Learning To Accept Criticism

Learning To Accept Criticism

Life is one big workshop, and you're in the hot seat.

With the high tide of the semester rolling in and pulling out so quickly, it can be difficult to navigate the sea of assignments and rough drafts that seem to, all at once, be submitted and resubmitted. If you’re someone that takes criticism well, congratulations, you are probably less affected by this than the lot of us. However, if you’re like me and hearing your name said in a terse tone leaves shivers down your spine, this is perhaps the most miserable time of the year.

Being fully aware that accepting and learning from criticism is part of “growing up,” I am learning day after day, bitten tongue after sullen tear, to be okay with receiving criticism. The difficulty is probably deeply rooted in my childhood, which left me often feeling as if I lived under a microscope. Thus, with every nod and “thank you” e-mail I send out, I learn to repress my childish fear of changing myself and improving. This can prove incredibly difficult as an English major because there’s a certain pride in everything I submit (well, most everything). It leaves me feeling like every work I give in is, if not my best work, a well enough alone work. In math I often made mistakes and oftentimes could look back and see that; there’s nothing objective about it, I was completely and utterly wrong. In English, my work is something which belongs to me, and not to Avogadro or the Pythagorean Theorem.

When it comes to turning in a paper, either it’s perfect, or I knowingly submitted a crappy first draft in hopes of receiving useful feedback that I can later use to write said perfect paper. But I am not perfect, and when I played volleyball or threw a javelin or acted in school plays I wasn’t perfect either. While I think my self-esteem processes such information LOUD AND CLEAR, I often get so caught up in being the best I can be that I forget there’s room for improvement, and sometimes you need a helping hand in reaching the next level of progress. I shouldn’t say that I think that I’m perfect, but I sometimes think that whatever help I need, I can provide for myself, and that no teacher or instructor or coach can tell me different. But I’m wrong, and I know I’m wrong, and I am learning to cope in different ways.

One of the easiest ways I’ve learned to give in to criticism is by reminding myself that it isn’t the end of the world if I don’t do well. I have lived through 2017, I have seen what damn near looks like the end of the world, and it most certainly didn’t look like an A- on a research paper for an English Elective. I have found this especially easy when it comes to non-verbal criticism, and it has become easier and easier for me to read an email title, swallow hard, and open the tab.

The worst it could say is that I failed— realistically, the worst it could really say is a C+ because knowing myself I at least cited correctly and included all of the given criteria. Verbally, I often fail myself and start to cry, but for me, such is not unusual even in passing conversation; I cry sometimes when I look at pictures of dogs up for adoption that I love but will never have. I have learned to accept that crying is just part of me and that I can so casually do it that it shouldn’t even be a cause for concern. I cried, and?

The other biggest part of criticism that I am trying to break away from is the notion that I can’t do what is being asked. Often when you’ve got your mind set on one thing it can feel impossible to work past it or improve on it. Fiction can be difficult in this way, as so often I find myself getting wrapped up in my own story and characters. My own connection to the characters lets me forget that, hopefully, there are other people reading it.

William Faulkner was once quoted having said that in writing we must “kill our darlings,” and while the prospects of that seem scary, I am learning that criticism helps me to do exactly that, and I am all the better writer for it. I kill all my metaphorical darlings, I unravel stories and I thicken plots and I tighten prose and I do exactly what my teachers ask because, in the end, they’re probably right. They’re looking out for me, for all their students, and for every improvement I make I will find that all the constructive clouds have silver linings, if I’m willing to work for them.

Cover Image Credit: StockSnap / Pixabay

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To The Girl Who Had A Plan

A letter to the girl whose life is not going according to her plan.
“I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.” - William Ernest Henley

Since we were little girls we have been asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” We responded with astronauts, teachers, presidents, nurses, etc. Then we start growing up, and our plans change.

In middle school, our plans were molded based on our friends and whatever was cool at the time. Eventually, we went to high school and this question became serious, along with some others: “What are your plans for college?” “What are you going to major in?” “When do you think you’ll get married?” “Are you going to stay friends with your friends?” We are bombarded with these questions we are supposed to have answers to, so we start making plans.

Plans, like going to college with our best friends and getting a degree we’ve been dreaming about. Plans, to get married as soon as we can. We make plans for how to lose weight and get healthy. We make plans for our weddings and children.

SEE ALSO: 19 Pieces Of Advice From A Soon-To-Be 20-Year-Old

We fill our Pinterest boards with these dreams and hopes that we have, which are really great things to do, but what happens when you don’t get into that college? What happens when your best friend chooses to go somewhere else? Or, what if you don’t get the scholarship you need or the awards you thought you deserved. Maybe, the guy you thought you would marry breaks your heart. You might gain a few pounds instead of losing them. Your parents get divorced. Someone you love gets cancer. You don’t get the grades you need. You don’t make that collegiate sports team. The sorority you’re a legacy to, drops you. You didn’t get the job or internship you applied for. What happens to you when this plan doesn’t go your way?

I’ve been there.

The answer for that is “I have this hope that is an anchor for my soul.” Soon we all realize we are not the captain of our fate. We don’t have everything under control nor will we ever have control of every situation in our lives. But, there is someone who is working all things together for the good of those who love him, who has a plan and a purpose for the lives of his children. His name is Jesus. When life takes a turn you aren’t expecting, those are the times you have to cling to Him the tightest, trusting that His plan is what is best. That is easier said than done, but keep pursuing Him. I have found in my life that His plans were always better than mine, and slowly He’s revealing that to me.

The end of your plan isn’t the end of your life. There is more out there. You may not be the captain of your fate, but you can be the master of your soul. You can choose to be happy despite your circumstances. You can change directions at any point and go a different way. You can take the bad and make something beautiful out of it, if you allow God to work in your heart.

SEE ALSO: To The Girl Patiently Waiting With An Impatient Heart

So, make the best of that school you did get in to. Own it. Make new friends- you may find they are better than the old ones. Apply for more scholarships, or get a job. Move on from the guy that broke your heart; he does not deserve you. God has a guy lined up for you who will love you completely. Spend all the time you can with the loved one with cancer. Pray, pray hard for healing. Study more. Apply for more jobs, or try to spend your summer serving others instead. Join a different club or get involved in other organizations on campus. Find your delight first in God and then pursue other activities that make you happy; He will give you the desires of your heart.

My friend, it is going to be OK.

Cover Image Credit: Megan Beavers Photography

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A big part of being happy is having the right perspective on things. Recently I was telling someone that I took something out of my life, her response was that I was never taking anything away from myself but rather I was freeing myself from something that brought me pain. When I heard those words, I instantly changed my perspective on so many things.

Too often we hold onto things that bring nothing but negative energy into our lives. When we choose to free ourselves from all of these things that hold us down, we can have such a better outlook on life. We can waste so much energy caring about things that will one day have no impact on our lives. Instead of continuing to let these things have a hold over our lives, we need to look past everything that's wrong and see everything that is still right in our lives.

Negative people and events will always come and go throughout our lives, but they should never change our outlooks. We have to remain positive and choose to see everything good that is still going for us. There is always so much to look forward to.

Staying positive can sound so cheesy and useless when you're having a low point, but it really is the key to having a better life. If you choose to look at all of the negative going on, that's all you'll see. When you change your perspective to see all of the positive things in what you do in life, you will become much happier.

It's hard to see the positive in every aspect of life, but most likely there is one. Every situation helps you grow as a person and there is always something positive to take away.

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