If you are an artist or songwriter who puts your music out for the world to enjoy, you will inevitably attract some critics. Sometimes it’s easy to ignore the negativity. But at other times, it can affect even the most desensitized person. After all, you’re often sharing your life, your feelings, your inner secrets, and much more. No one likes or even deserves to have something that individual and personal being knocked. So how do you deal with the criticism?
It's important to realize that there are 2 sides to this equation. There's you as the one sharing your art, and then there's the person who is criticizing you. Sometimes there is just a huge disconnect, and that’s usually OK. But if it really gets to you, here are some things to consider.
How you react, both internally and externally may be a direct result of your confidence, or lack thereof. Confidence is key to being able to stand your ground regardless of what others are throwing at you. If you believe in what you put out to the public, you can stand your ground and let the negativity wash right off of you. Of course, being overconfident and closing your mind to help, suggestions, or correction can be detrimental to your success.
Your passion plays a big part in your reaction. It's always difficult to think that someone is earing down something you are so passionate about. It's important to be able to approach criticism logically and not take it as a personal affront. Is it just a difference of opinion? Is there a legitimate alternative perspective? Are you being over-sensitive?
Lastly, you may have a desire to please everyone, which is an impossible task. It's important to realize that not everyone is going to see things your way. So, some criticism needs to be approached from an 'Is there something I can learn from this?' perspective. If not, then acknowledge the difference of opinion and move on.
On the flip side, it’s always good to try to understand the motivation behind the criticism. Is the other person being sincere and just has an unfortunate way of trying to help? Are they as passionate about their opinion as you are about your art? Are they just cranky today and lashing out at any non-moving target? Are they just caught up in the crowd? Do they criticize everyone, maybe because they are just angry at the world or have no self-esteem? Do they have expertise that might back their criticism? Do they have something to gain by criticizing you? Do they have a personal vendetta against you or what you do or stand for?
Are they starving for attention?
It is obviously impossible to research the motivation behind every critical comment. But their language, the tone of the comment, where they criticize you - in person or publicly - are all clues. Most of these reasons or excuses don’t make it right. But knowing that any of these might be the reason for the criticism should help you pass most of them off as moot.
Personally, I find it helpful to place negative comments into 2 categories. 1) the serious ones that deserve a response, and 2) everyone else. I ignore the ‘everyone else category’ and chalk that up to a difference of opinion or a personal challenge on their part.
Next, I divide the ones who deserve a response, which are always just a handful at best, into 2 categories - ones who need a personal response, which usually turns out to be very few, and those I can respond to as a group. Then I respond to them appropriately from there.
Attracting critics always happens when you put yourself or your art into public view. So, there’s no sense in thinking that everyone is going to love you or your work. Take 99% of the criticism with a grain of salt, and respond appropriately to the ones who are sincerely seeking to be helpful or to engage in a constructive conversation. Who knows, you might just learn something or gain a new fan!