My coworkers and I often joke that "feedback is a gift" - and hence, every day is Christmas. It is sometimes hard to put yourself out there knowing that with expression often comes criticism. And the more passionate and important the expression is, the more fervent the feedback. It's just the way it is.
I like to remind myself of Thomas Jefferson writing the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson was sort of a dreamer, a visionary, but in some ways, he was a delicate soul. I imagine Jefferson, thoughtfully and passionately writing the now famous and revered words of the Declaration. He was a young man then, younger than I am now. An educated man but still an idealist, he poured himself into this work.
After completing it, he presented his work to the delegation and was met with numerous criticisms. They struck out many sections of it, and in his later words expressed that he felt "mutilated" by the revisions. Benjamin Franklin, sitting next to the much younger Jefferson, noticed his dejection at the criticism and proceeded to tell him the now famous "John Thompson Hat Story" to give some perspective of the impact of criticism on someone's work.
I think to myself when I receive unpleasant feedback on my work that a much brighter mind than mine once had to sit silently, raw with the sting of criticism, while a now legendary piece of writing was picked apart by a bunch of revolutionaries.
Feedback isn't always the gift we want to receive. I never like being told that my work is flawed. But criticism makes me better, and in the end, it is my choice to accept it. Some may question my choice of words, but that doesn't mean I have to change them. It only gives me the opportunity to rethink it and make a decision.
I must have one of those faces that people find very accepting of feedback, because I find that I get a lot of it. But it fuels my perfectionism, not to try to appease people, but to craft what I create into something I am proud to stand behind. More importantly, I have trusted sources that I can turn to in order to seek feedback. Gentle, but honest feedback. The type of feedback that makes me a better person, student, and writer.
And that sort of feedback really is a gift!