No Skin off My Nose: Taking Criticism Without Losing Your Way

"Right" and "Wrong" noses as a path to taking criticism

Creating art, even professionally, is fueled by intrinsic motivation.

Our clients, public opinion and critics can all weigh in on our art, but really it is ourselves we answer to. If we can master our relationship to criticism, we can continue creating no matter what is going on in our environment.

One such environmental factor was my first grade classroom at St. Mary’s.

We were all supposed to draw our families. The nun walked through our desks, looking on to make sure we were drawing what we were supposed to. Since I was drawing a person, naturally I drew my signature nose, which looked like a door knocker in the shape of a pig nose. It truly was my signature. I grew up with four sisters, but you can always spot my early drawings because of that tell-tale nose.

The nun stopped short at my desk and pointed at my mom’s nose. Confused, I asked, “Her nose?” “That is not a nose,” she declared, then turned my pencil around and erased the nose right off her face. She proceeded to draw the classic 45° lines that often pass for a nose. I agreed that her nose was better and went on to be paralyzed with self-doubt.

I was too young to understand religious conformity, racial differences in face structures, creative blocks or self-esteem. I did understand the rewards associated with pleasing the adults in charge. So I began taking criticism as law and drawing noses the right way.

It took me many years to realize that I was trapped drawing what I thought the subject should look like instead of what I saw in front of me.

It took many more years of self-work to realize that my creativity had stagnated because of taking criticism from a nun in the first grade.

A nude woman upside down a bed - Taking criticism can be easier than you think

“Head Under Heels”

I have learned to embrace my door-knocker pig nose, as well as critiques; they are a chance to learn about myself, my craft, and the critic.

We have all had our art harshly criticized, and many times we needed that feedback in order to grow. The important thing is to connect with our intrinsic motivation to create. When we create this way, we are not doing it for anyone else but ourselves.

So, no matter if I get a gushing review or the harshest critique, I will keep on doing the work because I have a strong foundation of motivation, and I am resilient. Next time I will talk about how you can build up your resiliency.

Photos by Antonia Montoya.

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About Antonia Montoya

Antonia spends most of her time helping her clients make the positive changes they want in their lives as a health coach. She is most proud of her dedication to a well-rounded life outside of work: rocking out on upright bass, family, knitting, love, friends, painting, photography, seeing live bands, dancing, playing with her dogs, and practicing daily gratitude. She is most alive when she is performing with her band, Sin Serenade, and her solo project, Alonerly.


  1. Antonia Montoya on April 7, 2014 at 9:56 am

    For a long time I decided that the nun was racist since I saw her version as a white nose and mine as an ethnic nose. The funny thing is that version of the story kept me just as stuck. I guess you can say I was playing the victim or giving up my power and choice in the way I was re-telling the story. Finally I realized that I can choose to see that 2-minute interaction as just two-minutes out of the 20 million minutes I’ve been alive. I could choose to not let those minutes define me and my art.

  2. […] Have you ever tried to tell a cat it can’t do something? Exactly. Follow the same principle when someone says you’ll never find a better job. […]

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