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 One About To Graduate

You may not know the next step to take after you get off that stage at graduation, but that can be the best part.

To the one about to graduate:

Congratulations! This is your final semester of your undergraduate college career. You have enjoyed a nice four (five, maybe six) years at your school, and all of your hard work, blood, sweat, and tears is finally about to pay off.

As someone who is about to graduate soon, I am not going to lie and say that looking into the abyss isn’t both thrilling and terrifying. There are few times in a person’s life when your life is absolutely full of opportunities.

There are so many possible choices for you to make as a new graduate. Maybe you want to settle down with your significant other and start a family. Perhaps you want to pursue a graduate degree and become a lawyer or doctor. If you are like me, you are possibly still deciding between many options.

The scariest part of the unknown is simply what it is: not knowing.

However, it should also be exciting. The future is ripe with possibilities, thrills, and sure maybe some disappointments. Not knowing is what makes life exciting.

Yes, your entire life has been clear-cut with someone telling you where to go next. This is the first time your choices are completely up to you, and that is something to celebrate!

You can be a YouTube star or a stay at home mom or dad, or you can travel the world and run a blog from wherever you find yourself on that particular day.

You could become a yoga teacher or a corporate lawyer, or maybe you realize you love education so much that you want to be a professional student for life.

For the first time in your life, there is no wrong choice or necessarily a right choice. You don’t have to go in a certain direction. You don’t need to have everything figured out, and it is okay to fail once in a while.

Your post-graduation years are meant for finding your way. Along the way, you may take a stumble or two, and that is perfectly fine.

As long as you continue to pick yourself up and commit to finding your way, you will find it eventually.

You may not know the next step to take after you get off that stage at graduation, but that can be the best part.


Someone Also Trying To Find Their Own Way

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Confessions of a Single Mother in Her Twenties While in College

My new motivation

It's hard to imagine that at a mere 23 years of age a piece of me is running around, screaming the few words he knows, tormenting the family pets. It's even harder to remember that a few short years ago, this was not my plan. And boy, was I in for a reality check.

Looking around all I see is my friends, my classmates, and my peers going out and having a good time, achieving and exceeding all their goals. They can all take road trips at a moment's notice, to nowhere in particular. Sleeping until 3 in the afternoon on any day is a thing of the past.

What people do not realize is, as a mother in her early twenties, I was made to put many things on hold. A whole new life was in my hands. This was my new life.

Before being a mom, I thought I knew what it was like to be stressed, to be busy. My anxiety and depression were at all time highs. Most of the time I wouldn't make it half a day without a potential breakdown. That was my new life.

I had so many goals set long before the surprise blessing of motherhood. The cold, hard truth was that I was no longer the most important person in my life. Why do I keep reiterating that fact? Because, though I have always been a very selfless individual, I was now thrown into an entirely new level of it all. I know I am not alone.

Now, I balance a work life, college attendance, and try to still achieve all the goals I set out for all those years ago, somewhat changing my path as I have gone along. No more are the late night study sessions or cramming for exams. Nowadays, one must meticulously plan every possible free moment and be open to the fact that nothing will ever go to plan.

Having a support system makes it all feasible. I can see an end, though not within reach quite yet. I am doing so much on my own, little support, but the support I do have makes my goals achievable after all. It reminds me that this does not mean I have to give up. I have a little person that looks up to me, he relies on me. In the big scheme of things, he will be just as proud as I will be of myself.

It is not all bad. The staggering amount of love I have for this tiny human is intensely overwhelming, as is the love he has for me in his smile when he sees me walk through the door after a long, hard day of work. He is my new motivation, where before motivation was lacking. The things I now do for him I once dreaded doing. Study sessions are no easier to get through, but knowing that it will all pay off and provide a sense of stability for my child and myself is rewarding and pushes me through the next chapter and beyond.

You cannot let life get in the way, use your experiences as a fuel to the fire, as I have done. I am prepared for it to take longer, I am prepared for the sacrifice of missing out on a few things while he is young, and I know I will be able to provide for him when he is older and be able to prove to him anything you set your mind to is possible with enough hard work and perseverance.

I am a college student. I work full time. I am a Mom. I CAN do it all.

Cover Image Credit: Harsh The Blog

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