The other day, I had a voice student who began the lesson with a question: “What do you do when someone says something bad about your singing?”

This is a topic that many performers will confront at some point, and I thought I’d share my thoughts here. The answer is threefold:

 

1. It’s part of the job. It’s part of life.

People will say hurtful things. Sometimes they won’t be justified. Sometimes, people unintentionally hurt you, but the fact that it was an accident doesn’t change that you’re hurt when you’re hurt. For example, if someone accidentally runs over your foot with a Mack truck, the fact that it was an accident doesn’t change the fact that your foot is hurt/pancaked.

However, we as humans have to accept that sometimes, we get hurt. Part of putting yourself out there includes running the risk of being at the receiving end of both due and undue criticism. It doesn’t mean it’s right or that it’s fair, but it’ll happen. By accepting that it happens, we emotionally prepare ourselves for what’s to come.

 

2. Use the pain to fuel you.

When you’re hurt, you’re hurt, but we can choose how the pain affects our lives. If we allow hurtful words to stop us from doing the things we love, we’re the only ones who lose out. I explained that I’m a hypersensitive person and can get pretty upset over things like this. So what I like to do is to remember the person who hurt me and how they made me feel. That person becomes a symbol for why I need to work harder.

Internally, I’ll be thinking, “I’ll show you!” or whatever gets me motivated. Externally, I’ll practice harder and work on my weak spots. The idea is not to ever let the person know that he/she got to you but rather to repurpose the negative feelings into positive fuel to ward off laziness, inefficiency, and bad practice habits. When I don’t feel like practicing, I remind myself of the face, the feeling, and the purpose.

Everyone’s different in how they are motivated, but by finding a way to use negative comments to help you work harder will make sure that hurtful words never set you back more than it needs to.

 

3. Write a song

So many great (and lucrative) songs have been made in response to someone hurting the songwriter. Great songs are tied to strong emotions, and being hurt is something we can all relate to. There’s no better way of “getting back” at someone than to become ultra-successful or to at least make lemonade from bitter lemons. Inspiration is tough to find, so if something truly moves you, use the opportunity to really get your creatives juices flowing.

Ultimately, the message I tried to get across that revenge and discouragement is not the answer. You can never find the relief you want by saying or doing anything to the person who hurt you. However, there’s a lot we can do for ourselves to improve ourselves, our crafts, and our emotional outlook.