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 work which my media team and I had created, only to have it torn to pieces. “How many things about this piece are they going to make me change?” I was stuck in the trap of insecurity that comes from trying to find your value in your performance. If your identity is not firmly rooted in Christ, then being a person with visual gifts can be like a poison.

As a creative, in your 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 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 better artist and servant was the goal, then I needed to be able to handle the pressure of someone calling me to something better. At times I do miss the mark and fail expectations. 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. We can control how we react.

Here are three traps that sabotage you as a creative.

1. Placing too much value on 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. It calls for some strong individuals to withstand criticisms regularly.

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, where 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. What can I do?” Don’t ignore how you are feeling and pretend you don’t feel anything. Still, don’t allow your behavior to equate your worth. You should recognize your mistake, identify your emotion, and 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 performance 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. The glorious silver lining is that you don’t have to do anything to save yourself and achieve that acceptance. God already accepted you from the beginning of time. 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 with the audience to move them from one area to another, you must know emotions well. This means that sometimes our feelings can trump the truth. It’s easy for us to exaggerate people’s behavior, causing us to have a skewed perspective of what happened in a conflict. Your 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 the wake of bitterness and offense.

Watch out for overarching statements like: “always,” “forever,” “all the time,” “every single time,” and “never. These statements are dramatic and victimizing. I will never get this right.” “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 altogether. That does not mean that it’s the end of the world. It does indicate that there was either a miscommunication in the brainstorming phase, and once your client saw what you made, they decided it wasn’t what they wanted, or maybe you did 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 to ignore their opinions; this is after all for whom you’re making your art. Instead of performing for them, do all you do to best that you can for God. That will always be enough. You can entirely miss the mark and screw up. If you can look to God and say, “I gave it my all for Your glory and for You, My Lord,” you’ll find that making adjustments or starting over isn’t so hard. You’ll notice 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 our 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, to relate and motivate people to change the way they believe about something. Everything we do is for a more significant purpose.

– Victory Youth