Confession Time

A few weeks ago, I posted an article about dealing with criticism as a writer.

I was supposed to post this article a week after that, but at the last minute I chickened out and went with a different topic.

I’ve scrapped or delayed plenty of blog posts in the past, but this is the first post that I’ve been genuinely afraid of publishing.

Being an author means that I spend quite a lot of time behind a screen. I feel safe when I’m alone—or rather—I feel safe being “anonymous”.

I mean sure, you know who I am. I’ve written article after article for the last couple years about my journey through life as a writer.

But at the end of the day, my posts are planned. Edited. I share what I’m comfortable sharing, and I hide everything else.

But today’s post is different.

I can’t talk about dealing with criticism as a writer without being more vulnerable than I’d like to be, which is why I planned to abandon this post and never look back.

Obviously, I’m not going through with that plan, but I would have if I didn’t feel like I was supposed to share this and step out of my cozy little comfort zone.

The Facts

There are people who won’t like me or my writing.

In fact, there are already people who don’t like me and my writing. And how do I know that? 

Well, because they said so.

Either to my face, in a book review, or through other forms of social media.

As I mentioned in part one of this series, I’m a fairly sensitive person, so I can’t say I enjoy receiving criticism—even if it’s constructive.

I recently discovered that part of the reason I have so much trouble listening to criticism is because I don’t always know what to do with it.

When people criticize me or my writing, questions clutter my mind and make it difficult to focus on the criticism.

Should I accept the criticism as truth, or reject it as a lie? How exactly should I react the criticism? How does the person giving the criticism want me to react? What will happen if I make the wrong decision about how to respond? Does the person dislike me, or is it just my writing?

Acting Professional

Constructive criticism is especially hard for me to deal with because it’s usually given to me by someone who I admire or respect. And as a professional author, I have a desire to always act professional. Or at least, my own personal definition of professional.

My definition of “acting professional” is being someone who keeps calm in every situation and finds solutions to problems. Someone who works hard, doesn’t make mistakes, works well with other people, and always produces quality content.

And you may notice that nowhere in my definition of “acting professional” does it say anything about suddenly starting to cry just because someone is trying to help you improve your skills.

But that’s what usually happens to me. 

I can completely agree with everything that a person is saying, be appreciative, and determined to use their advice to improve my work—and still find myself tearing up despite my best efforts not to.

So then, on top of feeling lost about how to respond to the criticism, I also feel the shame and embarrassment of crying in front of someone whose only goal is to help me succeed.

But why do I feel that shame and embarrassment? 

As far as I can remember, nobody has ever made me feel bad about responding to their criticism with tears. 

At least…nobody but me.

In fact, looking at this whole mess objectively, I can reasonably say that I’m the problem here. 

If there are any standards that I don’t live up to, then they’re all standards of my own making since I’m the one who decided on my own definition of “acting professional” in the first place.

It’s self-sabotage at its finest.

Strange Defenses Against Criticism

So…why? Why do I set fire to my confidence with high or unrealistic expectations? 

Why am I my own worst critic?

As strange as it may sound, tearing myself down acts as a sort of defense mechanism.

You see, the thought process behind this is that, if I’m critical enough—or rather—mean enough to myself, then I should be able to deal with any criticism or insults thrown my way, because what other people say won’t be nearly as hurtful as what I already say to myself.

Right?

Well, not really. I already admitted that I cry even when someone is being nice about their criticism, and genuinely trying to help me.

So what if my attempts at “protecting myself” are actually doing more harm than good?

What if instead of making me more resistant to constructive and destructive comments, it’s making me more vulnerable to them?

Catapulting boulders at a castle wall won’t make the wall stronger. The more boulders I throw, the more the wall will crack and crumble until it finally collapses. 

And a castle without walls won’t protect its residents against an attack.

So instead of flinging boulders and knocking the walls down, what if I grab some bricks and cement and build them up?

Rebuilding Walls

God doesn’t say that I’m unprofessional. But do you know what He does say? That I was made in His image, and that He has good works for me to accomplish (Ephesians 2:10).

There are plenty of people outside my castle walls that are throwing stones and boulders. Instead of joining them and destroying myself from the inside out, I should be fortifying the walls and building up my counter defenses.

And reading God’s word and finding out what He thinks about me and my writing, is the perfect place to start.

Before You Go…

What is one way that you sabotage yourself?

Let me know in the comments.

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