Facing Judgements I Don’t Want to Hear

by Edward Perry

When I know what someone is going to say and I know I am not going to like it, I avoid them as much as possible. Recently, I’ve found it’s because I know they have a point and I don’t know a better way to change or explain what I’ve done. I just wanted them to see I tried my hardest and for them to admire even my half-assed attempts at creation. But really, if I’m doing something and it isn’t coming across the way I hoped, there is no easy way to accept the fact that I failed.

There are people whos’ opinions I cannot wait to hear about my work. Eagerly, I reach out for their input, I take it in like fairy dust and I float without feeling judged or misunderstood. With them I feel free and happy to communicate my ideas and together we collaborate improving my vision. But there are also those who I can not stand hearing from. They take a shallow step into my world and decide too quickly that it’s several things that they do not like. I try to avoid getting their input, but from time to time I’ll ask the most critical of them to take a look. The thing is, I think the same as they do and that part of me wants to see what it would look like if I failed. There is a person who makes himself known inside my head (particularly in the morning) and hates everything I think is great.

Example: After I’ve stayed up all night on a project, he wakes up, takes a look at it and as though all context and aesthetic were transparent he sees through to my canvas, seeing nothing there.

“Crap.”, he declares. I respond, “What? It’s great. Look how they seem to be judged by inanimate objects but the irony is…” He cuts me off, “Looks like you’re being obvious and that’s coming through more than you know. Others will think so, I wouldn’t post it.”

Feeling content with his appraisal, he leaves me defeated and wondering why I even bother making anything ever. But wait… being obvious isn’t a bad thing. In fact, I intended on being obvious! That’s not something I was afraid of, and yes I do hope people see it that way. If I let him speak for me I often forget that the negatives he sees are often the intentions I had in the first place. It’s funny how quickly I can get defensive about something that I hadn’t realized was a strength all along.

The other side of it is positive, too. If he attacks the core of my work and I don’t have a solid reason to uphold it then my idea crumbles. Sounds bad but wait there’s more.

When I get negative criticism about my work  I feel like, “Well, they just don’t know what I’m trying to do.” Instead of trying to explain myself, I avoid talking about it all together. Most often I don’t actually know enough to explain what I did and when it’s hard to communicate my ideas I just say, “Well, it’s just hard to explain what’s in my mind.” I expect my critics just to respect my opinion and leave it alone, but the real smart ones then ask, “Well, then why did you ask me to look at it?”

The real answer is, again, I just wanted the approval. But I’m finding that those who question my work offer something more valuable – purpose. It may come across with lots of negative energy but if I picture someone else saying it (Julie Andrews) I can see the issues a lot easier.

The fact is, sometimes I fail. Instead of weakening an idea by settling with a sub-par image, I can openly say, “Yeah, I didn’t get the shot.” This can ultimately save the purpose the shoot. Being honest with myself may mean re-doing something that took a long time or accepting that I had missed a unique opportunity. It’s hard to see failures as lessons for the next time, especially when I need money for rent. But the quicker I can define what I am doing, the faster I can re-focus my efforts into something that works. Even if I can’t, at least I gave myself the opportunity to improve.

This turned into kind of a ramble but remember:
1) Don’t be defensive about strengths.
2) Be honest with what you intend on accomplishing.