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How To Cultivate Indifference To Criticism

If you are putting yourself and your work out there, not everyone will like it. Not only will some people not like it, they will tell you and others how much they don’t. Anyone who has ever done something worthwhile has received criticism, but it can kill dreams if you let it consume your thoughts and prevent your progress.

Here’s how to cultivate indifference to criticism. 

Anticipate it

Assume that for every thousand people who love your blog post or picture or product, there will be a few that vehemently disagree and there is nothing that you can do about it. It is an inevitability. Criticism was always going to happen, and here it is happening. Don’t let it surprise you. Just move on.

When Tim Ferriss revises his articles, he carries out the first edit for himself, the second for the readers and the third for the critics. No matter how tame you make your work, or how much you pander to predicted backlash, not everyone will like it, and that’s OK. See it coming.

Ask why someone criticises

Why does someone choose to be a critic rather than an artist? Why, instead of honing their own craft, are they trying to bring others down? Critics don’t make great work because they can’t. They aren’t successful because they are consumed by comparison. It’s easy to criticise; it’s hard to create. When you succeed, they see it as competition. You are reminding them of their own lack, their insecurities, or deepest desires for their own life.

Perhaps the incessant “thumbs down” clicker on YouTube wishes they had their own successful channel. Maybe the 2* Goodreads reviewer longs to have their ideas published. Maybe you are living the life they would give anything to have. Remember criticism likely says more about them than it does about you.

Be indifferent to praise

Cultivate indifference to criticism by cultivating indifference to praise too. You can’t have it both ways. The key to indifference is maintaining a steady middle ground and not being swung around based on the last compliment or comment you heard. Be able to thank the well-wisher and not let it get to your head. Your worth is not defined by what other people think of you and it’s certainly not defined by the number of likes your Instagram post had.

Work on your confidence so you don’t rely on reassurance from others. Find a disposition of relaxed assertion and make it your default. Write as if no one was reading. Dance and sing as if no one was watching. Discover your passion and purpose from somewhere other than applause.

Ask what you can learn

A comment is criticism if it’s not helpful and intends to bring you down. It’s critique if it aims to improve you; if it brings you forward. Critique is useful and can lead to doing better work that better serves your audience. See if you can find those useful nuggets within every piece of feedback and incorporate them if you agree.

Once you’ve honed your contribution and are confident of its quality, feedback from the right people is golden. Some companies spend thousands on panels, taste testing and focus groups to accrue meaningful feedback. Here you are getting all that wisdom for free. Count yourself lucky that someone cares enough to help.

Stop looking for it

If you look hard enough for criticism you will likely find it. Once you’ve reached a certain level, enough googling your name might pull up a forum entry. Enough scouring Amazon or Twitter or YouTube will likely yield something you’d rather not read. It might affect your mood and maybe your whole day. So stop searching.

Politicians are ridiculed endlessly but they plough on with their convictions regardless. Footballers have parody accounts about them, television personalities have silly videos created in their honour. The most secure and easy going of those people will not be looking for the trolls. They’ll shrug and laugh and say, “oh, I haven’t seen it.” It won’t be costing them sleep.

See it as a compliment

If you are receiving remarks, by definition you are remarkable. See it as a great thing. Tell yourself that you have arrived; you are out there making people think and compelling them to form and share opinions. You are doing what 99% of people don’t have the courage to do.

When a good friend with a YouTube channel started attracting trolls, I was happy for him. He didn’t understand at first. We are conditioned to believe that negative comments must be a bad thing, but the internet changed that. Now it’s so easy to flippantly bestow opinions whilst hiding behind a keyboard, criticism doesn’t have the same weight. Instead of doing all those other things they could have been doing on the internet, that person chose to spend their finite time on this planet commenting on your video. Brilliant.

Don’t try to be liked

Trying to please every person every time is an evolutionary dead end. There’s just no point. Focus your attention on adding value, resonating, and serving an audience consistently and prolifically. Don’t focus on praise or congratulations or being liked yourself.

Your public persona is not you. The true you is the person you are to your family and your closest friends. The you that is linked with your work or business is your work character. She is strong-willed and indifferent and can withstand any character assassination because it’s never really that close to home.

There is nothing that anyone else can say that really matters and cultivating indifference to criticism comes from reminding yourself of that every time you hit publish. Don’t let the fear of what might be said prevent you from putting yourself out there.

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