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Welcoming feedback gives you superpowers!
Not the type of superpowers where you can fly, have superspeed, or any of the other powers commonly associated with superheroes.
No, I’m talking about the kind of superpowers where someone can be critical of my work—or even critical of who I am—and I won’t be destroyed. The kind of superpowers where I’m able to transform the harshest, most brutal criticism into fertilizer and fuel to become better than before.
Simply, feedback makes me better and stronger.
I used to hate feedback. I would cringe, collapse into myself, and become as small as possible to hide from the words (ugh, the awful “constructive criticism”). But still, the words would find me, and I would crumble.
That is, until I fully embraced myself as a writer.
Because all writers must suffer passage through the gate of editorial feedback if they want to progress. No one can be a decent, let alone great, writer without this process. It was not easy. There were what felt like brutal criticisms, but once I got over the fear of “not being good enough,” I realized there was plenty of helpful stuff too.
I was astonished by the work I was able to create. I was growing. I became more confident. I started editing other writers’ work and watched them flourish too. I felt so wide, expansive, exhilarated—I loved it! It was actually kind of fun.
And guess what? You can develop these superpowers too.
First, you must understand feedback is critical to existing as a living being on this planet in this universe. If you are here, then you are sending and receiving feedback all the time in an act of co-creation. There is no escaping it, and avoiding it only brings peril.
Allow me to demonstrate.
Imagine we’re riding a bicycle. The day is bright and sunny, wind is whooshing past us as we glide effortlessly toward the farmer’s market. We turn right onto 13th Street and close our eyes, reveling in the freedom that is riding a bike and—whump! Our bicycle stops without us. A painful jolt knocks us breathless, throwing us from our rapture.
For a moment, we’re airborne, falling effortlessly toward the hard asphalt. With a bone-cracking thud we smack into the road and start bouncing and rolling, feet tumbling over our head, head over our feet, until we finally slide to a stop. Straining to breathe again, we manage to look back up toward our bike and see the front tire is in a pothole. A wailing siren starts up in the distance…
You see? Peril.
Closing our eyes blocked our ability to receive the feedback we needed to 1) know the pothole existed and 2) successfully navigate around it.
We can also outright ignore the feedback we receive. What if there were signs warning us about the pothole ahead and we decided to ignore those signs, shouting “We do what we want!” as we swooshed past?
Feedback, at its most primal, is the information we receive from our environment and the people around us so we can survive in and navigate through this world. Feedback is also the information we need to keep us on track so we can accomplish our tasks and reach our personal goals.
Secondly, we need to understand that feedback and criticism aren’t necessarily the same thing.
Feedback is usually helpful in some way, leads to our growth, and is mutually beneficial for all involved. Shaming and belittling masked as “constructive criticism” is more like someone putting their hands over our eyes while we’re riding our bicycle.
Sometimes, people claim they’re trying to help you with some constructive criticism when really, they’re just looking for control and their own comfort because everything must be their way.
This is why we need to also hone our superpowers of self-acceptance and discernment. Discernment is the ability to decide if the information you’re receiving is accurate and/or helpful. For example, if the signs in our bicycle story said there was a pothole ahead, but you’d also heard it had already been fixed.
I’ve noticed, as I’ve become more confident in my abilities and more comfortable with who I am, I’ve become much more resilient in the face of manipulative criticism and welcoming of honest feedback. If we are grounded in who we are and self-assured, then it will be so much easier to know the difference between someone trying to help us and someone trying to manipulate us.
If we lack this necessary self-love, then we will crumble at anything—helpful or not. And if we trust in our abilities and know our worth, we won’t crumble or lash out at feedback coming our way, and people will actually start to become more comfortable giving us honest feedback.
This doesn’t mean I don’t feel the heavy thud of an article being sent back for revision or the cool, trickling sweat of doubt that I can make the article any better than it already is—I definitely still feel these. They just don’t last as long because I know I can rise to the challenge and I can come back with better quality work.
I trust in myself and my abilities. I trust the process.
The final thing we need to realize about feedback is this: not giving someone honest feedback is not helpful, it is harmful—to both of you. They won’t grow, and no one will trust your word or your opinion. The hot, sinking feeling under the spotlight when you realize everyone around you has been basically lying to you is the worst. Don’t do that to the people you love.
When giving any feedback I try to follow the principles of mindful speech, which asks three questions:
- Is it necessary?
- Is it true (understanding that your truth isn’t necessarily “the truth”)?
- Is it kind (meaning just because it’s “necessary” and “true” doesn’t mean you can be cruel)?
I also try to offer feedback rather than foist it without permission and I never ask a question if I don’t want to hear the answer!
As with all things, practice. Like learning to ride a bicycle, develop the confidence to keep your balance, keep your eyes open, and know the difference between your front and your rear break levers.
Good luck, superheroes!