Criticism 101

Previously titled: Criticism 101 Or That Time I Used A Strange Baby Metaphor. Read on to figure that one out.

Let’s start with a little story: I was in college when I started receiving Criticism.

That’s inaccurate, I have been receiving some form of criticism my entire life. What I mean is that I began receiving criticism on a level I never had before, and in a form I wasn’t really used to. Typically, it would be in the form of someone putting me down by pointing out something about me, usually a flaw. In college, it was mostly focused on the pieces I wrote and helping me to better my writing. Most of it came during workshops in writing courses.

There are two types of criticism that you should be aware of, if you aren’t already: Constructive and (Critical or De-constructive) Criticism.

It’s always baffled me how criticism, on its own, has such a negative connotation, but that’s because, without purpose to help, it is a tool that can only serve to destroy or deconstruct someone or thing.

Constructive Criticism is fairly easy to differentiate from regular Criticism, and not just that it tends not to make you feel like shit. The first thing that good constructive criticism does is similar to criticism, it points out the issue. That is, it makes the person aware that there’s an issue. What sets it apart is that, after the issue is identified, it is then used to tell you how to resolve it. In the end, this should serve as a mutually beneficial exchange, you get to improve at whatever you’re doing and the person helping you gets an improved thing. It can also strengthen relationships.

The worst types of criticism can come in the form of bullying. Whereas constructive criticism should come from a place that is not only trying to help someone else but to better that person or thing that they are doing.

To break regular criticism down, it starts the same as its constructive counterpart in that it begins by pointing out the problem or issue. Then, it just makes things worse. While this is happening, it also makes you feel bad about whatever the problem is by bringing you down and only identifying the problem as a negative. By belittling you, criticism empowers the person antagonizing. So, basically, regular criticism often serves to make you feel like shit, while the other person feels better about themselves, and you shouldn’t ever accept it.

Yet how you should take it will always be the question.

Since it serves as a tool to assist you, make you better, Constructive Criticism should be taken with the understanding that it’s not meant to harm. Now, it doesn’t mean it’s without difficulty. If someone tells you that what you’ve been working on for some time needs to be changed, even if they cite valid reasons, it will still hurt. It’s ok to feel that way. After all, what you create can be like your child.

On that note, let’s talk babies.

It would be like if I had a baby and someone told me it would look better with dark hair than with light colored hair, and I dyed its hair a dark brown and thought to myself, “Oh, you know what? Dark colored hair really does compliment my baby’s cheek structure.” It’s like I know my baby is perfect just the way it is, but this criticism improved on what was already there. That person was helpful with the strange baby tip, although I might want to question why I associate with someone fixated on baby bone structures and hair colors… I’m sorry, I don’t know why I started this convoluted metaphor. Mom, Dad, if you’re reading this, I don’t have a baby. I digress.

Criticism, though, is someone telling you that your baby is shit and you should feel bad for having a shit baby. This is not ok. First, I would suggest explaining to them that this hurts you and suggest different ways they can change their behavior, like telling you why they don’t like the baby and what you might be able to do to change the baby. If you can’t get them to do that, I would suggest getting that person out of your life for both you and your baby’s best interests…

That got weird, right?

The reality is, this becomes more and more obvious the more you put yourself in situations where you will be receiving criticism. For writers, that means workshops or passing your pieces on to friends or anyone, really, for critiquing improvements. And the best way to get over it that I can tell you is that the more you do it, the less painful it becomes. I won’t say it ever stops feeling not-so-good completely, but, like most things, it does get easier. It’s good to be able to differentiate. It’s good to know what’s bad. It’s also good to know that feeling poorly, about either one, is totally fine. Oh, and abnormal metaphors should maybe be kept to a minimum. That’s why I only technically used one here.

Haha I’m awful. No, really. I am truly awful. And that’s self-deprecation, another form of criticism that I’ll talk about on a future day. Wink wink.

 

If you have questions, if you’re confused, or maybe if you think there’s something I should do differently here, let me know. But be gentle.

I hope you all have a wonderful month!

 

Regards,

Nathan

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