They don’t like your work, now what?

Your Performance is Not Your Worth.

I used to dread staff meetings. I would sit in anxious anticipation through the meetings just waiting for my turn to present something which my media team and I had created, just to have it torn to pieces. “How many things are they going to make me change about this piece?” I was stuck in the trap of insecurity that comes from trying to find your value in your performance. If you are not firmly rooted with your identity in Christ, then being a person with visual gifts can be like a poison.

As a creative in vocation you have to hold everything you make at arm’s length, with an open hand ready to let it go, knowing that your value is in no way related to your performance. After staff meetings I would walk away feeling like such a failure. I was totally defeated and ready to give up, and it was wrong. I knew that I needed to be critiqued because my clients included my pastor and my coworkers. If becoming a greater artist and servant was the goal then I needed to be able to handle the pressure of someone calling me to something bigger and better. At times I do miss the mark and fail expectations, and chances are you will too!

So, where was I going wrong?

I was placing the opinions people had and the opinion I had of my work as my identity. My thoughts were self-defeating instead of positive and problem solving.

Note: There is a constructive criticism and deconstructive criticism. We cannot control how others act, but we can control how we react.

Here are three traps that sabotage you as a creative.

1. Placing too much value in what others say about your work.

When opinions start coming towards your work you need to eat the chicken and spit out the bones. Not everything everyone says is helpful but people are not always attacking you. Realize that sometimes your work is going to be a little rough and that it calls for some tough individuals to constantly withstand criticisms.

2. Equating your behavior to a core belief about yourself.

It will look a little something like this: “ I failed at this project. I am such a failure.” That “I am” statement goes straight to the core of who you believe you are. It shuts down productivity and leaves you feeling like you truly are a failure and there is no hope. Instead try taking any tough conversation as an opportunity to try better next time. Let your thoughts look something like this: “I did fall short of the mark, and I FEEL defeated right now, but what can I do now?” Don’t ignore how you are feeling and pretend you don’t feel anything, but also don’t allow your behavior to equate your worth. You should recognize your mistake, identify your emotion, label it with “I feel”. Then ask, “What can I do now?”

You will mess up. Your performance and gifting is a behavior; however, your value is not based on your behavior but on what God did for you on that cross.

Isaiah 64:6

We are all infected and impure with sin.

    When we display our righteous deeds,

    they are nothing but filthy rags.

Your behavior will never be good enough to save you and give you full acceptance, but the glorious silver lining is that you don’t have to do anything to save yourself and achieve full acceptance. God already accepted you from the beginning of time and he saved you by his works. I find it’s much easier to handle criticism when I realize that I can make it better next time. I am okay with facing where I fell short because I know that my worth has nothing to do with my behavior. Shake the dirt off your hands and move on.

3. Over exaggerating the truth because of emotions.

As someone whose job is to emotionally connect to the audience in order to move them from one area to another you must know emotions well. This means that sometimes our emotions can trump the truth. It’s easy for us to exaggerate people’s behavior, causing us to have a skewed perspective of what really happened in a conflict. Your greatest and most humbling tool you can use is to be as dry about the truth as possible. It’s hard, and it feels not genuine at times, but the alternative leaves you and other people in a wake of bitterness and offense.

Watch out for over arching statements like: “Always”, “Forever”, “All the time”, “Every single time”, and “Never“. These statements are dramatic and victimizing. “I will never get this right”, and “They always hate what I make”. You may have messed up, they might want to change the wording, the color, or maybe they want to scrap the piece all together. That does not mean that it’s the end of the world It means that their was either a miscommunication in the brainstorming phase, once your client saw what you made they decided it wasn’t what they wanted, or maybe you did actually create a piece that wasn’t all that good.

You are here to honor your Pastor, because it honors God.

If you are doing all your work for the praise of your pastor, staff or audience then you will be disappointed. This doesn’t mean ignore their opinions, this is after all who you are making your art for. But instead of performing for them, do all you do to best that you can for God. That will always be enough. You can completely miss the mark, and totally screw up but if you can look to God and say “I gave it my all for your Glory and for you My Lord.” Then you’ll find that making adjustments or starting over isn’t so hard. You’ll find going into meetings is peaceful. The best part is you’ll get better at your craft and grow as a servant leader because you can handle criticism and make adjustments accordingly.

A phrase that pops into my head is one that our Pastor Paul Daugherty came up with on a missions trip to Haiti. “Rhino Hide, heart of a dove, I purpose in my heart to walk in love. because I’m a love creature!” We must have thick hides developed from a firm identity of who we are in Christ, while still having a heart of a dove that is tender and empathetic towards the way people feel in order to relate and motivate people to change the way they believe about something, and that everything we do is for a bigger purpose.