Go Ahead & Criticize Me

We all criticize others, mostly behind people’s backs. We rarely get caught, and the best part is it makes us feel better for about 90 seconds. Smoking crack lasts longer. When I am ripping on a show or a movie or actor I just saw, though the words may be different, the premise is always the same: “How dare they live their dream?”

Famous actors understand that being criticized is just part of their job. They accept that they are going to have just as many fans as they do critics.

The bigger and more successful you become, the more criticism you will receive. This is a fact. You can’t have one without the other. In fact, if you aren’t getting any criticism, your career probably isn’t going anywhere.

So remember, when your friends get jealous that you have gotten cast in a show or made a Harold team, take it as a compliment; it means you are succeeding. Criticism is an affirmation that you are on your way.

The problem is when you get it, it doesn’t feel that way. It’s painful, it stings, and it makes you want to quit.

Promoting yourself, asking people to come to your show, creating a new show or a new web series is vulnerable, and by putting yourself out there, you’re bound to risk getting criticism, which is why I have often avoided it. I have made some progress in that department, though I still I have a ways to go.

When I have new episodes of Improv Nerd or a new blog or a new class coming up, one of the ways I get the word out is with social media, which has become a somewhat safe way to promote yourself. I often post on improv Facebook groups, and one that I post on frequently is Chicago Improvisers Unite. Last weekend, a former student posted on the wall: “I am leaving this group due to the fact that it is nothing but Jimmy Carrane spam.”

I am not going to lie. I immediately felt shame. I felt hurt, I wanted to hide, I wanted to defend myself, I wanted to lash out, and I did not want to post on that wall again — all shame. I was a mess.

In the past, when I am embarrassed, I keep to myself – it’s called shame prevention. Thank God this doesn’t work anymore, so I broke my silence and told my wife, Lauren, while we were driving in our rental car to her parents’ house for Christmas on the winding roads of Pennsylvania.

My wife is smart and wise and she said “It’s a sign that you are putting yourself out there and getting bigger.” I did not what to hear that. I was enjoying sitting in the pool of shame; it’s always warm and comfortable this time of year. Then I called my friend, Darryl, and he basically said the same thing: “You are getting bigger.” Then I called my friend, Ryan, who is an actor, who said the same thing: “You are getting bigger.”

You can’t argue with the rule of threes here.

The real problem was not what the person posted on the wall. The real problem was me and being uncomfortable with becoming more successful. He was paying me a compliment, a huge one, and in all my shame and anger, I forgot to thank him. So I will now: Thank you, Mike Sandoval, because you see me as far more successful than I see myself, and for that I am truly grateful. I am on my way.