How You Can Use Criticism To Motivate You To Do Better

by Aadya Dube

In addition to law school, I’m a part of a street playgroup that calls itself “Kataaksh.” We come to practice religiously, even after being in classes from 8 am to 2 pm. Recently, when we were getting ready for a big show, we had an additional pressure because our last performance earned us a standing ovation.

Two days before the play, two men approached us and told us how what were doing was a brilliant try, but we’re not that great, that we suck (in a polite way). That scared me, not because I fear that I’m a bad actor, but because strong criticism at this stage could crush existent fortitude, shatter hope and stomp out spirits.

There are people who appreciate what you do for the fun of it, but there are also plenty of people in the world who will talk you down. Just to boost their egocentric, cynical sense of selves, if for no other reason. In my playgroup’s case, the intended effect of this remark may or may not have been to demoralize us and to hurt us.

The ideal endpoint in this scenario would be to work hard and try to prove the criticizer wrong. If the person is insignificant to our lives, maybe it’s best to ignore the problem. Sounds easy enough, right? Well, we live in a pretty idealistic kind of world.

We can grow too angry or too sad or too depressed or a mixture of all of these feelings when people tell us we are no good. And, God forbid the criticism comes from someone whom we idolize -- that may prove to be rather fatal for the art we’re pursuing.

We sit around, moping all day, believing in our worthlessness and we dive in a pool of mixed fury and dejection. A dancer may refuse to dance in public, a writer may have extreme writer’s block, a singer may never perform again, a painter may never hold a pencil or a brush and an actor may let go of his dreams to someday act for real. This is how many normal people — the yous and mes of the world — may react. But, giving up your passion for failing to measure up in somebody else’s scale of brilliance is not how we should define our lives.

What we often forget, while navigating clouds of criticism, is that we initially took up an art because we were passionate about it. Someone might have a hobby of collecting butterflies — he should not give it up just because other people think it’s stupid. I get criticized often and, sometimes, the criticisms hurt me and I feel sad. Some remarks are grave enough to make me cry. It happens to all of us — all the time. Be it at work, a sport or anything that we believe we are about which we are passionate and good at doing.

If I were a writer and somebody told me my writing was horrible, I would be horribly depressed. But then, after months of brooding, I would sit down with my pen and paper and write about how horribly depressed I was. It might be a big hit, everyone would love me and suddenly, I would be a lot less depressed if I just sat around, letting my misery eat away my pride until I became an emotional wreck and creatively, completely moribund.

We believe we can take criticism well. We even have certain fabricated ideas about how we would react when that happens. But, all those ideas go down the drain simply when forget that we had a plan about how to deal with critics and it gets clouded in the slew of emotions that we experience.

So, don’t get depressed by the idea that somebody doesn't like what you do. Keep doing it. Work to improve, but never, under any circumstance, give up on somebody else’s account. Every person has his or her own passions. If the fire in that passion dies because somebody criticized you and you react poorly, both you and the world lose when you fail to share your talents.

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