Handling Criticism: How Thick is Your Skin?

I had the experience a few weeks ago of having someone decide to tell me a pile of things they thought I needed to hear, none of which were complementary or pleasant. I took it all in, asked for details, and fell apart a few times. It hurt. A lot. I trusted the source of the comments to tell me the truth, though I knew there was some exaggeration involved. I couldn’t throw everything out as being irrelevant, despite the method of delivery. I was raised to speak the truth, in love, and while this exchange was short on love, I didn’t want to miss the truth part.

After some further conversations, venting a bit, and getting some feedback from others, I came to the conclusion that there was some truth to be sifted out, and a lot of crap to leave behind. That applies to a lot of things, doesn’t it?!  My years of ‘crits’ in art school showed me many ways to offer feedback on someone’s work, some without the implied negativity of criticism. While I was always wincing inside when my work was being discussed, I learned to sift out the helpful bits, and thicken my skin to the harsh ones. Being a good critic always involves wisdom, discernment, and love.

So how should we handle criticism when it’s offered, or when it’s slung underhandedly? Consider the source. Then listen to the message. Keep the truth and discard the rest. The motivation of the source is a huge factor, as is their courtesy in asking before offering. Always ask before giving a critique or feedback! The value in critiques comes from different perspectives, giving us something new to chew on. It can be bitter. Mine was, but it spurred a few conversations and realizations that have been really helpful. Truth often hurts, and that’s usually how I recognize it. Ever hear something for the first time and immediately have that thunk in your heart of something locking into place? There’s joy in it.

The thicker your skin, the more truth you’ll find. Criticism hurts, and much of it’s worthless, but thick skin will help you find the nuggets. And when you have something to share? Ask permission, and don’t forget the love.