep level of respect between each other. At the very least, you can be grateful for that.
4. Rejection can be a blessing.
Sometimes you need to hear “No.” because something better is around the corner for you to say “Yes!” to.
There are likely many times in your life when you really wanted something, only to think back a few months or years later and be so grateful it didn’t work out that way.
Perhaps you need harsh criticism so that you never forget to change something specific about yourself or your work.
If you have received harsh criticism or rejection don’t think you are alone. In fact, you are among some of the greatest people and products that have lived. Chicken Soup for the Soul was rejected 144 times before becoming a major franchise. Stephen King had a pile of rejection letters growing up that he considered a “badge of honor”.
Clearly, that didn’t stop him.
Don’t let it stop you either!