I’ve had my fair share of criticism. In fact, my life is full of it—either I give it or I accept it. Being both an advertising student and an editor of a newspaper, it’s something that comes by daily from clients, professors, and the general public. Nevertheless, they didn’t always hit me easy.
During the first week of our run as the new editorial board of The LaSallian, we came across a problem. Stricken with the immense pressure of not only producing a monthly issue but also maintaining the daily content for three social media accounts with tens to hundreds of thousands of followers each, it was no question that we had to be perfect.
Except we aren’t perfect, and we made mistakes. During our frosh welcoming walk coverage, we mistakenly tweeted “College of Computer Science” instead of “College of Computer Studies”. A professor was quick to catch our mistake on Twitter and went on to publicly question our capabilities as editors. Not long after, we published an article where we missed a poorly-formed sentence, which offended members of a sports team we wrote about. Though we issued a public apology, it still brought a lot of our spirits down.
That wasn’t the first time I encountered criticism in my life, but it was the first coming from a much larger scale. When I was younger, I would either beat myself up about it or ignore it completely. If it came from terror professors, I would let it go and brush it off as just them being strict. On the other hand, I cringed every time my mom or my friends would begin a sentence with “no offense” because I valued them too much and I would let the words that come after affect me horribly. However, I’ve realized that criticism isn’t black or white and how I address them shouldn’t be either or.
There are steps, I’ve learned, when responding to criticism. It starts with identifying if it aims to be constructive, or if it is baseless and is simply rude. The ideal scenario is that you learn from constructive ones and calmly let go of those that aim to debase and criticize just for the sake of criticizing. But, of course, this in itself is subjective to each person and the challenge is striking a balance—being careful not to fall into the trap of either excessively protecting your ego or letting it impede your understanding of your self-worth.
For example, someone saying that you need to be more careful in writing in order not to offend people is definitely constructive, but your pride can be quick to put this away as rudeness. On the other end of the spectrum, someone saying that you’re an “incompetent writer” may simply be rudeness, but you may take it too seriously and let it dishearten you from trying again.
Looking back at the incident with the typo and the mix-up with the sports article, I realized how much it has helped me grow. Those instances taught me to be more careful about filtering what we publish; the time that has lapsed has since taught me that no matter the mistake and the criticism that comes, our paper will recover if we own up to our mistakes and learn from them—I would’ve wasted time I could have used to learn and be better if I dwelled too heavily on the mistakes.
Criticism can come in different forms and from different sources: school, work, family and friends, people you don’t know personally—even yourself. Learning to deal with them as they come is essential. They can be constructive or destructive but keeping an open mind and being calm is key when they are thrown at you.
I know people who never listen so they never learn, and I know people who listen too much and get stuck in doubting themselves so they get too scared to give it a second try.
As with all things, we must learn to find balance—we must be open to other ideas but we must take no offense in the things that only aim to hurt us, focusing on figuring out what parts of criticism we want and need to carry with us moving forward. Constructive? Point taken. No offense? None taken.