5 Tips on Surviving Criticism

Donald Miller

If you share yourself with the world you’re going to be criticized. The world may seem like a nice, safe, warm place, but as soon as you put yourself out there’s a good chance you’ll be a target for criticism.

If you’re not careful, you’ll start feeling like a character in The Lord of the Flies.

*Photo by Chris Potter, Creative Commons

So how do you survive it? How do you keep putting yourself out there?

Here are a few ideas:

    1. Understand that great ideas and works of art get criticized just as much as bad ones. Michelangelo, Mark Twain, Martin Luther King and Abraham Lincoln were ferociously criticized. Receiving criticism doesn’t mean you’ve done great work, but it doesn’t mean you haven’t, either. Everything out there gets criticized, good or bad.

    2. Keep your moral center. Know in your mind and heart whether what you are writing, painting, singing or filming is good for the world. And be able to articulate why. Come back to this when you’re beginning to doubt the importance of your work.

    3. Love your enemies. Most criticism is actually good, but the criticism that hurts the most come from people who want to tear you down, personally. The positive side of this kind of criticism is it presents you with a challenge. Can you love somebody who wants to harm you? If you can, it only proves what you’re bringing to the world is revolutionary, and perhaps even divine. Fear and hate are common. For a person to love their enemies, there’s little explanation save the involvement of God.

    4. Limit your enemies. It’ll do no good to constantly search the internet for people writing about your new album. I normally read the first several Amazon reviews and that’s about it. I just want to make sure what I wrote is landing well. After that, I see little benefit to reading reviews. If I’m reading reviews, I’m not working on what’s next.

    5. Realize there aren’t that many critics. Likely, for every critic you get you’ll encounter a lot of people who needed and received your help. You either encouraged them or inspired them, made them laugh or just offered your art for their comfort. Just keep working for them.

    6. Learn from the constructive critics. One of the most encouraging afternoons of my career was going on Rotten Tomatoes and reading through the negative criticism of the film Blue Like Jazz. It was scary at first, but I realized so much of that the critics were saying I felt as I was working on the screenplay. I wanted to go further, but was too scared. The critics affirmed, indeed, I was too scared. The constructive critics can speak the truth and you are somehow encouraged. They can help you become a better artist.

I’m really hoping criticism doesn’t get you down. You have a right to speak, to paint, to create film, to speak, to teach and to share your thoughts and perspectives with the world. God has decided that you get to contribute. I hope you do.

For fun, here are the current criticisms for The Lord of the Flies. The irony is AMAZING!

What’s the best perspective you’ve heard on dealing with critics?

Donald Miller

Donald Miller

Donald Miller is all about story. He helps people live a better story at creatingyourlifeplan.com and grow their business at storybrand.com. Follow Don on Twitter (@donaldmiller). To read more of his posts on the Storyline Blog, click here.