Time For Some Terrifying Feedback
Most of us, left to our own devices in the gym, could do a fairly decent job of working out alone.
We know that a personal trainer would sort out our dodgy technique so we don’t get injured. We know that having a trainer would mean we’d have to show up. We also know that they’d push us outside of our comfort zone and get us to do things that hurt and feel uncomfortable.
Which is why most of us don’t have personal trainers.
It’s the same thing with our own work. Most of us avoid people and situations that make us aware of the weak spots. Especially the big ones.
When you’re independent and putting your own work in to the world, you usually don’t have an editor, a boss, a manager, a label or a person whose job it is to provide you with professional feedback.
Whilst that’s liberating in a “haha, you can’t tell me nothin” way, it’s also limiting, because you’re so close to your work it’s almost impossible to be an objective critical eye.
We should all welcome challenge, however talented or experienced we are.
The goal is to get to the point you can use feedback to examine your work through different lenses, take what feels useful and leave what doesn’t, without it causing much emotional upheaval.
Don’t Take It Personally
When we take genuine feedback personally and see it as an insult to our talent, a threat to our independence, or someone being mean to us, we need to remember two things:
You are not your work, and it’s important to separate the two
Your ego is getting in the way of your growth
Not all useful feedback will come from someone with 40 years of experience or someone who’s exactly like you, sometimes it will come from somewhere unexpected, if you’re humble enough to see it.
If your filter is working properly, unhelpful feedback should pass through it easily, without you needing to heap scorn on whoever offered it.
If feedback makes you feel so terrible it’s debilitating, which is why you avoid it, you can’t hide your way to confidence. The only way out is through.
Professional feedback is often the difference between remaining in an amateur space, and becoming a fully fledged pro.
10 avoidance strategies that are seriously hurting your career
Never asking for any feedback.
Telling yourself that as long as you’re happy with your work, it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks: then secretly feeling disappointed when things don’t go the way you’d hoped.
Asking for feedback from biased people who love everything you do first, so that any negative feedback that comes later is easier to ignore.
Asking for feedback when it’s too late for you to make changes (or perhaps creating a false sense of urgency), so that you can ignore any significant changes people might suggest.
Collaborating with people (often friends) who don’t challenge you to get better, step outside of your comfort zone or scrap something you thought was good.
Distancing yourself from people who give you feedback you don’t like by convincing yourself they’re attacking you personally, they’re jealous of you, or they don’t know what they’re talking about.
Finding ways to avoid feedback, for example not talking to your peers about your work, not reading your reviews, or not approaching press in the first place.
Telling yourself you prefer to work alone, because you can’t handle feedback from people with a vested interest in your success.
Convincing yourself no one really understands what you do, and therefore no one has the right to talk to you about your work, especially if they don’t have the same skillset as you.
Asking for advice from different people and ignoring it until you find someone who says what you want to hear.
Can you tell I’ve given a lot of feedback to artists over the years?!
If you do any of the above and you’re still reading this, kudos to you. But you do need to get over it, and the only way to get over it is by getting used to it.
Hang on hang on! Before you close this window and stop reading so you don’t have to go through with it, please remember this -
Feedback is a tool not a weapon, you just have to learn how to use it.
Find someone to be your critical eye or ear, resolve to stick with them, and to honour the process. It could be a group, a class, a mentor, a coach, a consultant or an accountability partner.
There’s no hard and fast rule about who that person should be, but it’s usually someone with experience in your industry who is willing to tell you the truth. It is not your friends and family.
Even if your friends and family have significant industry experience (if they don’t, this shouldn’t even be in question), it’s not advisable to put them in a position where they have to decide whether or not to hurt your feelings. They may choose your friendship over being honest, or they may say something that hurts you and affects your relationship.
Either way, find someone else. Preferably someone you have to pay, and who will charge you if you don’t show up.
Why do I have to?
In my years of experience of being that critical ear I’ve learned three things:
Free feedback and advice tends to go straight in to the “ignore this” bin, even if it’s great.
People who think they don’t need feedback are the ones who need it most.
Artists and creatives who don’t learn to handle feedback never do as well as those who do.
So be brave, be open, be curious.