“Letters from a Street Photographer” #2: How to Deal with Negative Criticism (Part 2/2)

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This is Part 2/2 of my chapter on How to Deal with Negative Criticism. Read Part 1 on How to Deal With Negative Criticism.

7. Respect your own opinion

“Go on abusing yourself, O my soul! Not long and you will lose the opportunity to show yourself any respect. We have only one life to live, and yours is almost over. Because you have chosen not to respect yourself, you have made your happiness subject to the opinions others have of you.” – Marcus Aurelius

I think it takes a lot of courage to stand up for your own opinion, your own thoughts, your own art.

I think when we become too concerned what others think about us and our work– we start to water down our message and our vision. We start to pander to the masses.

Steve Jobs once famously said that the reason that he didn’t do market research when making new products was that people didn’t know what they wanted until they saw it. There is a story of Henry Ford saying something like, “If I asked people what they wanted, they would have wanted a faster horse.” When Bill Cosby was asked what the secret to success was, he said something like, “I don’t know what the secret to success is– but I know what it isn’t– trying to please everybody.”

We need to stand up for our thoughts, our beliefs, and our vision. We need to have courage to stand up for what we are trying to do, and not just try to create art to please others. First we need to please ourselves, and stick true to our own vision. Then if others happen to like it, so be it.

Takeaway point:

If you create art though your street photography that pleases others, but doesn’t please you– then what is the point? Stay true to your own opinion of yourself and your work, and let others form their own opinion.

And as Andy Warhol once said, while others are too busy judging whether your work is good or not– keep producing more work.

8. Don’t do as they do

“The best revenge is not to do as they do.” – Marcus Aurelius

Often when I get criticized by others that my photography, blogging, or whatever sucks– I immediately get defensive. I want to yell at them, look at their work and tell them that their work sucks, and spew negativity back at them.

However that is the wrong approach. I think I once read a quote that said revenge or harboring negativity or grudges against somebody is like drinking poison and hoping that the other person dies.

Also as Jesus said, if someone hurts you, simply turn the other cheek.

I think whenever we get criticized negatively or wrong is done unto us, we should take Marcus Aurelius’ advice and simply not do as they do. That is the best revenge.

The more negative things we do unto others, the more negativity brews inside our own hearts. This ruins our own life and perspective of the world.

Takeaway point

When it comes to street photography, when someone negatively criticizes your work– don’t become immediately defense and criticize their work back. Don’t start a flame war, or a circle of negativity. Rather, thank them for their feedback, however negative it may be, or simply don’t say anything back at all (just ignore it and don’t respond).

I’ve found the more you try to fight criticism and trolls, the more you are pouring gasoline on the fire. The best way to extinguish it is to let the fire die out by itself, by not giving it additional fuel or oxygen to survive on.

9. Appreciate negativity as a chance to practice patience

For the longest time, I used to be scared of being negatively criticized. I feared the hate and vitriol that would come from my articles, the photos I took, and the thoughts I shared. I would fear publishing things because I didn’t want to be judged or negatively critiqued.

However over time, I have begun to actually appreciate and look forward to negative criticism. After all, sometimes what people say does have some truth (or I can learn from their negative feedback). Other times, I see the good in negative feedback and hate– that it gives me an opportunity to practice patience.

Marcus Aurelius shares this thought: the importance of being calm (even when you are being attacked):

“Live freely and joyfully even if you are surrounded by those who plot and shout against you, even if wild beasts claw away the soft clay that encases you. In the midst of all of this, what prevents the mind from remaining calm, sizing up the situation correctly, and seizing whatever opportunities present themselves?

Marcus expands by sharing that every situation is a chance to practice patience and virtue:

“Now your theoretical judgement will say, ‘This is the reality of the situation regardless of what others may think or say,’ and your practical sense will say to the opportunities that arise, ‘There you are. I was looking for you.’ For every moment provides us with opportunities to exercise the virtues of neighborliness and thought, or in other words, to practice the art of being human and divine. All that happens is of use to gods or men; nothing is new or unmanageable; everything is familiar and serviceable.”

Takeaway point:

Whenever in real life, or in the photography world, that someone gives you negative feedback or criticism- first of all don’t take it personally. Take a step back, look at what they say and ask yourself, does anything they share have a basis in truth? Is there anything I can learn from their thoughts and feedback?

If what they do say truly has no value– think of those situations as a chance to practice your patience. I think having patience isn’t something inborn. Rather, it is like a muscle which we must train everyday.

So appreciate getting negative feedback. Honestly, I didn’t start getting any negative feedback on my photography or my work until I started to get more popular and well-known on the Internet. Before that, I would just get pats on the back or even worse– no feedback at all.

Once you start getting negative feedback on what you’re doing – take it as a good sign. It means you aren’t making boring photos. You are making work that affects people (in a positive or a negative way)– that touches their heart somehow.

Appreciate negativity, but don’t harbor it in your heart.

10. Don’t respect the opinions of those who don’t respect themselves

“Do you covet the praises of someone who three times every hour curses himself? Do you hope to please the person who isn’t pleased with himself? Is he pleased with himself who regrets nearly everything he does?” – Marcus Aurelius

I know a lot of photographers who are insecure or dissatisfied with their own photography (or life) and tend to take it out on others.

Another excerpt from Marcus which further nails this point:

He attaches no importance whatsoever to the praise of these men, who can find no reason to praise themselves.”

Before we take the negative feedback and criticism from others, ask yourself: is this photographer who is giving me feedback pleased with his/her own photos? If not, simply ignore what they have to say.

I have another simple rule: I don’t take the opinions of others seriously unless I like their photos. Why should I care about the opinion of other photographers if I don’t think they are making good work? If there is a Magnum photographer (whose work I greatly admire) criticizes my work, I will respect that and take their feedback into account.

However if a photographer (who uses an anonymous pseudonym) critiques my work, doesn’t have the courage to use their own real name, and has no skin in the game– they are merely cowards (they are insecure about their own work), and I should ignore them.

Similarly, I don’t really care about the opinion of art critics or curators (who either aren’t photographers or shoot street photography)I because if they don’t shoot street photography, they don’t know how difficult it is, the experience of shooting it, so they don’t really know what they’re talking about.

Takeaway point

Ultimately I do think that everyone has the right to their own opinion. I think critics and curators have a very important rule in society and the art world. However, for myself personally– I don’t really take their feedback seriously (unless I like the photos they themselves have shot).

So here are some practical rules:

  • A) Ignore the feedback from anybody if they don’t use their real name (they have no skin in the game, and are simply cowards who are insecure about their own work).
  • B) Only truly care about the feedback on your work from others whose work you like.

11. Be an everflowing spring of positivity

“So what if they can kill you, hack you to pieces, hunt you down with curses. How can this keep your mind from being pure, sound, temperate, and just? If a man were to stop beside a limpid spring of sweet water and start hurling insults at it, would it suddenly cease to flow? Even if he threw mud and excrement into the stream, it would soon dissolve and wash away and leave no taint or stain. How then can you possess an everflowing spring? By using the freedom you already possess to imbue your character with compassion, simplicity, and modesty.” – Marcus Aurelius

As Marcus Aurelius mentions– imagine yourself like being a stream of pure and water– constantly flowing out. Even though people might throw shit into your stream of water, sooner or later– all of that shit will be washed away. Furthermore, the stream of water would keep on flowing.

I think it is really hard to deal with negativity in the world– especially when it feels like it is being hurled at you from every single direction.

However remind yourself that you have the ability to stay positive, compassionate, and loving regardless of how the outside world treats you. Imbue your mind with constant kindness, and don’t forget this visualization exercise.

Takeaway point:

If people are constantly being negative around you, know that they can’t change your core– who you are. Don’t fight negativity with negativity (fighting fire with fire) – rather, extinguish the flames of negativity with everflowing positivity (sweet water).

When this applies to photography or life– know that at the source you are pure. Their insults won’t change who you are as a photographer or person.

So for example, if people say your photography and work is shit– just stay positive, and keep producing images. Your work will soon wash away all of their negativity and criticism.

Similarly– your work actually might be pretty good. But people say it is shit. But it doesn’t change the fact that your work is good – it is simply someone else’s opinion of your work.

Keep flowing that sweet water and positivity.

12. They might already regret what they said

Have you ever said something you regretted– or didn’t mean to say? I know I have, which has caused pain and a world of hurt. I often hurt my friends, family, and loved ones unintentionally– and afterwards I greatly regret the way I framed the phrase, or how mean I was.

So another mental exercise you can have when someone hurts or offends you: imagine that person is already regretting what they said (and are beating themselves up for it). Marcus Aurelius shares his thoughts:

“When someone gives you the impression of having erred, ask yourself, ‘How do I know that what he’s done is wrong?’ And if he really is guilty of wrongdoing, how do I know that he isn’t already reproaching himself for it and isn’t like a man slapping his own face?

Furthermore, if there are people out there who are truly negative and critical who want to tear you down– expect them to continue to do so. Not expecting negative people to do negative things is like expecting babies not to cry, for dogs not to park, or for lemons not to be sour:

“Wanting the wicked not to do wrong is like wanting the fig tree not to pro due a bitter juice in its figs, or babies not to cry, or horses not to neigh, or other inevitabilities not to occur. From someone with such a character, what else can you expect? If it bothers you, find a way of curing it.”

Takeaway point:

There is evil, pain, negativity, and unhappy people in this world. To not expect that kind of negativity in this world is foolish. We should always be ready everyday to expect those kind of people who try to tear you down.

Similarly in photography– there will always be negative people who dislike their own work, are unhappy people, and will try to find every fault in your work to tear you down and make you feel shitty. However once again, their negativity is just who they are as human beings (and photographers). There will always be a small percentage of negative people in a group of people (let’s say 5%) – and if you have a 100 people in a room, you have to expect at least 5 people to be negative, mean, or critical. So multiply that by millions– so how can you expect there not to be a few hundreds of thousands of negative people out there, especially when there are internet forums where you can be anonymous and shroud your identity?

Similarly– a lot of these people who are really negative might constantly regret their actions. Their own self-esteem of themselves is so low that they perhaps can’t help but be negative.

So whenever someone criticizes you in a negative way and it hurts you– imagine that they are already slapping themselves in the face for saying that hurtful comment to you.

Of course, that might not be the reality– but it is a practical psychological tool that will help us find more serenity in life.

13. Don’t let your happiness be held hostage by someone else

If you had a million dollars, would you trust that to a stranger? Hell no.

If you bought a brand-new Leica, would you trust it to a hobo in the middle of the streets? Hell no.

If you had your happiness held hostage, would you trust that to a stranger (or worse, an anonymous troll on the internet?) Hell no.

Know that ultimately you have the freedom of choice– to be happy, to interpret other peoples’ actions the way you want, and to live the life you want.

Even though others might be cruel and mean to you– you can still be happy.

Marcus Aurelius shares some wise words– that we don’t want our happiness to be held hostage by someone else:

“My neighbor’s power to choose has no more to do with my freedom of choice than his breath and flesh. It matters not how much we are made for one another; the governing self in each of us is still sovereign. Otherwise, my neighbor’s bad choices might harm me. God does not want my happiness held hostage by someone else.”

Takeaway point:

Are you going to live your entire life trying to please others with your photographs (and not yourself)? Are you going to let your own opinion and happiness of yourself and your work be reliant on the mere mutterings or thoughts of others? Are you going to keep uploading images to social media until every person on the internet loves and admires your images?

Why have your happiness held hostage by someone else? It doesn’t make any sense. If we went on a date with our spouse, would you trust your beloved children with some stranger with negative intentions? Hell no.

Know that ultimately you have the power to control your own opinion of yourself, and your own happiness. Never give that power away.

14. Teach by example with kindness

I sometimes see people on the internet giving (unnecessarily) harsh criticism and critique on photos. I think giving a constructive critique is immensely important to grow and develop as a photographer. However when one gives a critique simply to put someone down and make themselves feel better about themselves– it is truly a sad sight.

So if for one reason or another your photograph got negatively criticized online– don’t go out and start criticizing (unnecessarily harshly) the work of others. Remember the golden rule of Jesus (and many other philosophers): treat others how you would like to be treated.

So if people are unnecessarily critical and just plain mean, do the opposite– be positive and kind to others. Marcus Aurelius shares:

“If you can, change their evil ways by teaching them. If that doesn’t work, remember that kindness is a virtue you possess for this very reason. The gods themselves are kind to such men and sometimes even assist them in their efforts to become healthy or wealthy or famous. You can do the same. What’s stopping you?”

So if you see someone out there being unnecessarily critical– don’t just call them a dick in public. Rather, I think the best response is to be kind– and simply re-direct positivity to other people. And if possible, perhaps privately messaging that negative person, and kindly telling them that what they are saying is hurtful, wrong, and improper.

Marcus Aurelius (as an emperor) had a lot of negative detractors. He knew that his purpose in life was to be the most temperate, just, and wise emperor– and that was his mission. The opinion others had of him wasn’t his business:

He gives us practical advice how to deal with negativity– to show other men the error of their ways (without being condescending):

“Does a man ridicule me? That’s his business. It’s my job to make sure that nothing I say or do deserves to be ridiculed. Will he hate me? His business again. Mine is to remain gentle and well disposed toward everyone, ready to show even this fellow the mistake of his thinking, not in a scolding tone or with a show of forbearance, but graciously and genuinely like Phocian of old. This disposition should come from within, and a man should never be seen by the gods harboring resentments or complaints. What harm can come to you, as a man bent on making this world a better place, if you do what is keeping with your own nature and accept what is opportune for the whole of nature?”

Be full of love, be gentle, and don’t scold others. Don’t harbor resentments or complaints. Keep focusing on making the world a better place– and spread the positivity.

Takeaway point:

What people say or do is their own business. So if negative people are out there being negative (for no good reason)– let them be. You can’t change the fact that there will always be negative people in the world.

However if you have an opportunity– perhaps you can try to gently correct the negative people their wrong ways. Don’t do this by being condescending, by pretending that you are more enlightened or anything– but speak honestly, truthfully, and from the heart. Perhaps you can say something to your critic like, “Thank you so much for the honest feedback and critique. I really appreciate how you are trying to make me a better photographer. However maybe in the future when you are giving me or anyone else feedback, you could be a little less harsh? It would make your feedback a little more easier to digest. Thank you so much for understanding.”

Don’t be resentful of negative feedback, or complain behind someone’s back. Be upfront, honest, transparent– and approach your critics with a compassionate heart.

15. The world needs negative people

I hate mosquitos. Really hate them. Everytime I go on a camping trip (or am traveling in Asia or the East-coast of America), I always get bitten. These damn little good-for-nothings. All they do is suck my blood, give me huge bumps, the worst itches, and don’t give anything back.

However I once read something that if mosquitos didn’t exist in the world– there would be disorder and chaos in the world. Nobody knows 100% exactly why– but in a complex world, a small change in the ecosystem could have catastrophic effects. It is like the butterfly effect– going back in time and killing even one butterfly could change the effect of winds and lead to hurricanes halfway around the world.

So similarly as a visualization exercise– imagine negative people out there as mosquitos. They are annoying, unpleasant, give you itchy bumps– but exist in the world for a purpose. Nobody knows exactly sure why, but the world needs mosquitos (and negative people).

Even Marcus Aurelius said something along the lines– that the world couldn’t exist without “shameless people”:

“Whenever somebody’s shameless behavior offends you, immediately ask yourself: ‘Can there be a world without shameless people in it?’ Of course not. Don’t demand the impossible. This is just another one of those shameless people whom the world cannot be without. Keep the same questions handy for scoundrels, cheaters, and other kinds of wrongdoers. By bearing in mind that there are bound to be people like this, you will find individuals like this easier to endure.”

Takeaway point:

Don’t demand the impossible. If you go camping (especially near a river)– there will be mosquitos. You will be bitten. You will get bumps, and it will be itchy.

But don’t let those mosquitos prevent you from having a bad time. You just have to be savvy. Swat them away when you see them, try to avoid them, and if you get bit– just endure it, and remind yourself: the world cannot exist without mosquitos.

Treat negative people and critics the same.

In your photography, sooner or later you will have people say negative things about your work either in your face, or behind-your-back. It is impossible to expect this not to happen. And believe it or not, you will have negative people say things behind your back. This can even be close friends, family, co-workers, or loved ones.

But still enjoy your camping trip (or the journey of life). Endure the little annoying mosquito bites, and know the world cannot exist without mosquitos and critics. But you can still have a great time.

16. Consider the virtues you are born with

Ultimately we have 100% control of how we feel– because we can control the opinion we have of external events. For example, if someone says, “Your photo is shit.” I can either react several:

  • a) “Who the fuck does that guy think he is to negatively criticize my photos? His photos are shittier than mine! Fuck that guy.”
  • b) “Hmmm– I guess it is true that it isn’t my best photograph. He might think it is shit, I think it is half-decent. I don’t think it is warranted that he called it shit, but I will take his feedback in mind– and try to improve my photography.”
  • c) “Whoa, that guy must be going through some serious personal issues. I feel bad for the guy. Perhaps I should message him and ask if everything is okay with his persona life and family.”

So you can see from the above example that although you cannot control the fact that the guy said your work was shit, you can change your interpretation of it.

In example “A” – you just get angry and go into a negative feedback loop. In example “B”– you take their feedback (in a somewhat positive way). And in example “C” – you realize that their negativity isn’t a reflection of your own work, but their own depressed mental state.

So always remember, reality is negotiable. You can control the way you see, perceive, and filter reality. Everything in the world isn’t absolute– it is all how you interpret the feedback, words, and sayings of others.

Marcus Aurelius tell us to always remind ourselves– think about the strengths and virtues we have against negative people, and remind that we have the power to always stay positive:

“At the same time ask yourself: ‘What virtue has nature given me to cope with this vice?’ The antibody against loutish behavior, for example, is gentleness. Against every vice there is a power to combat it, and broadly speaking, you have the power to help any man find his way. The wrongdoer is, after all, merely missing his true mark and has lost his way. Besides, how has he harmed you? None of those with whom you’re upset has done a thing to impair your ability to think, and no evil or harm can come to you except your thinking let it.

Takeaway point:

Don’t let the negative feedback and words of others turn you into a negative person, and fall into a spiral of negativity. Rather, try to find the positivity out of negativity– or simply feel bad and compassionate towards people who do harbor a lot of negativity in their hearts.

Realize that everything others say to us is just our interpretation of it. If we interpret their words positively– it will help us. If we interpret their words negatively, it will harm us.

You choose.

17. Fault yourself (not others)

It is a pretty tough existence to live your life thinking that your own happiness is reliant upon others, and to constantly see the fault in others.

Once again, know that everything is in your own control. Your own opinions of yourself is how you construct and see the world.

Therefore never blame another man (for anything). Always blame yourself.

But don’t blame yourself in the sense that you will just self-criticize yourself in a negative way, and beat yourself up. Rather, blame yourself in a positive way– and try to improve your own interpretation of events. See your own faults, and try to improve yourself.

For example, if you have an idiot negatively criticize you (out of ignorance) – don’t fault or blame them. Rather, blame yourself for failing to anticipate that the idiot will not act idiotically. It is foolish to expect idiots not to act like idiots. Marcus Aurelius shares his thoughts:

“What’s so bad or surprising about the ignoramus who acts out of his ignorance? Find fault instead with yourself for failing to anticipate his offensive behavior. Your ability to reason should have told you that he would misbehave, but you refused to listen and now shocked by his misbehavior.”

Furthermore, whenever you tell a personal secret to someone who you know gossips a lot– how can you fault them for telling your secret to someone else? You should blame yourself for trusting that secret to that person in the first place:

“Indeed, whenever you feel inclined to blame someone for deceit or ingratittude, turn the accusation upon yourself. Obviously, the fault lies with you if you trusted a liar to keep his word, or if you did a good deed with some string attached and without expecting the doing of the deed to be its own reward.”

Takeaway point:

If you have a practice of never blaming anyone else – you put control into your own hands (in all situations).

  • If someone negatively criticizes you, and you become upset– blame yourself for not expecting negative criticism (and resolve to build resilience).
  • If someone yells at you for taking his/her street photograph and you are hurt or offended, blame yourself for not anticipating someone to ever yell at you in the streets (it will happen sooner or later).
  • If you submit one of your photographs to a competition and you don’t win, don’t be upset that the judges are idiots and have poor taste. Blame yourself of expecting to win – and realize that so much of judging is subjective (I can say from personal experience).
  • If your camera breaks, don’t be upset at the camera manufacturers. Blame yourself for not anticipating for your camera to break, and not having a backup.

Everything is in your control.

18. Focus on the present moment– nothing stands in your way

Happiness shouldn’t be something that you can someday attain in the far future. It is something you can obtain today– right now– in this present moment.

I know a lot of photographers who base their happiness and life on conditionals. For example:

  • I will be happy once I get 100+ favorites on Flickr.
  • I will be happy once I get 10,000+ followers.
  • I will be happy once I have my photos exhibited in a prestigious gallery.
  • I will be happy once I have a book published.
  • I will be happy once I travel to Paris.
  • I will be happy once I have a Magnum photographer say that my work is good.

Don’t base your life and happiness on conditionals. Rather, focus on the good things and happiness in the moment. Practice gratitude. So instead, you can change your thoughts to:

  • I am grateful that I am alive to experience life, and to be able to capture beautiful moments.
  • I am grateful because I have eyes that allow me see and perceive the beauty in the world.
  • I am grateful to own a camera that allows me to capture the beauty of the world.
  • I am grateful to live in a world in which social media allows me to share my photographs with the world.
  • I am grateful to have free time (even 10 minutes a day) to wander the streets and make photographs.
  • I am grateful to live in the unique city that I do, and that there are millions of photographic opportunities everywhere I go.
  • I am grateful for living in the time where the technology to make photographs exist.

So practice an attitude of gratitude.

Is it a misconception that happiness leads to gratitude. Rather it is the opposite way: gratitude leads to happiness.

Marcus Aurelius shares in “The Meditations” the importance that knowing that all the good things and happiness in the world exist in your power to obtain today:

All the good things you want someday to attain can be yours today. Just get out of your own way. Put the past behind you and the future in the hands of God, and refer every present thought and action to piety and justice. To piety by being happy with the fate which nature crafted for you and equipped you for. To justice by speaking the truth freely and simply and by acting as the law requires and as each situation merits. Don’t let the wickedness of other men stand in your way, nor your own misconceptions, nor the opinions of others, nor the sensations of your overgrown flesh. Let each sensing part take care of itself.”

Takeaway point:

Don’t let the negativity of others prevent you from being happy in this present moment. Don’t base your life on conditionals (‘only if’ statements). Rather, focus on the positive in your everyday life– practice an attitude of gratitude, and you will obtain all the happiness in the world.

19. Nine (more) strategies to deal with negative people

To conclude this chapter, Marcus Aurelius gives us nine wise observations and strategies to follow when we are dealing with negativity from others.

1) Remember that we are made for one another, and that you were born to lead (in a positive way):

“First, consider the nature of your relationship to others. We are made for one another. Or from another perspective, I was born to lead, as a ram leads the flock or a bull the herd. Or— returning to the original premise— if not unthinking atoms, then intelligent nature governs everything, and the lower orders of creation exist for the higher, and the higher exist for one another.”

2) Get in the mind of the other person, and understand their motivations and perspective:

“Second, what are they like at the table, in bed, and elsewhere? Above all, what actions do their opinions compel them to perform? To what extent are their actions motivated by pride?”

3) Ask yourself if what they say is right. If what they say is correct, don’t be offended:

“Third, if what they do is right, you have no reason to be offended. If wrong, then it’s plan they act out of compulsion and ignorance. Just as no one is willing to be denied knowledge of the ruth, no one is willingly deprived of the power to treat others as they deserve. Are men not resentful if they hear themselves spoken of us unjust, insensitive, greedy, or in any way nasty to their neighbors?”

4) Remember that you can be negative as well (just like your critics):

“Fourth, like them, you often do wrong yourself. Even if you refrain from doing certain types of wrong, your character is still bent that way, and only cowardice, fear of what others will say, or some other vile motive holds you back.”

5) Realize you don’t always see the full-picture. How do you know what someone is doing or saying is truly wrong?

“Fifth, you have no proof that they are doing anything wrong. Many things are done for reasons that are not apparent. A man must know a great deal before condemning another man’s behavior.”

6) Remember that you soon will be dead, your feelings of negativity are a waste of time and energy:

“Sixth, when you are overwrought with anger or impatience, think how fleeting this life is and how soon you and your vexations will be laid out in the grave.”

7) It isn’t the words or actions of others that bother you, it is how you interpret them:

“Seventh, it isn’t what others do that troubles you. That is on their own consciences. You are bothered by your own opinions of what they do. Rid yourself of those opinions and stop always assuming the worst— then your troubles will go away. How do you get rid of your opinions? By reminding yourself that you aren’t disgraced by what others do. For unless only what brings disgrace is wrong, then you too are as guilty as a thief, and worse.”

8) The rage and negativity we feel does us more harm than the initial criticism (simply let things go):

“Eighth, our rage and lamentations do us more harm than whatever caused our anger and grief in the first place.

9) Always remember to be relentlessly kind:

“Ninth, as long as it’s genuine and without condescension or pretense, kindness is irresistible. What can the most insolent man do if you remain relentlessly kind, and given the opportunity, counsel him calmly and gently even while he’s trying to harm you? ‘No, my son. We are not created for this. I can’t be hurt in this way, but you are hurting yourself.’ In a discreet and roundabout manner, point out to him that the bees and other animals by nature gregarious do not act like this. Let there be nothing ironic or scolding in your tone, but speak with true affection and with no residue of resentment in your heart. Don’t lecture him. Don’t embarrass him in front of others. But address him privately even if others are present.

Thank you Marcus for these words of wisdom. This is his parting words to us:

“Commit these nine observations to memory; accept them as gifts from the Muses; and while you still have life, begin to live like a man. Avoid with equal caution flattering others as well as losing your temper with them. Both tear the social fabric and lead to trouble.”

Some more advice from our homeboy Marcus on how to fight anger and stay patient:

To ward off anger, keep these maxims handy:

  • There is nothing manly about petulance (being childishly bad-tempered).
  • Because they are more natural to our species, qualities like courtesy and kindness are the more manly. These qualities, not irritability and bad temper, bespeak strength and fiber and manly fortitude.
  • The freer the mind from passion, the closer the man to power.
  • Anger is as much a proof of weakness as grief. Both involve being wounded and giving in to one’s wounds.

And lastly– Marcus throws in a tenth freebie on how to deal with negative critics:

10) Always expect there to be negativity in the world

“And if you like, take this tenth gift from Apollo himself, the leader of the Nine Muses: To expect the wicked not to sin is sheer lunacy. It asks the impossible. Similarly, to allow them to sin against others but not against you is both irrational and surpassingly capricious.”

Conclusion

At age 26, I have dealt with a lot of negativity and criticism– as a worker (when I worked a corporate job), as a lover, as a brother and son, as a photographer, and lastly as a human being.

We cannot navigate this chaotic world without expecting to step on shit, without being stung by mosquitos, without getting sick, without stepping on a rock and twisting our ankle, without being accidentally elbowed in the back of the head, without being cut off in traffic, and certainly without people saying negative things about you (behind your back of in your face).

So put on your armor of stoicism– and get ready to face this tough, negative, and often painful world head-on.

But let us do it with an armor of kindness, love, and compassion. Let us do onto others as we would like others to do unto them. If others treat us with negativity, don’t just fight fire with fire. Rather, douse those flames of negativity with love and positivity.

Like what Gandhi said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Be a leading example of kindness, generosity, and love. Give others honest and constructive feedback out of trying to help others improve, rather than simply trying to put them down.

Also know that a lot of negative feedback and criticism we gain in life can improve us. They can help us find our character (and photographic) flaws, and can ultimately help us become better human beings (and photographers). Not all the negative criticism we get is unwarranted or untrue. Some negative feedback (if taken with a grain of salt) can really help us– and add some positivity into our lives.

I hope these 19 stoic strategies can help you find happiness, contentment, and love regardless of the negativity or criticism you face.

Always keep a smile on your face, be grateful of the world and others, and be positive. Be the ever-flowing spring of sweet water, and nothing will ever stain or harm you.

My favorite books on Stoicism

If you want to learn more about Stoic strategies, I recommend reading the following books:

– “The Emperor’s Handbook” (A modern translation of “The Meditations”)

Currently one of the most valuable books in my library. I have read this at least 5 times (especially in times of pain and suffering).

There are tons of translations of “The Meditations” by Marcus Aurelius, but I have found this version to be the easiest to read and comprehend.

You can also find tons of free translations of “The Meditations” online.

– “Letters from a Stoic

Also another of my favorite books of all-time (written by Seneca). If my house were burning down and I could only carry 5 books, this would be one of them.

You can also read an excellent version of “Letters from a Stoic” the Kindle for only 99 cents here.

“Letters from a Street Photographer” book

I plan on producing a book (available online for free) titled: “Letters from a Street Photographer.” Each chapter will be published regularly to the blog. Here are my prior posts:

Articles on Stoicism

Here are some articles I’ve written on this blog on Stoicism:

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