Remember #Criticism but Forget Praise ? #writing

Are you able to embrace praise? What was the the last criticism you received in your life and work that hurt? How do you deal with it? If you could praise someone in your life, who would it be and what would you praise them for?

Last week I was involved in a body workshop: mining emotions embedded in the body in order to come forth with the most genuine, resonant writing.

One of the things I realized is that we all, writers or not, often internalize criticism. If a parent or teacher or peer picks on a real or imaginary lack, we believe it. This criticism and the hurt it brings stays in the body, no matter how much we ignore it. It seems to take a lot of time to undo the damage it causes.

On the other hand, when someone gives us praise, it is hard to embrace it fully.

This week, I’ve made a conscious decision to embrace praise wherever I find it. To take it, appreciate it, and remember it.

I’ll also make a conscious effort to give more praise: I try always to find genuine facets to praise in people and their work, but I’ll now be particular, and try to step up the praise even more.

The same for critique: I maintain that almost as important as the crit is the way it is given: the generosity and kindness matters as much as the insight.

How about you? Are you able to embrace praise? What was the the last criticism you received in your life and work that hurt? How do you deal with it? If you could praise someone in your life, who would it be and what would you praise them for?

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  1. wallcat

    I’m the same. If I do badly then it was my fault, if I do well then it was likely down to luck. Thinking in this way over time can be a real drag, so I’m trying to be a lot kinder on myself from now on. I prefer to use the term feedback rather than criticism because that suggest that it’ll actually be helpful to me. It can be fun to gather information to make something better.

    If I’m going to praise anybody it’d be my sister because she’s one of the most caring people I know and works really hard, yet receives little recognition for it.

  2. bikerchick57

    A co-worker and I had a discussion about accepting praise many years ago. Why do we try to refute praise? We are so good at saying, “Oh, you shouldn’t have done that,” or rolling our eyes when someone tells us we are beautiful. That discussion stuck with me, so I am much better at accepting praise. I’m still working on the giving, I think I spent too many years with people who didn’t practice that.

    By the way, you have a wonderful blog and I need to visit more often. I love your writing style and advice.

    • Damyanti Biswas

      I think it all goes back to our childhood. This is why I try and (truthfully) praise children around me. What we absorb as children is what we radiate as adults. Am glad you like my blog, I sure love yours!

    • Damyanti Biswas

      This blog is all about others’ opinions. That’s why most of my own posts are short, the guest posts are long, and the comment threads even longer. Thanks for stopping by Gitanjali, I hope to see you around often. Followed you on twitter!

  3. dgkaye

    Accepting praise is difficult for many; especially when coming from a childhood where there wasn’t any. Everyone could use a little encouragement. I think writers are some of their own worst critics. 🙂

    • Damyanti Biswas

      Yep, most of our childhood was littered with too much criticism, and graced with very little praise. Yes, writers and artists suffer from chronic self-doubt 🙂

  4. dr sweetyshinde

    I save (both) for a later re-read.
    Later, when I’ve cooled, both praise and criticism seem to make sense.
    P.S- That’s about the brain response. Heart does its own tachycardia dance on both type of comments. What to do? Dil hai ke maanta nahi

  5. Michelle Stanley

    Amazing that I can get praise and support for my work from fellow bloggers, clients and readers, but never from family. I still find it hard to accept praise, never satisfied with my own writing.Nice post as always.

    • Damyanti Biswas

      Thanks, Michelle. I think it is the same with most of us– we just have to learn to cope with this better. Recently I spoke to a writer whose mother was vocally un-supportive of her writing: too much pain, too little kindness.

  6. Julia Lund

    I find praise hard to accept and it always takes me by surprise as I’m never sure it’s actually justfied. Criticism, however, is far easier to believe. Years ago, someone told me that I was impossible to encourage and that rejecting praise sends a message to the giver that you don’t respect their view. I’d never thought about that before and was horrified. These days, I try to engage my intellect as well as my emotions when it comes to praise/criticism. I hope I accept and give both more wisely than I used to.

    • Damyanti Biswas

      Yes, I had a similar message from someone a few years ago. I’m no longer in regular touch with her, but she’s my compassion guru: she taught me the value of accepting praise and gifts. The praise-r and the gifte-r is indeed insulted if you roll eyes, or are disbelieving. I think our own insecurities keep us from believing the truth of any praise given to us. Nowadays, I simply accept praise as kindness and love.

  7. Ciara Ballintyne

    I think different personality types handle praise and criticism differently. When I’m criticised, I do one of two things – I either agree with it, and go on to fix it, or I categorically reject it as wrong and ignore it. Arguably not always the best approach, but then it also does make one resilient provided you’re self-analytical. The only time criticism bothers me is if it’s a personal attack by someone in my “inner circle”.

    When it comes to praise, public praise makes me uncomfortable – I don’t know how to graciously accept it. But that’s partly because I consider the things that just need doing don’t require praise.

  8. Jacqui Murray

    I wonder if today’s youth are better at remembering the praise and forgetting the criticism. Judging by their riots at Yale et al… I guess either direction is not so good.

  9. lexacain

    All humans are hardwired to remember mistakes more sharply than successes. It’s what has kept humans alive for thousands of years. They had to remember which snakes were poisonous and which herbs made them sick, etc. Criticism that isn’t accepted is quickly forgotten (such as “You got bitten by the poisonous snake because you didn’t pray to the moon goddess.”), but criticism that rings true is a lesson that stays with us and influences our subsequent behavior. Praise is nice, but won’t keep you from picking up that poisonous snake…

  10. kutukamus

    Hi Damyanti. I’m not a writer, but yep, I guess everybody (writers or otherwise) needs those both. One thing, though—one too many times, I think people praise out of common courtesy. 🙂

  11. macjam47

    My mother never gave any of her children praise, and that was often very hurtful. My dad, on the other-hand, was always ready with the most encouraging comments. I guess their praise/lack of balanced out.

  12. Stephanie Faris

    I think about this often–we will hear the negative long before we’ll hear the positive…even if it’s just one criticism in a sea of compliments. I don’t get it…but I guess it’s our search for validation. We have to find that within ourselves somehow.


  13. Somali K Chakrabarti

    Damayanti, the key thing that you have pointed out is to find genuine facets to praise. Otherwise praise sounds just like a cliche given to seek praise in return. To be able to accept both criticism and praise with humility is the mark of a mature mind.

  14. Swapnil Vajpayee

    This is great stuff you’ve written. This work inspires me into more writing stuff. I am new to blogging and creative writing and I would love if you paid a visit to it. Suggestions really help. 🙂

  15. doc2poet

    Sometimes a little push is all that you need to get started…Praise or Criticism…Its upto you what pushes you ahead in your endeavors…

  16. Abhishek Ratna

    Loved the message…move balanced…

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    About the book:

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    Practical and comprehensive, the book often stretches to the point of ‘cunning without harming’. Interspersed with quotes, stories and humor, it also breaks a few myths. The author treads the fine line between ethical and non-ethical. The author is able to convince the reader about the necessity for professional success.

  17. ianscyberspace

    I guess praise can be genuine or a tool to put you in the mood to do something for the praise giver in which case it is not genuine praise. If the former I accept it humbly, if the latte I treat it for what it really is.

  18. sfarnell

    I can’t imagine you getting much criticism, just make sure to take the praise as you deserve it. You never get much for writing, so take what you do get and let it build you 🙂

  19. Birgit

    I have a hard time but I am learning from my hubby who has no problem receiving praise and usually agrees with them-hahahahaaa-He has a healthy ego in that way but it no arrogant. What is funny is I am hurt when I don;t receive praise and want to be at least recognized for my work in what ever shape or form . The best is to accept praise but never expect it

  20. Guilie Castillo

    In the famous words of Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, “It’s easier to believe the bad stuff.” We are, unfortunately, raised to see ourselves through the eyes of others, and to judge ourselves by comparison. On top of that, we’re not taught to understand diversity of opinion… It is impossible to please everyone; we’re all individuals with individual taste and preferences. One person’s nectar is another person’s poison. How to juggle such different opinions, then? How do we know which one is the truth? We will suffer in that limbo until we realize there is no truth to our own self except the one we, individually, perceive. But it’s a long, and hard, road to get there. Great post, Damyanti!

  21. emaginette

    It’s funny how many people think they are actually help when they are being critical. If it’s not constructive then it’s just mean.

    And yes, when I see, hear, or smell something good, or wonderful. I share. Even if I don’t know the person. I don’t see any sense in keep it to myself. It sure won’t hurt them.

    Love the site 🙂

    Anna from Elements of Writing

  22. Ashen

    We have such diverse and personal reactions to feedback, which goes to show how powerful words can be.
    Your post made me think …
    I nibble at a critical comments about my writing, chewing it over and over, while deciding whether it tastes right, nourishes my creativity or leaves me disheartened and unwell.
    Praise, I swallow whole, which means I don’t digest it properly.
    By chance, I rediscovered one particular compliment re: my first MS yesterday (copied in my notebook,) from a time when I had a few chapters on Harper Collins’ Authonomy site (now no more.)
    This one comment summed up many others and lifted my mood on this otherwise difficult day. Must nibble and absorb praise more 🙂

  23. frankiekay

    I always thought I was a “middle finger” person – if you dont like me, or something I say, I could just shrug and walk away..until I wrote a book! I didnt choose my beta’s well enough. One of them turned on me, in a shop, full of people and said I wrote filth – I didnt write a word for more than three months. Each time I sat in front of the computer, I heard her words… Now I choose the people I ask to read my books much more carefully

  24. Mann Kaundal

    Well what I think is praise is ‘easy to take than give’. You’ve got to have a big heart to give ‘praise’ to someone and if someone’s showing heart to praise you, you should be prepared to accept it; that’s easier.

  25. Kishor Kr

    That’s a great thought. Thank you for sharing. There’s also a Doha by Kabir. It goes like this:
    “Nindak niyare rakhiye aangan kuti chhawaye;
    Bin sabun pani bina nirmal karat subhaye.”

  26. davidprosser

    It’s funny. I try not to let criticism get to me because people are entitled to their opinions. When I receive praise it’s often embarrassing since I’m convinced I don’t deserve it. It’s just people being kind. I am grateful for their trying though. A little bit of kindness in the world is always nice.
    xxx Huge Hugs Damyanti xxx

  27. arunprasadhm

    Very nice point to think about. Its true we give too much thought about negative things than the good ones. I would like to start first within family first about praising more.

  28. ccyager

    I’ve been in so many different writing groups and workshops that I’ve learned the importance of keeping my mouth shut during critiques and to take notes. I’ve been fortunate that all these groups were focused on constructive criticism and support, so I learned how to give the same. Praise can be difficult to give, I find, even when it’s specific and genuine. There’s always this sense of “Do you really think that?” or something similar. That disbelief. I have a hard time accepting compliments or praise because I was raised in a family that did not give them out in order to prevent the children from being selfish and conceited. It’s taken me a very long time to accept them, and graciously.

    Good post! Thanks. Cinda

  29. Sha'Tara

    If this is about one’s written output rather than about one’s life in general, then the word, methinks, should be critiquing, which on many blogs is sadly lacking. Criticism, well that’s a can of worms. Constructive criticism is akin to critiquing. Bad criticism is fault-finding and scape-goating. As to praise, that calls for intuition and discernment to judge whether it’s genuine or just ass-kissing. There’s also a “praise” point where one has to say, “Enough already, heard you the first time.” Too many people are like God: they never get enough praise! I’d never rely on praise to tell me whether I’m heading in the right direction or not, that’s up to me. Praise in a “politically correct” environment is meaningless to me.

  30. Elusive Trope

    I have always had a difficult time embracing praise. The key facet of this is my difficulty giving praise to someone because of my fear (so many fears so little time) of coming across as insincere. Of course, then I project this junk onto those giving praise, as well as now feeling I have an obligation to give praise back even though I feel incredibly uncomfortable about doing that. A vicious circle.

  31. agmoye

    Your post hits the nail on the head. My ex-wife criticized everything I wrote but my wife praises my writing even though she admits it needs editing. She pushed me to publish so I finally did after a few years. She knew I enjoyed writing whereas my ex could care less. I republished my first book that I originally took off the market. Two days after it came on kindle, a reader emailed me wanting to know when I was going to publish the sequel. That made my day. A.G.

  32. kbeezyisviral

    Words don’t hurt me, so I don’t take criticism personally. But the best criticism comes from someone who has a genuine care for you. There’s nothing greater than constructive criticism to help you blossom into a new beacon of existence. The embrace and praise I have is for God because he never leaves my life no matter what shortcomings I present to the world. Without embracing praise, it becomes impossible for humans to have sincere interactions.

  33. RSGullett

    Thank you for this post, Damyanti. I think we all need to be more hopeful and less despairing. It’s easy to believe the worst of ourselves because most us lack confidence in our abilities. We hope for praise, but are more readily accepting of criticism, as if we expect it. May God bless you and your writing. Have faith in yourselves and your work.

  34. Arlee Bird

    I always like to receive praise and I do embrace it when it seems sincere and makes sense that it’s been given. I think we learn more from well-intentioned honest criticism.

    Arlee Bird

  35. Will Pennington

    Criticism played over and over in my head for years on a loop tape until someone told me that’s what it was, a loop tape. I snipped it to stop it playing and have been healing ever since. The damage was done, and will never completely go away, but I no longer blame the person who criticized me. I came to understand why they were so critical. Life is much better when you like yourself.

    I would praise the person who criticized me – my dad. Once I understood why he criticized, I realized what his internal life must have been like; it nearly broke my heart. But I gave thanks for the sacrifices he made to give my sisters and me a good life.

    My dad went into WWII at seventeen years old. He died at Okinawa but lived. He lived only to die every day for the rest of his life. He died eighteen thousand two hundred and fifty times before dying and staying dead. That’s what war did to my dad. That’s what war does.

  36. lcbennettstern

    And now for my praise of your blog: This post is excellent! I find giving praise much easier than accepting it. So few people compliment others it makes me sad, and I don’t understand it. Praising someone else helps you connect as human beings – and it’s free!

  37. Jnana Hodson

    Some of us just weren’t programmed for praise. Humility, after all, is a virtue, and the trick here comes in being humble in accepting praise. A simple thank you, perhaps, is the best response.

  38. Novelhistorian

    Oh, man. When I read my work to my family, perfectionists and adept critics, I often wish I hadn’t bothered. Praise drips off like water, but criticism, right or wrong, sticks like glue.

  39. Keith Channing

    I resent criticism and mistrust praise (I always assume the person saying nice things about my stuff is just being nice). Perhaps I’m not cut out for this…

  40. Dr Meg Sorick

    Why are we always so ready to believe the worst of ourselves? Thank you for posting this. While constructive criticism can help us to improve, praise can encourage us not to give up!

  41. Amitav Chowdhury

    The key is not to be overwhelmed by both criticism and praise. Accept both with gratitude and if the criticism seems too harsh, it gives me the impetus to introspect more. Never do I let that hinder my course of thought.