critics-mathThe last presentation I gave was to about 140 people. I recall looking through the evaluations. There were 5 categories with ratings from 1 to 5, with 5 being the best. Almost all of the evaluations, about 125 or them, were 5’s on most categories with an occasional 4 thrown in. And then there were 2 evaluation forms with 2’s all the way down. Guess which evaluations got my attention? Yep, you guess it!

Critics math, as John Acuff puts it, is something we all get sucked into. Doing the math, 1.6% of the evaluations were negative. In my head, the other 98.4% didn’t matter. Why is this? Why is it that no matter how many attaboy’s I get, the critics are the one who get the attention? The answer is actually pretty simple…

Critics confirm our fears. My fear was (and is!) that I was an incompetent presenter, terrible communicator, and too boring for the audience. I was afraid I didn’t measure up and everyone would realize that I didn’t deserve to be on stage in the first place. Critics math helped me confirm that these fears are legitimate. So what are we to do?

Recognize that I’m Not for Everyone

In my presentation that day, I wasn’t good for a couple of people. I don’t know who they were. It is possible they were just negative people who can never be satisfied. I actually do not believe that is true. The truth is, whether we are working on a project, giving a presentation, cooking dinner, or playing piano, we do not have something for everyone – and we don’t have to.

There is no law I am aware of that says everyone has to love us and everything we do. These types of critics aren’t necessarily even critics. They are simply saying, “That isn’t really a thing for me.” That person is not wrong for having preferences any more than I am. I can accept that what I have to offer is not going to be loved and cherished by all. This alone will often take the critics math out of my head.

There is no law anywhere that says everyone has to love us and everything we do.

Listen to Some Critics

If the critic loves and respects you, listen to them. If they truly care about you, they’re trying to help you. You can always tell by their approach. If they approach the subject with respect for you instead of an attitude of being better than you, that’s a hint. If they give you feedback instead of telling you how you failed, that’s another hint. These folks may have some good feedback for you. You still have the option of accepting some parts and ignoring other parts. But their intent is good, so it will not hurt to listen.

Forget Others

Some critics are simply in the business of trying to put others down so they feel better about themselves. This can happen at work, at church, at the mom’s group, at the book club, or anywhere else people gather. There may be that person who feels better about themselves when others feel like they failed. Ignore these completely.

There is at least one other type of critic that should be ignored. The critic who uses belligerence to get something from you. These folks are masters at criticizing. They know the right words to say to get you to give in to what they want. They use critics math to their advantage. Ignore these.

I believe that we should all do the best we can with whatever we are doing. However, we also need to be a little more kind to ourselves and accept when we do a great job whether we are speaking, being a parent, working at our job, singing a song, or watching our kids play soccer. Don’t let critic’s math steal your successes.


Have you had experiences with critic’s math? What has helped you overcome this or is it still a problem for you? Feel free to comment. We would love to hear from you!