When the Critics come to Town
I’m generally someone that has difficulty seeing things within the realm of perspective.
It’s difficult for me to read negative feedback online and not go into an immediate spiral.
This is partially because the person giving me the critique isn’t with me in person, providing no ability for me to reply.
But also because in my mind if someone has taken the time to put finger to keyboard and actually make the effort to tell me how terrible I am, surely they must be right.
If someone feels strongly enough to come and talk with me in person about how unhappy they are with a service or product I’ve provided, I would never fall into a spiral.
I’ve dealt with customer complaints many times in person, granted they weren’t complaining about me but the cruise ship they were vacationing and I was working on.
But a few times I’ve been given critique on how I’ve performed in a show or how I’ve taught a class, and I’ve never felt too badly after the discussion.
I guess the catalyst that keeps my emotions from running away with my body is the fact that its a conversation.
I’m able to give reason as to why I made the choices that I made. I can explain that I chose a particular teaching method, or performed in such a way because of a decision that was well thought out ahead of time.
I do very little in my life that isn’t meticulously planned ahead of time. Even this post is not being posted on the day that I began writing it, as is very often the case with most writing.
But even if my side of the discussion does nothing to affect their feelings, merely having the discussion is usually enough for me.
Online, none of us are given the luxury of a conversation, instead it feels like an attack.
Years ago I self published an admittedly terrible ebook.
I’ve been putting out ebooks under my own name and pen names since I was 16.
The first one I ever put out was with Lulu, then years later transitioned to Amazon.
My bad reviews for this particular book were deserved and led to me taking a hard look at myself and figuring out the value of taking the time to make something better before asking money for it.
But one review — one special review was different. It was provided by someone I actually knew but no longer lived close to.
She tore the book apart, not for being badly written which it was, but she accused me of lying.
The book was a true account of my first performance contract and was full of stories from that year and advice for people looking to do the same thing.
She accused me of having made up the experience and all of the stories and attacked my character and integrity.
It’s so strange that something so easily verifiable being called false would bother me so much.
If someone asked me to show my signed and dated performance contract I probably would have pulled it out, but this review wasn’t about that. She was attacking who I was as a person.
Part of me knew that she was wrong, but a much louder part of myself agreed with her and took her side.
“Sure that contract happened, but why would you write a book about it? Who the hell do you think you are? Do you think you’re special? Do you think anyone cares?”
The voice inside used stronger language than that, but we all get the point.
When you don’t take your side
The closest I’ve ever been to suicide was about two years after being accused of something I didn’t do, many years ago.
This was long before the book incident.
This wasn’t a case of internet accusation, this one was real life and it was a doozy.
I remember standing on the edge of a very long drop, the wind whipping against my face. My hair was being pulled and pushed out of my eyes every other second and my hands were shaking from the height.
“Why not just call it a day? You achieved what you wanted. You got out of Australia and performed in a show and got paid for it! You did it! Go out on top.”
I hadn’t dealt with what had been said to me years earlier, the pain had only festered and worsened.
For anyone who hasn’t experienced feeling this way, I can’t justify taking a false accusation this seriously. If you want to call me stupid or overly sensitive I don’t really have a defence.
All I can really say is that words have immense power. You really don’t know which words are going to be the ones that cut through the heart.
I’ve had a lot worse things said to me that didn’t affect me at all. I don’t know why this did, I only know that it did.
For some reason, my accusers being wrong didn’t matter. What was said to me and the way it was said was enough.
The Solution seems to be deafening the ones that don’t make ‘the list’
There should always be people around you that you trust are saying the right things.
I don’t mean that we should only listen to sycophants and people that only tell us nonsense compliments everyday.
I mean that we should be listening to people that genuinely care about our journey and tell us what we need to hear with love.
If I’ve done something terrible and haven’t realised how bad it was, I absolutely do want to know about it. But if I haven’t done anything terrible, I also want to know that too.
We need to listen to those who are looking out for our best interests and simply deafen out the others. We should still be getting criticism, but if it’s not from a reliable source then it’s just noise.
I want to hear when my writing is taking a dive instead of improving, but I’ve got people for that. I’ve got friends who are damn good writers who are going to call me out when its needed, and tell me its fabulous when its deserved — which is just as important.
The people that I lean on are people who have made “the list.”
The list is difficult to get on, and your spot on the list isn’t permanent if you abuse it.
Once you’ve realised that you deserve a list, it’ll save you a lot of heartbreak.
Anyone thats not on the list doesn’t get let inside.
You need to be on your side
I haven’t entirely arrived yet, and I’m ok with that because I know I’m on a journey.
But more than anyone else, you need to be able to have your back.
No-one really knows your true intentions and character more than you do. You know the substance of your inner-most thoughts, so it’s you that needs to defend them.
When it comes to who you are as a person, you need to love who you are.
You love who you love. You, yourself needs to be on board with that.
You love to do — what you love to do.
Your limitations are what they are. And that’s ok.
When everyone else fails to get it, you need to be able to get it for yourself.
I’ve learned to be on my own side the majority of the time, and thats taken a lot of time and effort.
But the journey to 100% is worth taking because I’m never at my lowest than when I’m not on my side.
We’re worth being here.
Our work is worth sharing, we are worth loving.
If we aren’t hurting anyone else, who the hell are we to judge ourselves like we’re doing damage to other people?
If this article I’ve just written is terrible, I’ve merely wasted 5 minutes of someones life — I didn’t reach through the screen and stab them. It’s all about perspective and love.
That should be my new mantra —
“Boredom is sure as shit better than a stabbing.”
Keep things in perspective and work on being on your own side. It’s the journey I’m taking, and its the most important journey I’ve ever been on.