Criticism and Staying Motivated To Study

My nephew decided finally to get his GED certificate so when I just read an article about an online program for GED preparation, I told him about it. And you know what he said? “I don’t need it”, “I can learn by myself”, “It’s just not really my thing.” It made me so angry but then I realized he is afraid of being criticized for his lack of educational achievements. I guess it’s pretty hard to deal with criticism and staying motivated to study.

Criticism comes in all forms – “I’ve seen better.” “I don’t get it. “No offense, but…” “If you just changed this one little thing, it would work.” Criticism can be helpful or devastating depending on who and where it’s coming from. Don’t ignore the critics – but understand that critics will offer up criticism for a variety of reasons:

1. They generally care about your growth as a human being. This kind of criticism is the constructive sort of support we all need. Of course, giving advice to other people on how to improve is extremely important and we all crave critique and discussion on these topics or we can’t continue to grow.

Critics like this want you to know how they think you could polish your work. It’s the kind of critique that comes from experience and serves to better us – and it is a rare gift if you find it. These critics are also some of the best role models you’ll find – and your greatest asset when you’re having trouble assessing your own work. I know… I had to learn that I needed training as well before I could really function well in the corporate world. This is a thing my nephew has to learn as well.

2. Some people are jealous of your ability to start something new and are trying to rationalize their own insecurities by demeaning your actions. – Think about it, there are students who actually like your work enough that it makes them feel self-conscious. It happens to me all the time. I’ll see a photograph that I like and that voice in my head says “They’re better than you, you’ll never be that good.” In order to combat those nagging voices, we criticize and knock each other down a peg in hopes that it will make our work look more dignified. It’s a constant battle to make ourselves look bigger than we are.

This sort of criticism only serves to divide us, and that’s not productive for anyone. We’ve all got insecurities – it’s a fact. Why prey on those instead of using your energy to encourage others? The term best practices in education, also when it comes to criticism, always gives me the creeps. Also in academic circles, jealousy is killing and often plays a critical role for people who are supposed to act according to “best practices”.

3. They want you to quit – The world is a competitive place. We all have a unique voice and can come up with original ideas of our own, what need is there for competition? People will criticize you to make you quit – to make you realize that you can’t “beat” them. Stand strong in your ideas – your only competition is yourself. And in that case, you are the only one who can decide when to quit. My nephew is clever enough! I bet you that when he’ll get his GED and goes to college, headhunters will be standing in line to offer him a good job!

Also for my nephew, learning should be a great social venture. Interactions with peers and teachers, like conversations specifically about the GED subject fields, will help those students broaden their comprehension not only of that particular topic but also boost their social interacting skills.

4. They find faults in your work they can’t find in their own. – Pablo Picasso once said something like: “It is definitely a fact that we do see the faults in someone else’s works more rapidly than we do so in our own works.” Some critics can’t turn a discerning eye on their own work – and admittedly it’s hard to judge what you put your heart and soul into. Some people will judge your work instead – and sometimes it helps them to learn their own lesson.

These types of critics aren’t usually vindictive and often have insightful things to say (so don’t write them off) – but they may not be sure how to apply it themselves. When students encounter a difficult case when writing a dissertation, for example, they are often more vulnerable to feeling inferior. So it is critical to have a very positive mindset. Never forget that you are the expert. You know all about the subject of your dissertation. No worries.

In a nutshell, everything people who criticize you should be taken with a grain of salt.  Sure – sometimes critics will help you grow and realize something in yourself you may not have seen. But ultimately, you should not let your critics change your view. Your actions have to come from what YOU know and see, and if that includes imperfections, they are your own to claim!

Confidence is one of the hardest skills to build, and it takes a lot of time. It comes AFTER you are completely comfortable with all the other basics of the craft. Don’t let critics take that away from you. And if you choose to be a critic, take time to think about the impact of your comments. If it doesn’t serve a purpose to help someone learn, then why say it?