Learning to Accept Criticism

"Take criticism seriously, but not personally. If there is truth or merit in the criticism, try to learn from it. Otherwise, let it roll right off you.” - Hilary Rodham Clinton

Remembering to take criticism seriously but not personally is something I've struggled with, but I'm working on. 

Yesterday, I had a draft conference with a professor and I thought I had a pretty good rough draft. However, I completely missed the assignment and my paper was so far off base. I was embarrassed. I could feel my cheeks turning red and my eyes start to water as he told me everything that sucked about my paper. I didn't burst into tears in his office. I (mostly) kept my composure and eventually, I was able to really enjoy the conference for what it was--a learning experience. 

I've recently come to identify the cause of bad habits that I've had since high school thanks to an interesting article "Why Writers Are the Worst Procrastinators" by Megan McArdle on procrastination. I procrastinate all the time and while I've always known that it simply out of laziness, I never really understood why I did it. But I think it goes back to receiving my first B on a progress report. 

Up until that point school was extremely easy for me. I never had to try and I got used to being the "smart one." When I got my first B (for what subject I cannot remember, science maybe?) one a progress report (note:not an actual report card) I cried. I remember my teachers assuring me and my mom in a meeting that there was nothing to worry about. But I hated to me that B represented that I wasn't actually that smart. 

From then on I continued to do well in school. I took all advanced classes and mostly received good grades. However, I developed this mind set that putting little to no effort and doing well okay with me, because it somehow proved that I was smart. Doing nothing and still doing well proved that yes, I had talent and I was just that good. 

According to McArdle's article I have a "fixed mind set." 

"for “fixed” people, they are just a dipstick that measures how high your ability level is. Finding out that you’re not as good as you thought is not an opportunity to improve; it’s a signal that you should maybe look into a less demanding career, like mopping floors," (McArdle). 

On the flipside there are "growth" people. Those people thrive under pressure and see everything as a chance to grow. My finance, for example, is one those people. He loves taking someones criticism, improving and then showing off how much better he has gotten. Seriously, it's one of the things he lives for. Opposites attract? I dread having to share my work. It literally makes me sick to my stomach every time I upload a paper I wrote. So for the longest time, turning in nothing or waiting to the last minute and just turning in shit was easier than really devoting time and effort to only find out how much I just truly sucked. 

I understand now that I just cannot continue to think like that. I know that I have the difficult task of changing a mind set that I've long possessed. Procrastinating or not turning in anything at all only hurts myself. I realize that being a great writer or photographer or great anything for that matter is a skill that has to be learned and taking criticism is part of learning. 

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