The mantra of mantras in receiving critiques is Don’t take it personally. That is an away mantra. It’s telling us what we are supposed to not do and gives us squat about what we are supposed to do. Which leaves us in a bit of quandary on how to improve our critique receiving mojo—how can we practice and improve if we don’t know where we are supposed to be headed? We need a toward mantra. A mantra that inspires the mindset we want to cultivate as a critique receiver.
The easy fix for our Critique Receiving Toward Mantra (CRTM) would be to go with the opposite: Take it impersonally. That at least is a toward mantra. But to test to see if it is a sufficient mantra for you, think about what the word impersonal conjures up as a mental state. For me, it conjures up blank-faced, there-but-not-there’edness. The feeling I get when I know someone is physically listening but not really hearing what I am saying. That is not a way of being I want to practice.
So for me, ixnay on the impersonal’nay.
Next up: Take it with detachment. For me, this works better. It helps me remember that in the act of receiving critiques I want to be separate from my story. If I am detached then I don’t even have to think of it as my story, a possessiveness which places me at the edge of the slippery slope to potentially taking the feedback personally. Instead with a mindset of detachment, I can consciously take the position that I am hearing feedback about the story, or a story.
How does that land with you? Perhaps you have a different feeling experience of the word detachment. So it may not land in the same way for you, but for me it definitely is a step up from impersonal. Yet still, it’s a little energetically vacant. Like I could be detached but still fall into that flat-faced space of the impersonal mode.
So how about this: Take it with cheerful detachment. Hmmmm, I like it. Cheerfulness implies both happy and optimistic. I’m down with setting the intention that I can be full-on happy in a critique no matter what goes down—that my mood is my choice and is not at the mercy of what feedback is given or how it is delivered. That absolutely is a position of badassery. And mindset equilibrium is also a skill I can cultivate like any other skill.
I also like the added layer of optimism built into cheerful—as long as I am being realistic on what I’m being optimistic about. I don’t want to set myself up for a fall by optimistically expecting with all my heart (and with fingers and toes crossed) that everyone is going to love my story and tell me great things and possibly even faint from the beauty of my prose.
Even that mindset to a much less exaggerated degree is problematic—Ye old recipe for emotional state disaster. Plus, completely in opposition to the detachment part of the mantra. Detached as a goal means it wouldn’t matter what or how anyone says anything, we don’t lose our center. So hoping for only praise even just a tiny bit consciously (or more likely subconsciously) is leading us right back down that slippery slope of taking it personally.
So what are we going to be optimistic about when we are receiving a critique? Simply that we will learn something. Ideally, the something we learn will help our stories. Or our craft. But even if we get triggered by something and have to deal with the emotional fallout—well, then we learned something about ourselves. Goal achieved so despite a temporary emotional kerfuffle, no need to dwell in the huff and bother long term.
So what do you think? Does Take it with Cheerful Detachment work for you as a CRTM? If so, steal away. If not, take the time to formulate your own Critique Receiving Toward Mantra. Then you will really know what not taking it personally means for you.
Onward in kindness,
Christine Carron, The Critique MD