Living in A World of Criticism

Thinking what’s the point of being afraid of criticism. They’ll do it no matter what. (Might as well get back my time.) 


I’m a little disappointed with this. Or maybe just frustrated. It seems nothing more than the obvious, a platitude. A breezy greeting card solution. Maybe that IS all it is. I spend so much time thinking about this and cooking up solutions that I’d have liked to come up with something less obvious. Hm. Maybe if I take away that last bit. Maybe not.

Criticism is one of the most peculiar inventions of human kind. It’s inescapable; it’s everywhere and everything’s a target. Only three people in the world at any given time don’t indulge in it (yes, that’s a guess). Even lovely, perfect people succumb, although they do it in their lovely, perfect way.

No matter how much I turn it over and spin it around (and I’ve done a lot of that, in the spirit of highly pseudo-scientific inquiry) , I can NOT think how it’s endured. If I don’t count ‘formal’ criticism – the kind that’s intended to improve performance and skills, with the express goal of development and refinement and betterment, then it’s not that useful, except as a way to announce our superiority in taste and style and intellect.

Oh. That might be the secret.

At any rate, there’s no escaping it. (If you’ve found a way that doesn’t involve a mountain top retreat or collecting seashells in the Seychelles, neither of which sound too bad but are not in the budget. I’d like to hear it). I’ve met a few people online who are doing their damnedest, refusing to even acknowledge it and creating a space where only love and adoration and hugs are allowed. I wish them well, but I had to wander away from the oppressive, almost desperate sugar.

See? Criticism. Barely concealed. It seems like avoiding all criticism is the flip side of the same coin and impossible to sustain. It reads like it’s motivated by a kind of fear of criticism – which turns criticism into a looming shadow that might pounce at any second.

Maybe the best we can do is accept it. Accept that it will happen and then practice thinking: so what? So. What. Really. How about a little focus on what’s good and right and shiny about us?

And if we can’t do that for others, can we at least do that for ourselves?






13 thoughts on “Living in A World of Criticism

  1. I’m working on a somewhat related post in my brain. I have learned to cull people who show an excessive fondness for criticism; if it works for them, hey, have fun … far away from me. I favor spending time with those who favor loving guidance over demands concealed as criticism. What’s challenging is where certain people can’t be walked away from. A lot of learning going on here right now.

    No answers here. Just, like you, lots of questions.

    (I like the pic.)

    • It’s taken a long, long time, but I’ve managed to cull (perfect word, Deborah!), too. I actually never minded and still don’t mind verbal criticism. Words – well, whoever uses them has to bear the burden and there’s at least a chance of replying. It’s the unspoken (can I use html? I’m going to try it, because that wants to be italicized) unspoken criticism that is straight up bullshit: the eye rolling, the twitching lips, the secret exchange of glances that’s not very secret at all.

      Regarding those people who can’t be walked away from – ick! Challenging indeed. I’ve had a few of those and suffered the insufferable until things exploded and proved that all that suffering was for nothing. The relationships I was martyring myself for ended with a puff of smoke, anyway.

      (Thanks. :))

  2. I think there must be an art [<–untintentional but appropriate word] to differentiating criticism from the snarky internetty stuff to the actual "this might make me better" type of stuff. I think I often get those two things mixed up and end up taking two steps back, when I would've been just fine where I started. I do believe that living in a bubble won't make me any better at art or at being a person, but it's a painful journey that apparently does NOT AT ALL end in childhood. :(

    There's an old saying that I just made up this minute that's based on that old punchine of "Opinions are like assholes, everybody's got one." My version, which is totally better I think, is that "opinions are like farts, because they generally come from assholes." That would've been so much better if I didn't express an opinion while writing that line.

    • It’s tricky business rabbit hole slippery slope stuff, isn’t it? I’ve got more opinions than I know what to do with – undoubtedly why I hand them out. Here, take one of these off my hands. :\ My stuff is usually reserved for Oh come on! can we get more real? moments, but that doesn’t make them better. I sigh.

      Your point is so well made: it’s painful. Who, really, wants to hand out pain to someone else? For what? It’s just not going to end well. Maybe the new children will be different.

  3. I use criticism to plan my day. I think of all the snide remarks I’ll get and do what will invite that. Then I walk around with a look of triumph because it’s like winning an argument.
    Sometimes I feel that just existing and expressing myself is inconveniencing someone. So I get my time back by noticing that they are wasting theirs having an opinion that does not matter. You’re right, “So. What.” is the key to happiness.

    • Your technique is stunning. I wonder, do you ever inadvertently read someone wrong? Expect snide when snide’s not intended? I only ask because I STILL remember (from a loooonnng time ago) when I lived in a city where alternatives were just becoming possible. We passed a young woman who growled and snapped at me and I had to stop her and say: Heads up. I was admiring you, not criticizing. (Although, I totally paraphrase myself because I didn’t know ‘criticize’ in that language.)

      There might be (maybe) someone out in the world who does feel inconvenienced by us, but I’m seriously sorry (no. wrong word. not sorry at all. more like … dismissive. Yes. Dismissive.) of them. We, each of us, with all our weirdness and whackedness – we make up the world. I mean, we’re not the world without us. I don’t know what we’d be if we did it their way, but it would be a hell of a lot less interesting.

      • I admire your style. That’s a good question but no, I have a feel for honest criticism and passive aggressive put downs. Sometimes a person will say something that sounds mean and I know it’s a joke and laugh along with it. The context is so important. Facial expressions, the person’s outlook on life, the quality of their relationships will help me make that decision. Thank you for responding. Stay positive and focused.

  4. Who am I to criticize anyone? Well, unless it is in Walmart….then it’s allowed. I think sometimes criticism comes from envy. And feeling entitled. And feeling superior. And being an asshole. As for the sugary folks out there…God bless them and their perfection….in Walmart.

    • Exactly, Rosemary. Exactly. And yet … I KNOW I have no business criticizing, but I still do it. Wait. I think there are plenty of episodes where it feels just fine and right to criticize, but those lines start getting really smudgey. And then there are those OTHER episodes, those days when every third person you meet’s got all kinds of complaints about the rest of the world and it’s hard to miss that you’re probably included and … snowball. One big fat snowball. With a whole lot of So What? They weren’t kidding when they made up that line about changing what you can (I’m pretty sure they meant ourselves.) :)

  5. First, love the picture, particularly the eyebrows which are perfect. Expressions are so hard to draw/paint well, and your people are always expressive. As far as criticism, a “Whatever, bitches” caption for an alternate version of her might be the ticket. You could have the socially acceptable line of cards/paintings and the “Fuck, Yeah” line for those with alternate tastes.

    Also, I loved this: “… I had to wander away from the oppressive, almost desperate sugar.” Yes. All the yeses. I know some people think my writing style is bitchy or cynical, but that’s how my humor works; all that sugary sweetness and light just makes me want to puke. Just not for me. It rarely strikes me as genuine.

    God, but I’m a critical bitch.

    • Hahaha. I sigh, contented. And next time I do something like this (sort of a guarantee because it’s a recurring theme), I’ll do a version of your version. I gots to be feeling it. I did this, though, not so much as a reply to some cheap shot, but because I’m feeling this … thing out there, this reluctance to do something because there’s so much attackiness going on. Maybe it’s not true, maybe people ARE saying ‘whatever, bitches’ and getting on with doing what they want to do, wearing what they want to wear, living how they want to live but I suspect there’s still plenty of distress that goes on before they take a breath and get moving. We DO like to get approval, don’t we? (People, in general, not you and me. :))

      And your writing style is … WHAT?! It’s incisive and unapologetic and soooo good. (Yah, that last one’s a great recommendation, hm?) Pffff on the bitchy or cynical. Pfff again.

    • I think about it a LOT and I can’t think of anything, either. (Except for the criticism that’s careful and thoughtful and really meant to help.) I definitely know there’s no good that happens when I get critical. I just feel like a rat.

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