I work in a job that requires high emotional resilience against judgement. And, I also engage in a creative hobby that often requires that I share my work in the public domain, open to harsh criticism. I wish I could say that I’ve unlocked a secret to enduring the emotional rollercoaster. But I wrestle between the low affective tide of inferiority, and the transient crest of achievement. I want to be a stoic, living in the middle space of peace. Maybe you do, too.
In this introspective place, I write this article about how I’ve endured the emotional storm that is my academic day job and a public facing writer in the miniature hobby space. Along the way, I share insights and tips for building your resiliency, and highlight a few traps to avoid.
By the way, this piece took me weeks to write and a bit of courage. So if this helps or inspires even one of you reading this, then I will strike that as a victory. Here it goes!
What is Emotional Resilience?
Emotional resilience is the ability to cope with and adjust to life’s challenges and setbacks. It can also be defined as having a strong emotional foundation, which enables us to develop an optimistic outlook, rebound from adversity, and manage stress effectively. Emotional resilience can help us gain control when faced with difficult situations, while providing us with strength in times of hardship.
If I were to sum up the trait of “emotional resilience”, I would say it’s kind of like a “Cactus”. Yeah, the plant that thrives in harsh desert environments. Emotional resilience is the cactus that can withstand and grow within the pressures of an adversarial habitat. And, yet….the Cactus is also a helpful plant that provides nourishment to those in its vicinity.
Emotional resilience is like that–I think–it helps you stay strong and survive no matter the situation, but it also nourishes those around you by providing support and stability. It’s a beautiful thing!
How is Emotional Resilience Useful for the Artist and Scholar?
I ride a rollercoaster in my career and hobbies.
As a miniature painter, I face the challenge of submitting my work to public scrutiny. I post things to social media and publish photos of my work on this site. While I’ve grown accustomed to feedback of all sorts, good and bad, there is always that itch that whatever I do is not good enough.
This shadow that follows me is a hard-critic. It sits on my shoulder whispering doubt and fear. Sure everyone is different and some may shrug off the seemingly curt comment. While others may catastrophize the input, allowing it to take control of their emotional state.
When it comes to academic pursuits, here too, I’ve had to learn to cope with criticism from peers and other professional scientists. A career in academic science “…is punishing”, as one of my colleagues has said. It can be difficult to keep your chin up when pressured by deadlines and competing with colleagues for grants, jobs, and recognition.
In this arena, I’m learning, always how to deal and process the emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual storms that arise in each day of the journey.
Why You Should Build Your Emotional Resilience to Judgement
I want to help share what I’ve learned with others, and so I decided to write this article. It wasn’t easy but here I’ve done my best. Stick with me?
You’re a creative. You have a voice. You’re have an intellect combined with a personal sense of self (or so you ought to). You know how to think critically and logically. You are the landlord of “you, yourself, I”.
The problem with having weak emotional resilience is, I think, that you lose your sense of self. We know from other studies that this makes you vulnerable to all sorts of ancillary issues.
Poor emotional resilience can manifest in many obvious and not-so-obvious ways, including:
Mental Health Issues
These can include anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and other mental health problems (source). Emotional resilience helps protect individuals from these issues. Lack of it can make one susceptible to such conditions.
Difficulty Handling Stress
This is a big one. Life is chaos, and with it, comes stress. Challenges as simple as paying your utility bills, or deciding how to host a house warming can induce an emotional stress response. I know that I often wonder if my job is secure enough to keep investing in it. But, ultimately, these kinds of stressors are things we all have to cope with.
People with low emotional resilience may feel overwhelmed by stress and find it challenging to cope with the pressure. Even minor stressors can seem extremely challenging, causing them to feel burnt out or mentally exhausted. The better your resilience to stressors in life’s challenges, the more content and peaceful you’ll be on a consistent basis.
Substance Abuse and Addiction
To cope with negative emotion, people often turn to diversion, e.g., watching a movie, eating a nice meal. But there is risk here if you’re like me and often rely on these diversions as an emotional salve. Without some healthy way to endure or cope with incoming negativity, you may find yourself vulnerable to developing habits that turn into addictive behaviors.
I’m not surprised many creatives, artists, and such, turn to drinking or smoking (as per above). There is a comfort in partaking the occasional social or even solo drinking. But, unchecked or uncontrolled, this can turn into something else.
Poor physical health
You know where I’m going. As per above, if you’re constantly bombarded with worry, stress, and anxiety, these things manifest physically in your body. You may gain weight, feel tired all the time, or experience other issues. You rely on “external things” to endure the weight of whatever burden the world throws at you.
Impaired Social Relationships
We often turn inwards and isolate ourselves from other people when we’re feeling hurt or weakened in some way. Judgemental comments can make us feel like we don’t want to be seen. We avoid situations that trigger these feelings or, worse, start avoiding close friends and family members who might bring up the same topic of conversation.
The ability to cope with these kinds of emotions is essential for healthy interpersonal relationships. If you lack this resilience, it’s likely you’ll have difficulty maintaining positive social connections.
Difficulty Adapting to Change
When I was in the midst of graduate school, there were times when I ran pretty low on mental bandwidth. And, this probably made me weaker to resisting the ills of perceiving criticism properly and in a mature manner. This led to a struggle to dealing with change, and the idea of going along with it.
In my weakened state, I tried to conserve energy by focusing only what I saw in front of me. Any distractions, even those that may have helped me become a better person or even helped me walk a better path were ignored because I couldn’t “deal with it”. The idea of changing my mindset and course of action was in a way–painful.
Emotional resilience in those period of my life would have served me greatly. It would’ve helped me find a way to cope with the tide of criticism, while also allowing for more adaptive and flexible ways of responding to different situations.
As with the difficulty of adapting with change, emotional resilience also helps us to control our impulsivity. We often act out of impulse, without considering the consequences or potential risks. When faced with criticism or negative feedback, we may turn to instant gratification as a means of coping.
This could be anything from spending money on unnecessary items as a distraction, e.g., retail therapy, or any other rash behavior that bypasses long-term thinking.
During the global pandemic of Covid19, the extended lockdowns made normal coping mechanisms difficult or impossible to rely on for many people. I know a few who turned to online shopping as means to find distraction as a way to cope. Take a look around now, and reflect on the things in your room that you bought on Amazon, but actually weren’t necessary.
It’s amazing how a bit of rationale buying patterns gets trashed when you’re bored or disturbed by some thought.
Poor Performance at Work or School
Emotional resilience is probably best applied in an academic or workplace setting. We all know how hard it can be to focus on our work when we’re feeling down, or when that nagging feeling of inferiority rears its ugly head. This is especially true if we don’t have good emotional management skills and strategies for dealing with criticism or negative feedback.
Without this ability to manage emotion, staying productive and focused at work can be very difficult. The same goes for school–not having the emotional resilience to handle pressure or criticism could result in poor grades, missed exams, and subpar performance overall.
Procrastination is an especially common habit for people with low emotional resilience. It’s easy to put off tasks or assignments when you’re feeling overwhelmed or intimidated by them. Procrastination can also lead to the development of other bad habits, such as engaging in activities that take away from more important responsibilities.
Difficulty Bouncing Back from Adversity
In my position at work, including the management of this site, I often encounter adversity. Things fail all the time. My paper gets rejected from journal, or there’s some backend bug that makes some pages fail to load (bad for any of you reading now), or a broken link that pops up on the site that I have to fix–an annoying reality of website management.
Here, one of the key signs of low emotional resilience is a hard time recovering from setbacks or adversity. In the examples above, I could’ve easily just given up on publishing my work, or tried to figure out what the hell is wrong with this page, but instead I push through. It’s not easy but it’s necessary.
We must remember that resilience isn’t about never getting hurt; it’s about being able to pick yourself up and move forward after adverse events. The key is to focus on the goals that will help you get back on track, rather than worry about what went wrong.
So, how do we build emotional resilience?
It’s important to remember that everyone is different and there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to building emotional resilience.
For myself, I find it easiest to breakdown these concepts into core principles. These ideas or principles that I fall back on in times of strife or uncertainty mirror those you may read about in Stoic philosophy or Biblical passages on developing perseverance and personal character.
It is important to remember that character building is a gradual process that requires time and dedication. Be patient. Practice making rationale and logical choices. Rinse and repeat.
I know that everyone is different, having diverse histories, personalities, but as humans I believe we have a commonality in how our bodies and minds process certain stimuli, and it’s possible to find common places for empathy through the peaks and valleys of life.
I hope you find the following information helpful for you, particular when it comes to our reaction to judgement and criticism. May it help us to become better people, more stoic, with a greater capacity for finding truth in our pursuit of joy and peace amidst the storms of life.
3 Ways to Build Emotional Resilience To Cope with Judgement
1. Focus on what is under your control
One of the fundamental principles of stoicism and that of Biblical teachings is to focus on what is within your control. Applying this principle to your journey as a miniature painter, artist, or academic can help you build emotional resilience and handle judgment effectively.
What you can practice to build resilience
- Avoid striving for perfection or comparing yourself to others. Set achievable goals, such as dedicating daily time to practice techniques or deepening your knowledge in your academic field.
- Emphasize the time and effort you invest in honing your skills. Experiment with new techniques and seek feedback from trusted sources.
- Recognize your power to choose how you respond to feedback. Reframe negative feedback as a chance for personal growth and learning.
2. Embracing the present moment
Embracing the present moment is another principle derived from Stoicism and reflected in Biblical teachings–here’s one of my favorite lines–that can greatly benefit your experience as a miniature painter, artist, or academic. It involves cultivating mindfulness and letting go of past judgments or future worries.
When I look back at my work (see some of it in my gallery), I notice tons of places where I could have improved. My brushwork is sloppy in places where I know today I could have done better. But, I’m also able to accept those imperfections and let go of the judgement that comes with it. I focus on the present moment and what that work still means to me today–not how it could have been different in my past or future.
When judgemental thoughts or comments (real or imagined) come my way, I try to take a step back and acknowledge the moment without judgement or expectation. This helps me to get better at accepting constructive feedback in a positive light, rather than getting overwhelmed by it.
By immersing myself in the present, I can approach judgment with clarity and openness, allowing for personal growth and increased resilience.
What you can practice to build resilience
- Focus on the present moment by immersing yourself in the details of your creative process or task. Fully absorb and understand what you are working on, whether it’s the strokes of a brush or a particular subject matter.
- Let go of past judgment and anxieties about future evaluations. Redirect your focus to your current work, acknowledging that external validation is not the sole measure of your worth.
- Shift your focus from the end result to the pleasure found in the creative journey. Appreciate small victories, progress, and moments of creativity that emerge during your artistic or academic pursuits.
3. Use Others’ judgment as an opportunity to learn and improve
I’ll start this idea with an example: While the “fear of failure” is different than failure, you’ll have to learn to discern this fact from fiction. Here, you see that judgement is a trait that serves as instruction, rather than as a criticism.
While I still find this incredibly difficult, I take a step back from things and reflect. In such times, I often try to see the opportunity for growth from an objective, non-emotional standpoint. Life is life. Real is real. Action and reaction.
Using negativity as a means to find a path forward empowers you. It can make you invincible in mind, and is principle that I found has been a valuable tool for improvement. In fact, I try to provide judgement in times of instructions with my students–yes, there are good and bad ways to communicate criticism, and this, too, I’m learning more.
Ultimately, I see the benefit in embracing feedback and from different perspectives. While challenging, it allows for tremendous growth and development.
What you can do to build resilience
- Approach judgement objectively, assessing its validity and relevance to your artistic vision or academic goals. Use constructive feedback as a tool for identifying areas of improvement and refining your techniques or methodologies.
- Actively seek feedback from mentors, peers, or online communities to gain diverse perspectives. Get more opinions. Engaging with different viewpoints can provide valuable insights and expose you to new ideas or techniques.
- See judgment as an invitation to explore new approaches, refine your style, or deepen your understanding. Transform criticism into a catalyst for continuous learning and improvement, elevating your work to new heights.
Summary: 3 PRINCIPLED Actions You Can Take to Build Your Ability to Cope with Judgement and Criticism
|1. Focus on Controllable Factors||Set achievable goals and prioritize effort and practice.|
Recognize and choose your attitude and reactions to feedback.
Reframe negative feedback as an opportunity for growth and learning.
|2. Practice Mindful Engagement||Cultivate mindfulness and immerse yourself in the creative process or task at hand. Apply the SEAL Team phrase: “smooth is slow, smooth is fast“.|
Let go of past judgments and future anxieties, focusing on the present work.
Find joy in the process and appreciate small victories and moments of creativity.
|3. Harness Feedback||Assess feedback objectively and identify areas for improvement.|
Seek diverse perspectives and feedback from mentors, peers, or online communities.
Embrace judgment as an invitation for growth and development, using it as a catalyst for continuous learning and improvement.
There is no perfection in this process. Aim for persistence. I try to always make small improvements in the way I handle the emotional challenges when faced with critical judgement, large or small.
The objective is to improve our ability to navigate the challenging realities of a chaotic world, filled with distractions and malevolence. Without intending to preach, I strive to equip myself with the tools necessary to thrive.
I’ve shared philosophies that offer guidance in navigating the storms of professional and personal life with a rational mindset. Ultimately, I hope you find the Anchor and along the way find out who you really are.
Thank you for reading.😀 If you enjoyed this article, have any comments or feedback, I’d love to hear from you. Leave a message for me below!