In the world of an English major, criticism can be a scary word. But why? Throughout my entire high school and college career, I have received criticism in all aspects of my school work, especially my writing. Up until this point, the spring semester of my senior year, I have never been comfortable with criticism. I don't think many of us are.
I still get a surge of anxiety when a classmate reviews my work, or I am waiting for my professor to hand back a paper. I brace myself for what comments and remarks I will get about what I did wrong or poorly. Yes, plenty of people experience this type of anxiety, but what I have recently come to realize is that I have feared criticism outside of the educational setting, as well.
From school to my job to my relationships and more, I tend to avoid situations where I have to face criticism and confrontation. I didn't want to admit to myself that I'm not perfect 100% of the time. I now acknowledge that, for the longest time, I have equated criticism with failure. I am here to say that criticism and failure do not go hand-in-hand and neither should be something that to be afraid of.
I recently started watching Chef's Table on Netflix when I began noticing a pattern. As a documentary-style show, each episode takes an inside look at the most world-renowned chefs. They share the story of how their restaurants came to be, and what almost every single chef talks about is the necessary failure that they endured before they reached extreme success.
That's when it clicked for me. It's such a cliche, what they tell us, about the importance of failure. "Failure is the best motivator," or some other variation. But it's true. Because if we gave up every time things got tough, where would we be then? The answer is, we'd be nowhere. We'd be starting over and over again, quitting before we could fail.
There is importance in failure and harsh critiques. It shows you tried at something. It shows you weren't afraid to take a risk. Hardly ever do I put myself in a situation to fail, and I am only now starting to see that it can be more dangerous than actually failing.
So, here's what I am trying to say: stop chasing perfection! You will never reach it, and it certainly doesn't help you grow as a person. Perfection only exists at the corner of safe and comfortable and hardly ever do great things happen there. Learn to embrace criticism from your teachers, your friends, your boss, your significant other or whoever else.
I am slowly learning how let myself make mistakes, and it's the most freeing feeling. On top of that, I am learning how to take responsibility for those mistakes and over come them. In order to push myself to become better writer, a better teacher, a better partner, a better friend, I have to accept the fact that I won't always get it on the first try, and that's okay.