Critiquing Criticism

An artist friend of mine was recently given the opportunity to have his
portfolio reviewed by someone thought to be revered in his relevant industry
me. My friend reported the reviewer was thorough and had a lot of comments. Not
all of the comments were positive. Some of the criticism was, reportedly, given
in a less-than-sensitive manner. After asking some specific questions, I
further learned the reviewer also had some encouraging things to say.

Nobody likes to hear negative things about ourselves. It hurts our feelings
and bruises our egos. But then, again, do we want people to just tell us what
we want to hear and not be honest? Maybe? How, then, are we to grow and

For myself, I have a system for processing criticism. First of all (and
perhaps most importantly), consider the source — is it someone I respect?
Someone whose opinion I care about? Or is it just some random internet troll or
someone I think is an idiot? If the latter, disregard it and shake off the
sting. Haters don’t warrant my consideration.

If the source is someone I respect, after licking my wounds, I examine the
criticism with as much objectivity as I can muster. Even if they could have put
it more delicately, or in a nicer way, is there some validity to what the
speaker is saying? Have they made a legitimate point about an area in which I
could improve, or how I might have done something better?

If there is some area or way I could become a better person, or artist, or
professional, how can I make a plan to improve that area? Maybe it’s more
training, reading, mentoring, or practice. And how, or where, can I implement
that plan?

It’s kind of like these goats from Crete in the photo above. They are sent
out in this seemingly barren area to forage for food. At first glance, it might
seem there is nothing but rocks. And there are, indeed, a lot of rocks. Those
are the mean, hateful comments that have no constructive use. But if you
carefully sort through all those rocks, you may find some little morsels and
tidbits that are fit for consumption and useful for growth. The key is learning
which is which and not despairing when it seems there is nothing but rocks and


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