Overtly Criticized? That’s a Great Sign.

When you engage in the act of creating something new, if that thing develops roots and begins to take hold, you will find a mix of public react

ions. You will likely hear lots of support from friends, family, colleagues, peers, well-wishers and

Is That Darn Glass Half Empty, Again?

others. Simultaneously, you will likely encounter sour pusses, bitterness, glass half empty types and tons and tons of people who will tell you how insignificant your product or ideas are and how you will never succeed…or shouldn’t be allowed to.

People will criticize you for a whole host of reasons and rarely will you ever learn of the true nature or origin of the criticism. Admittedly, sometimes criticism comes out of societal duty–like if you have committed a crime or have acted in a manner that is harmful. They may criticize you, as you do something out of social bounds. Let’s recognize that for a moment. This said, sometimes criticism comes for other reasons. Might it stem from jealousy? Inferiority complex? Self-loathing? Bitterness? Does it come from a desire to more effectively compete, but the criticizer does not know of healthy ways to do so? Some people will even criticize you as a way of engaging you, of getting next to you, of hoping you will share secrets while defending yourself (think of the boy hitting the girl on the playground–as a way of flirting). As unenlightened and as nasty as such approaches can be, they happen. Whatever the nature of the criticism you receive, one thing is for sure—it will come.

Let’s not think of it as a bad thing. Criticism is necessary. I would rather have people saying nastiness, than saying nothing at all. In time, people forget the content of what was said, but the name may stick (hence, there is not such thing as bad press). Bad press is press and do you know how hard it is to generate press? Critics become your helpers. They disseminate your ideas and awareness of your existence. In so doing, they think they are acting against you in a harmful fashion, but are really doing you a good. So, if your ego can handle it, hang tight. Your criticism is likely a sign that you are on a good path.

During this inevitable early stage of development, I like to think about the philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer’s Three Stages of Truth:

“All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident”.

Arthur Schopenhauer

Basically, first they make fun of you and hold you up as a buffoon. You are the laughing stock of the party (at least in the critic’s mind).

Next, they attempt to bash you down and discredit your ideas. This is the practice of Jantes Law and Tall Poppy Syndrome, which I have written about in past blog posts. Here, you can think of the medium fish and its desire to eat smaller fish. Those middle fish do not want to see you (the small fish) grow into a medium or big fish. Big fish eat medium fish and if you become a medium sized fish, you will threaten the food source for other medium sized fish. So, they must eat you now or compete with you on a later day for food–or they might even one day become your food source.

Finally, they accept your offerings (product or ideas), as though they or it had always existed. At such a point, the critics may even take credit for your work and list themselves as those who discovered you or “it”, in the first place. Once you reach this stage, a new type of criticism comes, that from larger waters. When you start hearing that, it means you have started to become a middle sized fish and have attracted the attention of the larger fish. Not a bad place to be.

Criticism is good for creators and entrepreneurs. It causes them to reflect on their work and ask, “Is such criticism true”? Such self-evaluation is vital for personal development. In this thinking, the criticizer actually becomes an ally.

Criticism let’s you know that you are on the map. Why would people even criticize you in the first place, if you were not viewed as a threat in some way? Why would they even bother?

Jim Hart is the founder of Austin Conservatory of Professional Arts, The Hart Technique www.harttechnique.com, and The International Theatre Academy Norway.

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