For as long as I can remember, I’ve taken criticism about as well as a dandelion takes a weed whacker. (For those who don’t know it by that name, it’s also called a string trimmer or a whipper snipper) Somehow, it always feels like a personal attack, and I feel inexplicably and irrationally hurt and guilty.
This is a gut reaction, but I’m self-aware enough to know that this is unhelpful to both myself and others, so for a long time I’ve been trying to get better at handling critique. After all, if I’m never told where I need improvement, how am I supposed to better myself?
As a writer especially, taking feedback on board is very important. Your stories are like your babies; when you invest so much of who you are in them, any criticism of them feels particularly personal. But this same connection can make us blind to their flaws, so an outsider’s perspective can be invaluable.
The biggest step, for me, is coming to terms with the fact that it’s okay to be wrong sometimes. I know that might sound simple, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Pride is a cruel mistress, and as someone who grew up being called “gifted” and identified as being smart from a young age, admitting I’m wrong is like swallowing a wasabi coated sea urchin.
The only way I figure I’ll get better is the same way I get better at most things; practice. So I go out of my way to ask for feedback, and specifically for things I could improve.
I don’t know if I’ll ever eliminate the visceral cringe I feel when me or my work is criticized, but I know I’d rather be working on it than just sitting back and letting it run my life.