My ever-evolving "Squirrel Board"
My ever-evolving "Squirrel Board"

Show Notes

Welcome back. In this episode, I’m talking about resilience  brushing off criticism as a creative.

Why is it we push away compliments yet we latch on tight to criticism and repeat it to anyone who will listen?

“Did you hear what she called me?”

“Do you know what he said about my painting?”

They do now.

And YOU’re the one broadcasting it.

Don’t be your own worst critic.

Do you remember that lecture about polarity in high school physics class? Of course you don’t, because you weren’t interested in it.

And you’re still terrified of your jumper cables as a result.

The good news is, you can still learn a valuable lesson from that lecture.

We do not remember that which does not interest us, nor do we remember that which we do not focus on.

When you’re upset by something someone else says, well-meaning friends are likely to say, “Oh you shouldn’t care about what others think about you.”

Well, guess what. We do. We care intensely about things that attack the core of who we see ourselves to be.

So telling you not to care about cruel comments is not going to work.

What if instead, we try not focusing on it? Make it less important and it will fade into the background.

Remember that time you were in the middle of a crisis at work and your kid calls from school crying? What do you do? You drop everything, right? In that moment, your attention is diverted and everything else vanishes. Including that snotty @$$ thing you were so upset someone said to you.

Well, you can apply this principle positively and will intention. 

My mom always recommended parenting toddlers through diversion. She’d say, “Don’t try to convince them not to be upset, divert their attention.

“Oh, look at the pretty squirrel.”

So, when someone close to me made a frankly out-of-character and callous remark about a painting, yes, it threw me into a bit of a tailspin. I’m not going to lie to you, it stung. And before I re-centered myself I felt those vines of self-doubt clawing around my ankles.

But then I opened my email and saw the gracious and supportive comments from my listeners. Thanks, by the way. I love and appreciate each of you.

And I realized I’d forgotten to be intentional about my focus.

Thanks, by the way; I love and appreciate every one of you.

You as a person are the result of what you value and where you place your attention. And your intention.

And you are amazing.

How can we remember that and use it the next time we fall on our face? I suggest a “Squirrel Board.”

Do you save thank you cards and encouraging notes from friends and colleagues? As artists, many of us have vision boards. The concept being that we place them where we can see them, and by being intentional about what we want, and seeing it regularly, we bring it into being. 

Well, I’m suggesting we create squirrel boards, covered in praise, thank yous, and achievements. It should be somewhere accessible and not too far out of reach. You might even leave it where you can see it every day.

And for those of you asking if you can do this electronically, the answer is yes. You can use a program like Evernote to collect snippets from emails and other correspondence, and images of any physical momentos you have and want to include, like thank you notes, letters of commendation, and awards. You can also include things like inspirational quotes; whatever you find encouraging.

The important thing is that it be accessible, and definitely somewhere you can get to it when the trolls come calling. Think of it as an epic pen for your self-esteem:

“Break glass in case of emergency.”

So the next time someone hits you up sideways with a thoughtless remark, repeat after me:

“Oh, look at the pretty squirrel."

I also want to remind you to keep carrying that sketchbook. Now park the eye roll for a moment and think about it. People sketching tend to attract encouraging comments. 

Can you actually think of the last time you were sketching and someone came up and said, “Wow, you really suck at drawing.”

Doesn’t happen. The people who will look over your shoulder when you’re out with a sketchbook are the people who will “ooh” and “ahh” and say, “I wish I could draw.”

It’s a universal law. And it’s a pretty squirrel. Remember that the next time I nudge you not to leave home without your sketchbook.

“And just a quick note for those of you who think that having a Squirrel Board or some kind of reminder of the praise that you’ve received and the achievements you’ve accomplished is going to make you too confident and obnoxious, don’t worry about it. I think the chances of this happening, especially for an artist, are highly unlikely.

Now if they say that in their head but don’t say it out loud that’s not your concern. It’s not good for you to fill in the blank by assuming the worst.

it’s not good for you to fill in that blank by assuming the worst.

This goes back to not being your own worst critic.

And by the way that’s the only time I agree with that aphorism you see on social media, “What someone else thinks of me is none of my business.”

If they’re hurtful and inconsiderate in person, on social media, or anywhere else, they're being a troll and it’s going to hurt. And it will help you take some kind of re-centering action, whether it involves confronting them or turning to your squirrel board, or hitting a heavy bag. 

I actually swear by the heavy bag. I requested that one for mother’s day in 2015 to off-gas work stress. Worked like a charm, and so did leaving the toxic environment.

I hope you’ll notice I’m not endorsing getting into confrontation for its own sake. I hit a heavy bag because hitting my coworker was definitely not going to be helpful.

There are times when you will want to engage a person who’s made a criticism. This especially applies to the people close to you. But that’s something I believe should be done in the process of setting healthy boundaries. 

Getting well-versed in where your boundaries are and how to set them is a more in-depth topic that’s better covered by an expert like Terri Cole. I personally consider her book, “Boundary Boss” is indispensable for artists and everyone else for that matter. Here's a link to her book: and here's a link to her podcast.

I also recommend to the book, Buddha in the Trenches, the Timeless System for Developing Unshakable Performance Under Pressure. It’s one of the “life instruction manuals” I swear by. In the book, author, Dr. Steve Taubman explains how mindfulness can help you to be calm in the midst of turmoil, instead of reactive. I consider his teachings great kevlar for life’s barbs. Here's a link to his podcast too, for good measure:

So short of engaging in a constructive conversation about your boundaries, I recommend you try the squirrel board. At the very least it’s a helpful tool.

As always, let me know what you think by leaving a comment or emailing me at

Join me next time for an interview with painter Soraida Martinez,  who uses her art to promote tolerance and thought-provoking conversation on diversity, empowerment, and social justice.

As always, I'd love to hear what you think.

Until next time,

Go make something.


For helpful guidance on setting healthy boundaries, check out Terri Cole's Book, Boundary Boss.

(This is not an affiliate link, just a helpful one)

Join the Passionate Painter Podcast Insider's Circle for access to my ever-growing vault of FREE resources for artists

As always, contact me any time and let me know what you think of this interview at

Until next time... Go make something.