06/18/2013 12:09 EDT | Updated 08/18/2013 05:12 EDT

Criticism is Part of the Game When You're an Artist

As a writer, I consider myself an artist at heart. As artists, we rely heavily on praise -- from friends, loved ones, business associates, fans and the critics on a good day. Praise boosts us by increasing our self-worth. We feel more confident and it shows. When we are praised, we feel we are connecting to those we wish to reach with our messages and vision. It tells us others "see us" for who we are and that, deep down, we are doing the right thing. Praise sells books, CDs and movies, and so forth. And if the ego is big enough, praise may even gift us with riches and fortune.

But criticism inevitably comes along and smacks praise upside the head. Perhaps the critics are having a bad day and slam your stage performance, book, painting collection, CD, or film you have been birthing for years and finally sharing with the world. Inside, it feels like those critics told everyone on the planet your baby is ugly -- ouch. Or perhaps criticism came in the form of a sneer from a loved one, colleague or neighbour. Or it came in a more subtle form when a friend put aside, albeit politely, a copy of your newly launched book with no intention of reading it.

When the inner artist is criticized -- wham-o -- our self-worth takes a hit.

However, there is no need for a "woe is me" attitude when being harshly criticized (and, yes, even if you feel you are being tossed in the dump), because here is the truth: we need both praise and criticism. Both will occur whether you like it or not. Both serve.

If you are hooked on building yourself up with praise, in whatever form it may be, guess what is going to happen? You will most definitely attract something in your life that will knock you down. A lesson will come along and wham-o, you will be taken off your perch. And while it takes little time and energy to fall from the perch to the ground, it takes far greater time and energy -- and effort -- to climb back up there from the ground-up. It is a lot of hard work.

Criticism, on the other hand, keeps us humble. It reminds us that there is more work to do and more to come from us, and that we have much more to learn.

The key is to stay balanced.

So embrace the criticism. Learn from it. Thank those who criticize you because you grow. Just a "thank you" will do -- even if it is silent. You need not say anything more.

Conversely, when you are being praised, thank those people as well, of course. But, either quickly balance your mind by identifying where you need to improve or where you need to grow. For major forms of praise, like media reviews raving about you, take the time to write out a long list of things you are doing in any area of life that you need to improve -- and get a balanced perspective. It is important not to get cocky, because when you do -- wham-o!

If you are interested in related topics, I invite you to check out my book The Whispering Heart: Your Inner Guide to Creativity.

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