We live in strange times; times when a man running for president of the United States doesn’t understand why there are no windows that open on airplanes. I guess nothing should surprise me anymore. In these strange “me” centered times, one of the greatest losses is that of civility, instead we have morphed into this place where if you do anything that bothers “me”, you are bullying me and if you attempt to be critical of me, you are being mean. Funny thing is not all bugging is bullying and not all criticism is destructive.
When I started writing professionally almost a decade ago, it took some adjustment on my part, I would write a piece, submit it to my editor and sit back and wait for the pat on the back. Often times what I received was a piece returned to me with lots of red ink requiring that I rewrite the piece, part of that process included being asked clarifying questions and being given sometimes not so gentle suggestions on how a piece could be improved. Initially I was bummed, after all was I being told, I was a shit-ass writer? Nope, but I needed work. I have now worked with the same editor for a number of years and have learned to write with anticipation, the result is what I write for publication is often different than what I write as a blogger where there is no one asking the hard questions and providing criticism.
The reason I bring this up is that the longer I keep my toes in the blogging waters; I have noticed something, that frankly does separate the world of blogging from the world of writing for publication, and that is the role of criticism. Most bloggers and I have been guilty of it at times, are not too fond of criticism and frankly we need to be more open to it. Criticism doesn’t always feel good after all most of us would prefer the pat on the backs and the atta-girls, but the echo chamber often doesn’t allow us to grow either as writers or as people.
Despite my place on Babble’s list of “mom” bloggers, I am hardly one of the cool bloggers, my day job is my priority and the online world changes a bit too fast for this old bitch to stay up. Which is probably why until recently, I had no idea there were entire sites devoted to talking about bloggers and not always in the most favorable light. After hearing about one of these sites, I decided to go check it out. I have to be honest and say that while some of what these sites say is mean spirited, in many case there are nuggets of truth being dropped.
Criticism is not always a bad thing, several years ago my father in law sent my husband and I an email that hurt me on a very deep level. The type of hurt that temporarily had me wanting to have nothing to do with him ever again. He leveled some pretty serious criticism at us about how we were living and the impact on him. It took some time but eventually I got past the initial hurt and saw that as much as it hurt me to look deeply at our lives, he was right, in the end there was only one thing that he said that I just couldn’t get with. The result though has been making some changes about how we live and honestly re-working my relationship with money. I would like to think I may have come to this point on my own but chances are I wouldn’t have, not when everyone else around me was unwilling to tell the truth.
My experience is that whenever I hear criticism and that wall goes up, it is my ego getting in the way and frankly the ego is no one’s friend. Your ego wants you to fuck up, ignore it. Yet in a world where we can instantly connect to our “friends” and hear kind words that lack depth, our egos have landed in ego heaven which is why criticism is harder to swallow than ever before yet the inability to face truth in the long run does no one any good. I have been working more and more on telling my own ego to get to the back of the line since it’s in those moments when she goes to the back of the line, I can face my own truth more clearly, even the parts that frankly make me uncomfortable.
So yeah, while criticism never feels good, it can often serve a purpose and that’s in any area of life, I can’t speak for anyone else but I would like to think part of the continuous process of growing and living is to be the best me that I can be. That means occasionally realizing that criticism might be just what the doctor ordered.