“Artistic Criticism: Constructive or Destructive?” by Jeannie Deva

You might realize that you are most creative and sound your best when your creativity is not being challenged and you are free of self doubt. This safe environment must start with you, from within yourself.

I’m talking about being your own best friend.

This does not mean you claim yourself as the next messiah of the music world, or strut around bragging about how great you are. You don’t have to give yourself false accolades and chant every morning, “I’m good,” or: “I love myself.” It does mean that if you have a way to go to reach the summit of your vocal prowess, or artistic goals, you don’t whip yourself for not yet being there or spew yourself with hatred when you make a mistake. It also means that you need to ensure you have a program of doable steps which will walk you to your goal. Then, as long as you maintain your discipline and scheduling, you can appreciate yourself for making progress and for the accomplishment of each step as you draw closer to your goals.

Perhaps not so obvious to some, there is a big difference in effect between constructive and destructive criticism. How you critique yourself can have either positive or negative results.

Let’s start with a working definition of Destructive Criticism. The bottom line is that destructive criticism gives you no means by which to correct or enhance your actions. The result can often be that you feel less sure of yourself. You may feel hesitant about continuing to sing or perform. Destructive criticism reduces your self image. Examples of destructive criticism could be: “I sounded horrible on that song.” Or: “You call that art?” And on a subtler level: “What’s wrong with me? I never open up to an audience.”

Now let’s define Constructive Criticism: OK. So first of all, this does not imply you say something was great when it was not. That’s actually pretty vicious, as it is a lie. Constructive criticism leaves you with a way of changing your approach so that you can enhance yourself and actually become stronger and more certain. An example of this would be: “That note went off pitch. The reason it did, is because I was pushing in my stomach, which resulted in air over-blow and tense throat muscles. I’ll sing it again, and this time try letting my stomach relax. Or even simpler, “I can put more feeling into that song. I’ll do it again from the top and focus on the getting across the message.”

Along with learning to change your way of criticizing yourself, it is important to be alert to the type of criticism others may give you. If you know when you are being given destructive criticism, and what the effect of it can be, perhaps you will be less likely to let it get under your skin.

HELPING YOURSELF GROW

Using constructive criticism can take some practice. Some people have, by habit, become so used to giving destructive criticism that they don’t know how to change the angle of their critique to make it positive. Hopefully, now that we’ve begun to examine this, you will notice any time you critique yourself and will be able to keep it constructive. Or at least you’ll be able to change it to constructive if it started out negative. Oh, one more thing. If you use a negative self abasement approach: “That was horrible,” “Oh. I did it wrong again,” “Why can’t I ever…,” you have mistakenly internalized destructive criticisms from another and have become your own enemy. If you use positive self direction, you will keep moving ahead and making progress. This in turn will boost your morale, self confidence, and ability. The choice is yours.

It can be easy to grow frustrated and impatient when you know where you want to be but don’t know how to get there, or aren’t making fast enough progress. It is better to ask someone knowledgeable and competent in your field to help you figure out the best program for you, rather than resort to demeaning yourself out of frustration. After all, we are all individuals and steps that are good for another person may not apply to you. Even if the steps you take are similar to another’s, the order they are taken in can make the difference between slugging it out and rapid progress.

Most importantly, be a friend to yourself by not allowing destructive self-criticism to defeat you.

© 2003. Jeannie Deva Enterprises, Inc. Jeannie Deva and The Deva Method are Registered Trademarks and used with permission.

Jeannie Deva is the founder of Jeannie Deva® Voice Studios since 1978 and of The Deva Method® A Non-Classical Approach for Singers™. While her private voice studio is located in Los Angeles, Jeannie maintains private clients across the US, South America and Europe. Author of the internationally published vocal home-study course: “The Contemporary Vocalist” book and CDs, she is flown to recording studios internationally to assist album vocal production and has been endorsed by producers and engineers of the Rolling Stones, The Cars, Aerosmith, and many others. Clients include Grammy Award Winner Aimee Mann, recording artists Patty Griffin, Dar Williams, members of the J. Geils band, the Broadway cast of Grease, international touring cast of Fame, and many more. http://www.jeanniedeva.com/