As someone who almost tripped down the staircase in my article last week,
50 Shades of This Saved My Marriage (and It's Not What You Think),
I'm reminded that we're all capable of much more than we give ourselves credit for - great, or not so great.
After the post, the comments alerted me that I'd made a small, but huge, error. I'd written the wrong first name of Mr. Grey. The majority of the comments spoke to this as my stomach tightened with anxiety.
How did that slip by? Feeling unprofessional, all I could do was submit a change, and wait. Ugh, people missed the point of the article because of a single word.
Then I was reminded that even if we execute like a rock star, people can always find something negative or unkind to say.
As Dita Von Teese says, brilliantly, "You can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world, and there's still going to be somebody who hates peaches."
The comments allowed me to view my growth. In the past, the fear of rejection, or people's negative comments, might have stopped me from writing articles. Now, they didn't affect me in a destructive way.
There are many other people who shrugged off the mistake in lieu of the message, or who weren't aware of it in their speed-reading. Yet our brains puff the small negative comments and override the positive.
I often remember that it's easy to judge when we're on the outside looking in. For example, I've heard from various people how "easy" acting must be because, "you just say lines." Umm, not true. Acting is an art, that's why people study and train.
With every art there's an element of putting ourselves out into the world. As I chat with writer and actor friends, I'm acutely aware of the vulnerability required for arts creation, juxtaposed with the coat of thick skin we must cover ourselves with in arts revealing. In order to survive and maintain sanity, artists must be two different people. We must be the artist, and also fierce protector of the sacred place art comes from.
If we are not both people, then criticism can seep into the unprotected parts and sow seeds of decay.
One of my favorite quotes by Aristotle says:
"The only way to avoid criticism is to say nothing, do nothing, and be nothing."
In order to do significant things in the world we must risk. We must to create a space that's larger than our safe cocoon, and venture out into the uncertainty of air.
Risks are not entirely safe. That's why they're called risks.
So we do our art. We make things with an open heart and release them into the sea of people, into the ether of eyes, and iPhones, and computers.
I trust that it will roll up on the shores of the people who it's meant for. Then I put on my coat, sit on the seashore, and sip a latte from a fairytale mug in the wake of possible crashing waves of critique.
At the edge of the horizon, we see the waters swell.
But I hold my smile when I see the wave because the trick to loving your haters is simple:
If we see the sea of people as a gelatinous whole, it's easy to claim they're stupid, or vapid, or a-holes, or whatever magical phrase of the day comes to mind.
But that's not true:
People in the world are basically good. Sometimes we're stupid, or mean, or inconsiderate, but I don't think we mean to be. I think we're just all in our own little worlds doing our best.
Pluck the haters from the gelatinous blob of "people" and humanize them. They too have childhoods. They have goals and dreams, people they love and that love them. They have open wounds or scars to document the wars they've survived. Somewhere, they are like you. And if we met in other circumstances we might be friends.
An acting teacher once told me - If we believe the good press about ourselves we have to believe the bad, and likewise.
Therefore we mustn't let the critics, of any kind, into the safe, fragile place that art is born.
Have you received negative feedback recently? Do these 4 things:
1) Take inventory of how you've grown.
Congratulate yourself for being brave. Be aware of how you're at a different place with other's feedback than you might have been in the past.
2) Balance the positive and negative.
Be realistic about the negative to positive ratio. My guess is that far more people liked or loved it than those who thought it was a crapshoot worthy of their furnace.
2) Humanize the critic.
Attempt to see them as a possible friend.
3) Keep doing your art.
Know why you create and have that fuel your passion, not what critics may say. Don't allow your day or your heart to be flayed open by a stranger's words. Also, don't allow your head to get so bloated it's at risk for falling over.
4) Love your haters.
Step in other's shoes. You have no idea what's going on in another's head. Show grace. Love has the power to change things for good.
Love is more powerful than hatred even if it has a softer voice. Love always wins.