If there’s one thing that every creative process needs a steady flow of, it’s critiques. Now, we’re not talking about¬†criticisms. Having your work torn down and ripped to shreds in front of you rarely pushes you in the right direction. Critiques, however, are valuable sources of insight toward new directions, improvements, and possibilities.

But we can’t always have people at our beck and call to critique our work. That’s why it’s important to be able to deliver thoughtful,¬†useful critiques — to yourself.

But, that’s impossible, right? Actually, it’s not as hard as you might think. You just have to pay attention to a few things, and you’ll be on the way to pushing yourself forward (and you’ll probably get better at receiving critiques along the way).

So, let’s find a starting point. Honesty. When you critique yourself, you need to be honest, not brutal. Yelling at yourself, calling yourself names, and generally bringing any unnecessary negativity into a critique is counterproductive. A critique is equal parts praise and things to work on. Be self-aware! Did you feel in the moment that your arabesque wasn’t quite up where you want it to be? Did you see your knee wobble on a turn? Acknowledge that! Then work to improve. But don’t forget to celebrate an awesome pirouette or a perfectly executed leap along the way.

You figured out how to celebrate your success and take notes on things that could be improved. Now what? Well, believe it or not, actually taking notes. Write down the things that you did well and the things you think need work. Now, you have a concrete idea of where you’re starting from. You also have a great reference for looking back and seeing how far you’ve come later down the road.

The last thing you want to do is fall out of practice when it comes to critiquing yourself. Why? Because if you stop trying to improve, you tend to develop bad habits, and bad habits are easier to prevent than to break, so don’t start collecting them now! Instead, make a schedule. Maybe you want to keep critiques in mind but make a point to take note of all the things you want to improve once a week. Maybe you want to write down a few notes every day after dance class. Do what works best for you, but make sure you are consistent.