The Scales of Criticism and Confidence

So I put forward something in writing prompts about finding the balance between criticism and productivity. I decided I would also use that idea myself, but take it in a slightly different direction. Part of this is because I feel I can be productive without being confident, though not sure I can be confident with production. Anyway, food for another day’s thought.

For all intents and purposes, I consider self criticism and self confidence to be opposite sides of the same scale. Too much or one or the other is generally bad. A critical eye helps me keep the ego of “success” in check and the confidence reminds me that there’s more to what I produce than what I put in or get out of it. That is, others may see some value in the work that I cannot. It is impossible to know without making that work available, and even then must be taken a bit on faith.

I have not typically viewed myself as a confident person. I thought of confidence as something that comes after success. In order to be confident, you must have some tangible thing to be proud of. Otherwise, it’s just false bravado.

Through a lifetime of various criticisms and failures, I never felt like I succeeded at anything. I did not feel that I had something to be confident about, no real achievement or success that magically gave me the right. So I went about my life assuming that my lack of success meant I was undeserving.

From a lifetime of both receiving quite a lot of “constructive criticism” and in order to “prove my worth,” I turned a critical eye toward everything I did. My goal was to produce something good enough to garner praise instead of criticism. The first and easier coping mechanism was to keep all thoughts and ideas to myself. People cannot criticize something that doesn’t exist, so all ideas got to live in my head. The downside being that no idea could be revealed until it was judged “successful” enough to escape criticism. To this day, I still do this to varying degrees. It’s quite the bad habit.

At some point in my adulthood I realized that the only person judging my work was me. The few times it encountered other people, it was regarded with a wide variety of emotions well above and beyond criticism. In fact, that has rarely been a factor. I would say my closest friends, and the Blaugust community, and a professor or two have largely been supportive and most everyone else regards everything with something between amusement and casual indifference.

At the same time, I chose to re-evaluate how I view my own work. It is impossible for me to know or predict what others will get out of a particular post. I made a deliberate choice to assume that someone who isn’t me could find some manner of value in my thoughts and opinions, and opted to share them. In the process, I’ve also discovered what I get out of it myself, and take the known good with the potential good as a positive sign.

That is, I chose to have confidence in the value of my work. It is, and was, a deliberate choice that came before the work, not after. I still believe the self-critical part is required to keep it in check. Otherwise, I might start to believe myself a bit too much and consider my opinion above others, and I don’t think any of us would benefit from that.

Y’all take care, and as they say, “fake it ’till you make it.” Just don’t be a dick about it?


blapril-2020-200Hey, it’s Blapril time! The goal is to simply promote and stimulate the blogging community by encouraging people of all skill levels and backgrounds to post. The official post can be found here and it’s never too late to start.

2 thoughts on “The Scales of Criticism and Confidence

  1. You’re viewing criticism as a bad thing. You frame it as success that you haven’t received much criticism. I don’t think that’s the best way to view criticism.
    Reaction is the flipside of creation. Criticism is a GOOD thing. It’s vital to any craft. Even when it isn’t valuable to you, it is valuable for your audience. You’re still looking at criticism as this scary thing to be avoided. Instead you should view it as inevitable and a vital component of the creative experience.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Perhaps I wasn’t clear enough then. The entire point was that both must exist in balance. Criticism can be good, yes, but too much or too little can be counterproductive.

      Like

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