Nicole Holofcener on using self-criticism creatively

Being overly critical of our work and ourselves can deflate our creative vitality.

But we can also use self-criticism for powerful and meaningful creative work, such as writer and director Nicole Holofcener has done with her film “Friends With Money.”

“I put my foibles out there.”

Nicole HolofcenerShe comments in an article, “I think that some of my own self-loathing is definitely in there.

“You know, when I recognize things about myself that I don’t like, and that I’m ashamed of.

“Like my materialism, or the fact that I’m not saving children in Ethiopia. That I care about petty things.

“As I get older, more mature, I learn to forgive myself my human foibles.

“But I also put them out there.

“I am that person who wants that piece of furniture, because it’s cool and nice. But I can also see myself wanting that piece of furniture, and how repellent that is to the person who can’t even afford to pay their rent or buy health insurance, or send their kids to a decent school.

She adds, “All that self-awareness is enough to just make you want to stay in bed. … I’m as repellent as everybody else.

“But somehow I can forgive myself, because I think, well, I know I’m repellent. [Laughter.] Is that better? If you know what you sound like? I don’t know.” [ April 6, 2006]

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This kind of self-criticism isn’t, of course, a “female problem.”

Actor Pierce Brosnan [”James Bond” and other roles] once commented:

“I know what it’s like to loathe oneself. To feel that deep self-loathing. It’s painful and ugly and f**ing unwanted. You think, Am I smart enough? Am I equipped enough to deal with it all? You don’t want it to happen, but it’s part of life.” [Life mag., Dec 2 2005 – quoted on the page Self-criticism]

Self-critical kids

Lesley Sword, director of Gifted and Creative Services, Australia, notes in an article that gifted children [who, of course, grow up to be gifted adults] are “highly self critical and express dissatisfaction with themselves; they see what ‘ought to be’ in themselves… They can become despondent sometimes even depressed, at their perceived failure.”

[Continued in my article: Being Creative and Self-critical]

Nicole Holofcener also admits, “Secretly I like to disturb people.”

And isn’t that what potent art often does?