criticism

Receiving criticism is like having someone come into your home, uninvited, and hang a photograph of you on the wall. If the criticism is private, it's hung somewhere personal, like your bedroom. If it's public, it's hung somewhere everyone can see, like your living room.

You can ignore it all you like. You can walk back and forth past it and pretend it's not there. But it doesn't go anywhere, even if you cover it up with another picture - one you like better. It's still underneath.

But if you want to lead an examined life - if you want to be self-aware and grow - you'll look at it closely. You'll examine the subject (you), the composition (the context), and the perspective (who took it).

Sometimes you see that it's just a lousy photo. It's poorly framed, or so blurry that you and your surroundings are unrecognizable. It doesn't reflect who you are at all. In that case, you can just throw it away, like you would any bad picture.

Sometimes it's pretty good, and you can definitely identify yourself in it. And while it might not be the most flattering shot of you, you have to admit it captures some of your features fairly well.

And sometimes when you look at it, you see it's not a photograph at all. It's a mirror. And it's up to you how long and hard you look at it.

The trick is to be honest with yourself, about how good, clear, and accurate an image has been hung on your wall. And if you find that multiple people are coming again and again to hang the exact same, unflattering shot of you, it might be time to give the world something different to photograph.