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Paulby Paul Russell

How to Successfully Accept Criticism & Praise

Everyone has got a f-ing position.

…And I’m not talking about in the bedroom. But everyone does have a position—an opinion—on something. Too often the subjective observations are fished from Snide Swamp.

Celebs and pols (short-hand for politicians), and spotlight seekers handle the white glare of unwanted heat with asbestos skin: at least publicly. We non-spotlight mortals may not fare as well.

Human nature is wired to focus on the negative over the positive. We’re drawn to it like injury claim lawyers are to car crashes on the Jersey Turnpike. Before you shake your head in denial that you yourself are not guilty of this non-pleasurable foible let’s rumble down your memory’s lane.

How many times have you received praise for a performance or deed but then in the midst of that praise there was one critical response? A less-than-enthusiastic kneel before your feet, or a rejection against drinking the Kool-Aid that is your brilliance? Remember that nasty remark made by an antagonist who pleasures in pointing out fault over favor? Now with your memory jogged how much did the one critical comment obscure the plethora of praise? Come on, be honest. It had to irk you a bit. If so, you stepped onto the land mine that is the negative booby-trap.

F**k the negative.

And recall that criticism is a synonym for opinion. Got it? It’s not a judgment chiseled in granite. There is no Supreme Court (other than your parents) handing out verdicts of shame upon you. Only you (and yes maybe the parental units) do that. Stop distressing. Flee the negative.

And damn the positive.

Praise positive and critics negative cannot be the barometer for how you measure your success or failure. If you focus on either you’ll become lost in a forest of distorted mirrors: forever seeing reflections that are projections provided by others. Smash the mirrors. Govern your own way out of the thicket of thorns and protective pines.

Reflect on comments given after the sting of negativity or the euphoria of praise has passed. Once emotionally removed from the point of impact your objectivity will know whether to alter what is not effective (criticism), or build on a well-structured foundation (praise). Or, once time has passed and your objectivity returns, you may find yourself dismissing comments negative and/or positive. Either way; push forward.

Pre-P.S. Please, no opinion notes to me that this was an opinion about opinions. Infinity mirrors belong in one of two places: day-rate motels, and South Philly row homes.

And yes, that was an opinion about having an opinion within an opinion piece. At least that’s my opinion.

My best,


Paul Russell’s career as a casting director, director, acting teacher, and former actor has spanned thirty years. He’s worked on projects for major film studios, television networks, and Broadway. Paul’s taught the business of acting and audition technique at NYU, and speaks at universities including Elon, Yale, Temple and the University of the Arts. He is the author of ACTING: Make It Your Business – How to Avoid Mistakes and Achieve Success as a Working Actor. For more information, please visit