How to Take Praise

Updated: Nov 23, 2020


Recently I wrote about how to deal with criticism, and it got me thinking about the other end of the spectrum: praise. Right off the bat, this topic seems like a no brainier. Someone complimented your work, so be happy. There. That’s it. End of post.

What? You want more? Okay, fine. Let's look into this a little more.



Why Is Praise Hard to Accept?


Praise is interesting. It is something that everyone wants to receive, especially when they have put a lot of hard work and time into a project. All writers want to hear that someone loved their writing. We crave that, especially when we are constantly having to go through editing which is somewhat the opposite of praise.


Don’t get me wrong, editing is necessary and very important, but it can be disheartening nonetheless.


Again, it all goes back to the fact that you’ve put a lot of effort into something and it isn’t perfect. On top of that, this editing is such a big part of the writing process that it inevitably becomes a part of us. We all have our own voice for writing, and we also develop our own voice for editing. Problem is, once this voice has been developed, it can be very, very hard to shut it up.


We hear it so much, that we start to give in to it. There’s a concept where if a person hears a lie long enough, they start to believe it. This is why we start to give in and believe our self-doubt. We believe it over every other voice we might hear, even if they are giving us words of encouragement. We get so used to hearing, good constructive criticism telling us what we messed up on, that hearing something like; “it was a lot of fun and held my attention.” feels weird.


Why is that?


I think the problem is two-fold:


1. It doesn’t offer us a solution or problem to solve so it gets tossed to the side.

2. We’ve made so many “mistakes” that we find it hard to believe that we did something “right.”


We’re Looking to Improve


The editing process is all about rigorously sifting through our work and trying to find any and all mistakes that it may contain. By doing this, we not only learn how to write better than before, but we also polish up the piece so that it becomes presentable to the public.


No matter how much we know about writing, we are still bound to make mistakes like using the wrong there/their/they’re even if we do know the differences between them. Writers often get into a roll when writing and are so focused on what comes next in the sentence or paragraph that they may miss what they just typed.


I do it all of the time. Seeing one of those easy mistakes that I know better than to make is embarrassing. That is why editing is such a big deal. It gets rid of those.


The problem is, it is easy for editing to become too important. We become so accustomed to looking for the mistakes, that any comments on our work that don’t reference a fixable mistake aren’t nearly as important. This is something I’ve been noticing recently as I go through comments from my writers’ group and get disappointed if I don’t have a lot of feedback to fix things and they are saying that they liked the piece.


It finally dawned on me one day that I was upset by this, and had to stop and ask myself why? They liked the piece! There weren’t any major problems other than a few typos! Be happy genius!


The Self-Doubt Is Strong


I think the other common issue with accepting praise is that we just can’t believe it. Editing, while beneficial and needed, can kind of corrupt our thoughts on our skills. We get so used to looking for ways to improve upon the mistakes that we just know are in our writing that we start to believe that there is no way that our work can ever be “good.” It’s the whole hearing-a-lie-often-enough-to-believe-it thing all over again.


Then things get even worse when we start comparing ourselves to other people.


There is this one writer that I read that writes beautiful descriptions. While I love reading these descriptions of settings and people, I can’t help but compare it to my own writing. Then I just feel inadequate. I’ve mentioned before that writing descriptions is difficult for me. It takes a lot of effort on my part to create something that I’m proud of in that department. Most of the time I just feel underwhelmed with what I created because it just can’t compare.


I know this is wrong of me.


The truth of the matter is that we are not like other people. We never have been and never will be. We all have our own way of doing things, our own styles, and our own voices. Instead of focusing on how we are like someone, we need to focus on how to be ourselves.


When going through editing, don’t focus on what you did wrong. Instead, try to focus on how you can improve, and how far you have come since you started.


You Can Write Something That People Enjoy


Praise. It shouldn’t be as difficult to accept as it is for many of us. I know it’s a problem because if it wasn’t, imposter syndrome wouldn’t be a thing. For those unaware, imposter syndrome is the persistent inability for a person to believe that their success is earned and legitimately achieved. Lots of people deal with this, even people that we look up to.


Everyone is just trying to believe that they did something right.


If you make a mistake, don’t worry about it. Everyone does. Try to learn from it and improve your skills. Most importantly, if someone says they liked what you wrote, believe them!

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