So you've had this amazing idea blossoming in your mind for ages now, and it's bursting to get out into the world.
You've spent ages putting your best effort into your passion project, but you feel a total twist in your gut when it comes to actually letting your dream out into the world.
This fear has plagued artists, inventors, and entrepreneurs since some dude said "I think maybe round is the better choice, here." It's not new, and it's totally normal to feel a little nervous when we take that first step to getting out work out there. We may not want everyone to like us— in fact, we're pretty sure that universal admiration has never existed— but what if no one likes our work?
It's a basic human need to want to be seen, to be understood.
We all want someone to get it.
We want the community that comes from a common interest and a common pursuit.
There's good news: just as universal admiration is a full-on harmful fallacy, so is universal dislike.
I mean, there are thousands of people who are perfectly willing to vote for Donald Fucking Trump. If that's not proof, I don't know what is.
Some negative feedback is inevitable— I'd even argue it's necessary. It stings, but it's how we learn and grow— and learning and growth is the foundation of any creative endeavour or entrepreneurial project. We can take this negative feedback and we can find the spark of positivity within it. We can use it to transform our creative lives and businesses, without letting it tear down our confidence and smother our passion.
1. STAY CALM
Most of the time the occasional snippet of negative feedback doesn't make your blood boil— but every now and then? A killer doozy that makes you want to put someone's head through a wall. If you've worked in customer service before I can almost guarantee you've experienced one of these unless you're one of those totally unflappable goddesses, in which case, I salute you.
It's so hard to really internalize this information, but the truth is customer anger is almost never directed at you. Not you personally. They've probably had a bad day, they're frustrated with lost time and money and they want someone to hear them— as would anyone. I mean, the majority of us deal with our frustrations gracefully and without shitting all over someone else's good day, but what can you do? Understand that blowing up will only make the situation worse. The best way to diffuse a tense situation is to reign in that alpha female who wants to give your rude client a smack down. If you're in a face-to-face situation, keep your voice slow, quite, and relaxed— your customer will be more likely to match your approach.
If you're dealing with criticism through email, blog comments or other social media interactions, take a moment to breathe. Write out the angry response you've always dreamed of (without the email address), get that salty shit out of your system, and take a beat. Consider what they are really upset about, decide if you can improve their situation, and take it from there.
2. DON'T DWELL ON 'YOU SUCK'
Before you really let any feedback into your heart, make sure you determine what kind of place this feedback is coming from. The feedback might be critical, but has it been given to you from a good place? Is the reader or customer trying to help you learn something? What can you learn from them?
If someone is simply coming along to say "Hey, I think your blog is shit," let that go. Delete and move on, baby. You don't need that crap. It's not contributing to the conversation, and it's not contributing to your blog or business. No one is learning anything here, except that some people are d-bags. If someone else isn't taking the time to contribute usefully and authentically, you don't have to either.
3. ACCEPT YOUR HUMANITY
Getting your art, your blog, or your business out there often requires a lot of self confidence. Often we've broken away from the pack because we want to be doing things our way without the pressure and restraint of The Boss, and The System. However, it's important to remember that we can still be wrong. Really wrong. We're still normal people, and humans make a lot of mistakes.
Try and step back from the situation and look at it from an outsiders point of view— or better yet, get the point of view of a trusted outsider. Someone you can count on to give it to you straight without worrying about breaking apart a friendship. Are your instincts and judgements on track, or is there maybe some aspect of this situation that you're struggling to see?
4. PICK YOUR BATTLES
You can't always be on the front line, fighting it out. If someone is coming at you with a criticism and a request, sometimes it is simply easiest to honour your request. Is it worth the social media smackdown your business will get if you don't leave your customer with a good impression?
Definitely not. If they're unhappy with something, you have a golden opportunity to make it magic for them. Going the extra mile will ensure that the gossip they're spreading about you and your blog or business is the kind of gossip you want. They will remember the person who reached out to them with willingness and a smile. It can be tough when you're just starting out to give up that sale or reimburse someone's payment, but if you look long-term, rather than short-term, this is money in your pocket. These are future sales you're not going to miss out on because of a spoiled reputation.
However, there are always those people who simply cannot be pleased. When you put your life and your business on the Internet for the world to see there will always be people waiting to talk shit about you, to bring you down. Don't let it hold you back. Those are not your ideal customers and readers, and if you lead by example and show the world you're awesome, the people who matter will notice.
5. STICK TO YOUR CORE
It's so important to get really clear on what our core principles and values are. Where are you not willing to budge? Feedback is almost always useful, but there are definitely going to be times when you get feedback that simply doesn't jive with you.
Don't shift your vision simply because someone else isn't on board with what you are trying to accomplish, with your message and your dream. You know what values lie at the heart of your endeavours. If you are offering tarot sessions to help spiritual business mavens get on track and someone comes along and says they like your advice, but don't think you should be using tarot...
This is not your person.
6. THE OPINIONS OF OTHERS DO NOT SHAPE YOUR WORTH
No matter what feedback you get, no matter who loves your work, or who hates your work, in the end the only thing that matters is you. The opinions of others do not determine whether or not it is worthwhile for you to make art. They don't determine whether or not you get to write, or share that art, or turn that creative passion into a business.
Do you think Neil Gaiman spends time thinking about whether or not he should write because there are lots of people out there who can't stand his writing?
He writes because it gives meaning to his life. If six, or six hundred, or six thousand people tell you they don't like your art, it doesn't matter. What matters is that it enriches your life, that you learn and grow in your experience, and that you share authentically. All the rest is just sprinkles.
The thing is, you'll never know until you let go of your message in a bottle, until you send it out there and see who picks it up. Creativity is a solitary endeavour, certainly, but it can also be a community one— and to build that community, you have to welcome vulnerability. You have to open your arms and take whatever comes back to you, good or bad.
You will only be all the stronger for it.