I want to talk about the current climate for content creators online and how you, as a content creator, can survive mentally. How you can avoid feeling bad when people critique you, how you can feel more confident about what you make and know that whatever you do it is valuable.
Whether you post videos, take incentives at work, create articles, make a new business, or post on Instagram, this will apply to you – as an inventive creator.
As a disclaimer, I am not perfect of course. I also feel bad about critique. I say these things as a reminder to myself, to the ideals I want to reach.
Whatever you do on the internet you can be certain that someone will dislike you for it.
You can say the most well-meaning thing, like “I love all dogs” and someone will take like “Oh, you don’t love cats?” simply because you didn’t include cats in the sentence.
You can spend a lot of time editing the colors of a photo and someone thinks it’s not realistic enough, and when you make it more realistic someone else will tell you that it’s dull.
These are very simple examples of course, but the point is that people will react to your creations however they want and you cannot please everyone. You cannot take into consideration all factors of thoughts and likes and dislikes of all people.
And so, whatever you ever say, someone can criticize you for it, because is very simple and quick to criticize, to be reactive. Everyone is a critic, is the popular saying. To be proactive, to create something, is more difficult. To create you must put something of yourself out in the open. You are vulnerable. You have no established consensus of opinion about what people think of your creation and you simply have to wait for the inevitable critique or praise of course.
When we put something of ourselves out there – it hurts to be criticized, because we often see it as a part of ourselves. A critique, even a well-meant one, becomes an attack on ourselves.
The majority of content creators are reactive, not proactive. If you are proactive, you initiate something, for example making a video. And there will be a much larger amount of people commenting on your creation, being reactive, than people creating threads or videos themselves.
Because as you create, you are likely spending a lot of time doing it. You put yourself into it. You make something you hope others will appreciate. But someone, being reactive, can just dismiss it with “lol you suck” in 3 seconds.
So the point is – to create something is a much larger investment, an emotional and time investment, than to simply make a reactive comment on your creation. It is a big risk because you can feel rejected!
So how do we avoid these negative feeling when the inevitable critique comes?
We can partially solve this with acceptance, some understanding of psychology and some changes in perspective. So here is what I think about the subject, and I can be wrong, so I appreciate your reactive opinion in the comments.
Information is neutral
Every critique is an opportunity to learn – regardless of how the information is presented. All information is inherently neutral. The same information can be presented in a nice or angry way, in a well-meant or hurtful way.
The simple reversal of the sentence, “What a nice picture, but your lightning could be better”. Can be said as “Your lightning could be better, but you have a nice picture”. The information is the same – however the conversation naturally flows to the positive thing in the latter example, as it is the last thing mentioned.
So it really helps if we try to be thankful to all information given, regardless of how it was given, because information is a gift to you and you can be altered and meaning extracted from it to something useful. And then you can discard the negativity that came with it.
Now, this is difficult. Very difficult. Of course it is. The mean comments hurt. When I get mean comments on the stuff I make it hurts. I can’t escape it, even though I sit here preaching, I try to improve myself too. These things I say is also a reminder to myself.
So the human brain hard-wired to focus on negativity, because safe things can be safely ignored, dangerous things must be analysed quickly and intensively, in order for us to survive in the world. And this is not really useful on the internet, because it is not dangerous as in a Lion does not eat us through the computer. But the brain cannot make a meaningful difference between a lion and a hurtful comment – they are both perceived as dangerous.
And to reduce the consequences of this behavior we will do something called meta-cognition, to think about thinking. This is also called mindfulness in the mainstream space. To be aware of our thoughts and what our brain is automatically doing, and we can then be proactive to it’s actions, and stop it before our thoughts make stupid things.
This is just about practice. Imagine yourself in a situation where you know you will react in a way you don’t want to. For example, you take initiative to send am email to your boss about something you want to improve. You get dismissed. How will you react? Will you send a mean message back or try to defend yourself or will your day just be ruined?
By being aware of your automatic response you can decide if you want to go through with this response or not. You can decide to not answer to provocation. Perhaps it would be better to try again later or talk with your boss in person.
To think about what you’re thinking is a very good way to break destructive patterns and bring your life in the direction you want.
Knowledge is power
You can use this knowledge to be aware of other people’s automatic response too. One very relevant example is that people love to tell others how they are wrong on the internet. They focus on the negativity. People just can’t help themselves from giving you their opinion of how you are wrong, whether you asked for it or not. This is one of the reasons we receive so much critique in the first place, like previously discussed.
And this negativity bias also applies to you, of course. They are human, you are human. For example out of a 100 nice comments, there can be 1 negative comment. And our automatic response can be to be hyper-focused on this negative thing, to defend ourselves, it can ruin our day, despite it being a 1% negative out of 99% positive.
So by being aware of people’s tendency to focus on negativity, including yourself, to give critique, to perceive faults, we can be prepared and aware of how other’s react and decide how we want to handle it, and try to at least reduce it in ourselves.
Everyone is an individual
So maybe you have been at the top of a large building, watching the city. Maybe you have thought about all the people in the city. This is called sondering – the acute awareness of that everyone is out there, living their lives, thousands upon thousands of humans with their own life stories, their ideas, their experiences.
Everyone coming at you is with their own experiences, their biases, and they can vary drastically from yours. This is very valuable to remember when you see a negative comment. Just because their opinion is different doesn’t mean that it is wrong. Thinking about this can give you some perspective of if it’s useful to hold onto your opinion or try to use the information they provide to better your own understanding.
The futility of perfection
We all want to some sort of perfection in our creations. However this is impossible on the simple premise that people like different things. And even if there was something like objective perfection the world is too complex for us to understand what perfection is.
Skit: sushi go, heavenly sounds, zoom in, “wait what is that?? Sushi Go? Well, I guess perfection does exist”.
Trying to reach protection you can spend hours on a photograph, an email, a video, and you will always think of some way to improve it later.
And as a consequence of the lack of perfection there will always be an opening for attack with critique by others. You cannot reach perfection, you cannot please everyone.
It’s useful to set a limit. Call it “good enough”. Use the good enough principle and just get it done, get it out in the world, learn from your mistakes, and make it better again another time.
I’m still learning to make videos, and I’ve practiced a lot for this video. And it’s not perfect by far. However, I obviously released it. I think it’s good enough.
People love to criticise. Critique is inevitable.
Information is neutral – you can remake any critique into something useful and discard the useless parts.
Think about your thinking. Be aware of your automatic responses. Turn it into something better.
The brain automatically priorities negativity – this goes for you and others. 99% positive, 1% negative – we focus on the negative.
Everyone has their own experiences and biases. Expect varied reactions – it doesn’t mean their opinion is correct or wrong.
Perfection cannot be reached, nothing you do is perfect. You can be satisfied, it is good enough.