The most helpful criticism I received last year was an insult
February 17, 2015
About this time last year I was in a frenzy designing my first website ever. I'd done a lot of research and worked my tail off. Although I was very proud of what I'd created, I was also terrified that maybe I just couldn’t see that it was an utter disaster. So, I went on the hunt for a boatload of feedback from friends, family, and strangers.
As the criticism came pouring in, I dropped everything and got to work addressing all of it. I was overwhelmed and disagreed with some of the feedback, but I was certain that getting as many unbiased opinions as possible was the key to improving my website.
Then my revisions came to a screeching halt as I read these words from a woman I didn't know. A stranger named Jill said, "Aaarrrgghh! Her face is so off-putting that I don't even care about learning about her work."
She literally hated my face! How was I supposed to incorporate that feedback into my website revisions?
Maybe I didn't need as much feedback as I'd previously thought! After all, even if I had a face transplant, it was still thoroughly unreasonable to think my work could be liked by everyone.
I'd received some extremely helpful and much appreciated feedback that drastically improved my site. But plenty of other edits, from fonts to messaging, were changed to please people outside of the audience I even wanted to reach.
As I stood back and looked at my website, my original message had all but disappeared. What stood in its place seemed bland and watered down. I'd been so dependent on the wisdom of others that I'd willfully erased my own voice!
Jill's comment felt like a hilariously blunt message from the universe: "Seriously, Emily? You're more committed to the opinions of strangers who are uninvested in the fulfillment of your dreams than you are to yourself?"
How often do we do this in other areas of our lives? When we feel like we lack experience or competence it can be all too easy to invalidate our own inner compass. We lend more weight to others' opinions on our career, relationships, behaviors, and life choices, than our own opinions.
Criticism can and should help you grow. By all means, invite feedback from others when you need it! Some people are going to share it with you thoroughly unsolicited anyway. But just because you're offered feedback, you aren't required to absorb all of it.
Before letting external criticism guide you, ask yourself:
How will following this input enrich my time on this planet?Will it make you happier, healthier, or more fulfilled to absorb this feedback? Will it improve your work experience or your relationships? If not, you might just let that feedback roll off your shoulders.
Is it in line with my values and needs?If the feedback you're offered makes you feel icky, listen to your gut.
What can I learn from this criticism?Even if the feedback you receive isn't guidance you're going to take to heart, there's probably something to learn from it. I didn't change my appearance for Jill (I mean, come ON, Jill!), but I did learn an important lesson about striking a balance between inviting feedback from relevant parties and trusting my own intuition.
Let your intuition guide you to the right decision.
What criticism have you let go because it didn't serve you?