How do you receive criticism? Do you think to yourself, I’m perfect and they don’t know what they are talking about? Do you think, you do not know enough to possibly teach me? I see this attitude in students who know little. I see this in students who know a lot. The thing is, none of us have had an identical education. Even if we had attended all the same classes, workshops, and lectures as another, the education would still not be identical. Why? There is no way that we relate to the information in an identical way, thus we don’t internalize and use the information in the exact same way.
I love being criticized. Yes, sometimes it hurts my feelings, makes me question my abilities, and makes me wonder if I will ever feel good enough. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t feel this way from time to time. However, even when these defensive sentiments come up, I know it is coming from my insecurity, not my knowledge base. My knowledge base informs me that I have so much to learn. That I will never really feel like I have made it because there is far too much information to consume before I will be able to feel that way. This is okay. This is how I will get myself better. This is how I will improve my physical, mental, and emotional self.
When I ask for an outside eye to see my work, I am not asking for my ego to be stroked. I am asking to be pulled apart. I am asking to learn how to do my stuff better. I am asking if my approach may not be the best. I am asking to be pushed out of my comfort zone. I have seen others when asking for an outside opinion stop the dialogue about their piece when they receive a compliment. That is what they were looking for rather than criticism. How is that a help?
Anytime I have an opportunity to teach, I have an opportunity to learn as well. I learn because my students are having a different experience receiving the information I share. They all have different questions on how to approach the information. They have questions that come up related to things they learned previous that they are leaping off of to connect to the information they are receiving. They ask me questions that make me able to approach my own delivery of information differently the next time I teach. I get surprised by their questions all the time because sometimes I feel like I know what I know inside and out and then a curve ball question is thrown at me that makes me go through all that I know and realize that I know so little. It’s exhilarating to experience these new insights and makes me have an adrenaline rush. It makes me crave more information.
How do you approach your teachers? Do you go to a teacher who just strokes your ego? Do you go to a teacher who is so passionate about your success that they want to pull you apart and put you back together so that you are your best self? Some of us dance to feel good – to be seen and lauded. If you are looking to be the best you can be, the adoration can’t be enough. Seeking information and betterment is what drives the best. Talk to the top dancers in your community – you will see that this is what they seek and they never feel like they have made it. When you think you have made it, it’s time to retire.