How to Drink in Criticism at 30

You’d think by the time you saw your birthday come and go 30 times, criticism, or feedback, or editing — however you spin it — would be gulp-able, even refreshing.

At 30, my thirst for criticism often goes unquenched. I ask coworkers, co-bloggers, friends and my husband for feedback and they often flit by it because they don’t have the time, they don’t want to upset me, or they really don’t know how to give me a the balance of feedback I need.

And that’s fine. I understand offering criticism is harder, more delicate and more gutsy than receiving it.

But even at 30, even where my ego and sense of self are solidly intact, I let the sting of unexpected criticism linger on my tastebuds, like an undrinkable potion that I’m not sure to spit out.

Undrinkable potions are a test. One tested me recently when I asked the person who I interviewed for a simple story to to read and provide feedback on it.

What came back stung me. While the feedback was solicited, I didn’t expect more than few edits, a new sentence, a few words changed (the usual). Instead I was told the piece was missing something. My confidence was rattled. I had expected questions, but not a question about whether I was the right person to be even writing the piece.

Once the sting hits, its hard to shake. It intensifies and allows your ego to take the reins in your thoughts.

Here’s how to kick that ego out: recognize the sting as the result of something unexpected, reposition the request as a challenge, and shake that ego right off the horse. Drink in the criticism.

After the initial sting, I let it intensify for a day, then I realized the challenge was a good thing. So I dropped my anger, went back to my notes, talked to my colleagues, and sat down to rewrite the piece completely.

When I finished, I felt better. The sting turned to minor annoyance. Then I closed my eyes and clicked send to the original feedback-giver. And the piece passed that feedback-giver’s smell test

I love a challenge; reposition the criticism you get as a challenge, and you’ll always have more time and space to drink it in.

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