I don't even want to know how bad I am.
June 27, 2012 9:36 AM Subscribe
How do I get over my fear of criticism, especially in an academic setting?
I'm a graduate student, and if you look at my past posting history, you'll see that I have issues with anxiety, ADD, and depression (for which I am medicating).
This was brought on by a specific event, but in general, I have trouble taking criticism. Not so much in the, "Fuck you, I'm perfect, you just don't understand me" way. This is more about not being able to stomach it without going into a panic attack. Whenever I get comments back on a paper, or a performance review, or anything along those lines, I completely shut down. Any sort of constructive criticism guts me, even if I know it comes from a good place.
I hate doing a second read on my papers and editing, because I see all the stupid things I've done. I criticize myself more than I get from others, but both seem to shut me down. I hate showing work to people for help, because I'm afraid of what they'll think. Then I just hide things until it's too late.
In my undergrad, I turned in a seniors honors thesis for that got rejected. I got a letter from the department chair outlining the problems, but before I read more than a paragraph, I just ripped it up and tossed it out. I couldn't read it. I still, to this day, am not sure what happened with that paper.
The specific event this time was a paper I had to turn in to get to the next stage of my PhD. I passed (based on previous performance, I'm pretty sure), but this paper was not my best work. I'd procrastinated it, and I definitely was not happy with what I submitted, but I hoped... actually, I have no idea what I was hoping for.
When I met with my committee they (very nicely, because they're educators in an education field) slammed me for a bunch of things, from structure to ideas to technical issues (like tense). It gutted me. I left the room and went to go hide out for a bit. I actually couldn't write and could barely go to class for a week afterwards. I finally pulled it together, but I had a stack of edited/marked copies of my paper that I couldn't read.
And I still have them, 7 months later. I haven't gone through and read them, because even reading the first page (and seeing stupid mistakes) makes me want to retch. I'll do anything but read these, but I know I need to to get better.
I want to be an academic. I know that involves receiving criticism and editing. I know it involves growth and learning. I have the kindest advisor and committee in the world, and they're all willing to work with me and help me, but I just hide away. Every time they see a weakness, I turtle in and hide, because I don't want them to see any more.
How do I fix this? How did you fix this? How do you become more comfortable with criticism, especially in the context of learning from it and growing? How do I read this stack of criticism and process is constructively while not throwing it all into a fire?