Dealing with criticism

Posted In: Art | Blog Posts | Creativity | Life

I was recently asked to write an article for one of my favourite magazines. I would be photographing the restaurants the article featured as well.

Now, as I’m  sure you can understand, this was beyond daunting. Exciting, but scary.

The first things that go through my basic human mind when asked to do something new or out of my comfort zone is… “What?! I can’t do that! No ways!” and then almost immediately, another voice pipes up and says something like, “Are you kidding?! How awesome would it be to be able to do that?! Just do it and make it up as you go along. You’ll figure it out. Or you won’t. But if you did, wouldn’t it be the most amazing thing ever? C’mon, let’s try it!” The other voice screams and kicks and gets dragged along into another exciting venture I have very little idea about.

This is how I became a chef, a photographer, a painter, a decorator, a lover, a spiritual adventurer and now, a writer.

Claire Gunn

I did my best job to write, photograph and compile what I felt was a good result. Mostly the fear came from the fact that I was being me, and I would be putting it out there on a very public platform.

This tells folk that I know what I’m doing. That I know what I’m talking about and how to write that all down to tell a compelling story.

The truth is I don’t feel that. I feel vulnerable and unsure.

So I asked someone I love to read the article after I wrote it. Then I asked another, and then I ran out of time to ask for more opinions.

One opinion was positive, the other was negative.

The event that followed? A small, frustrated and angry death in my heart. They didn’t think it was amazing. Ouch.

Claire Gunn

 

Now, as a lesson in life, when you believe in your creation, it shouldn’t matter a single bloody iota in the multiverse what any other human says. You must believe in your creation and stand behind it (until you change your mind, of course, which I tend to do often. Even then, you’re the one making the decision, not someone else).

I don’t want to hold onto anger, so I work to eliminate it by using it as a very effective tool to check my balances. In other words, why did this trigger me to be angry? Oh! That’s why. Ok, I must work on that…

This, I believe, is knowing thyself.

Emotional triggers bring clarity, housekeeping and evolution.

When I asked myself why I got angry, the answer was a question. “Why did you ask for an opinion in the first place?”

I wanted to do a scan for the usual technicalities I suppose, but I also wanted to gauge if there was enough meat in the story. One person said yes and the other said no. But what did I think? I actually wasn’t that impressed with the result myself. I loved much of it, but it felt like something needed to be better (or was that just the hyper-critical voice in my head – in all our heads?).

After one person said yes, I could have left it, but for some reason I asked another. This feels like doubt to me.

The other opinion was negative. In other words, it mirrored my doubt.

So I got angry because the negative opinion was in line with mine which meant that we both believed I did a poor job.

Claire Gunn

 

Enter fear/panic mind of ‘remove us from danger’ mode – anything to prevent me from exposing my foolishness on a public platform.

Oh dear… I had to re-read and rewrite some things. But I really didn’t want to. I wanted it to be over and finished. I hadn’t been able to do my best! I was so scared about the entire exercise that I realised I had not been able to just be and flow like my true self.

What I had created was much better after my adjustments, but when re-reading it I realised that I loved the article. I loved my alliteration and my flow of the stories, weaving together. The story was about something I know and love so well: the professional kitchen. Re-reading in the new frame of mind gave me a bravery to write a few more heartfelt descriptions that were the real me speaking louder. After adding those new bits which put the stamp of my voice on the whole collection of words, I felt so much better about what I had achieved.

Because I had let fear of judgement of my creation overpower me during the whole process of gathering the story for the article and the photographs, I was under-performing. I had not allowed the co-creation of me with the Universe (which is just making art together by telling a great story that could be engaging and compelling) to happen.

I came to the conclusion that I had done my best with what I had at the time. I re-read and added and subtracted and then, happy that I had produced the best of what I could, I sent it out.

I plan never to allow myself to choose this situation consciously again. I may not have learnt the lesson completely, so a similar situation may arise in the future, but next time I will do a better job of believing in myself.

Of course, the lesson may be that I need to pay more attention to self-belief so that those thoughts don’t arise in the first place.

I just focused on the bigger picture of the end result, NEEDING to be correct. Sigh…

Claire Gunn

 

I feel better that I didn’t let my anger get the best of me when I got the opinion I didn’t want.

I don’t feel so great about not letting myself rise to the occasion enough in my work. It was my first story being published; it’s understandable I would want it to go well, and I put too much pressure on myself. When you desire something it’s opposite – the underlying possibility that it might not manifest – is always there.

Desire’s worst enemy is the denial of it.

Not getting what we want makes us angry and sad and so the brain does its best not to let that happen. It runs away with itself trying to avoid the pains of failure.

I was not able to flow to my best ability because I put too much emphasis on the destination not the journey.

I am so grateful to say that this hasn’t happened to me often. I don’t get so stressed out about performing and delivering in photography, because I have statistically proven that I can achieve a goal. The challenge in that area is to keep evolving on top of supplying the safe shots that my clients pay me for.

However, when I go into new, unexplored, unproven territory, my mind wants to control the entire situation, which of course is only half the work of making great things happen. You must also be open to the co-creation with the universal energy that makes life happen to see real success.

As creatives, reminding ourselves that co-creation needs to happen is such a helpful tool to calm a bewildered mind that has pressures and creative expectations thrust upon it.

Stop, breathe, focus and align. In that space is the direction you need to allow yourself to co-create with what life has to offer you and that creates the uniqueness that comes from within you.

 

Claire Gunn

If someone is offering you their negative or doubting opinion it may very well be that you yourself doubt your abilities. Check yourself before you get angry at the offerer of opinions.

In no way am I saying that negative comments are probably right. We are beyond that. You know that if someone says something bad or negative to you that you have a choice to believe it or not.

Most of the time it won’t be true if you are in alignment and happy. This is just the person’s inability to be happy with themselves and so they spread negativity onto others. In these cases, the person needs compassion.

If you believe in yourself all criticism and negative energy all be like water off a duck’s back.

In this case, I didn’t believe my creation was as good as it could have been, and so did the person giving me that opinion. They didn’t do it out of malice, just out of mirroring what I was already feeling.

As always, check yourself, breathe, be calm and ask yourself the big questions.

 

This whole process has shown me yet again that life itself is the greatest teacher if we are receptive to the lessons it offers.

Claire Gunn

  • tATUM Oakes
    August 27, 2018

    Great article Claire, thank you for sharing your truth, light and wisdom!

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