Self-Image: How to Get an Undentable One By Snatching Love (and Marriage Proposals!) From the Jaws of Critique
by Kelly Diels
Warning: this piece contains numerous very important Public Service Announcements and so may be Irritating and Pompous and Idealistic which is to be expected since the three usually go together.
Do you get weak-kneed, lily-livered and lock-jawed in the face of criticism? Or do you get belligerent? How do you handle criticism and the slings and arrows of outrageous, offensive people?
I am a fragile flower. My skin is thin and only barely and mostly unsuccessfully contains my pulpy emotions. There was a time where you could blink at me absentmindedly and I’d be wounded for days over the imagined slight. I have been known to (as recently as oh, two days ago) call my boyfriend in the middle of the night and demand sweet words because I’m feeling vulnerable. (Don’t you wish YOU were dating me???)
So, as you can imagine, criticism – well-intentioned, well-meaning, constructive, malicious or malignant – has never been my friend. I avoid Criticism like it is infectious and that is also how I handle her benign younger brother, Feedback.
Recently, I wrote a piece that then got taken apart, once (okay, twice) in comments and then in a response-piece on another blog. This is not terribly unusual or a great travesty and I shouldn’t take it personally.
When you publicly create anything, even something as inconsequential as a blog, you will have hundreds – or a handful – of people telling you you’re an idiot. Still, given my history of emotional hemophilia, it should have been safe to predict that when someone wrote weird/nasty/critical or just plain not-kissing-my-ass stuff about my writing that I would be destroyed. Distraught.
I know! I’m shocked too!
In fact, this surprising criticism/feedback/unwarranted hooey hasn’t made even the slightest dent in my wobbly, rickety, held-together-with-shoelaces-and-safety-pins-and-fake-bravado armour. My self image is intact. I am no longer a fragile flower. I am a rock. I am an island. I am Simon AND Garfunkel without the travesty that was their hair circa 1966.
Maybe this new bit of personal strength can be explained away by a ratio. That ratio is 1:39. Right now I receive one “I don’t love you, at all, or maybe only a little bit, so I think we should just be friends” for every thirty-nine “I’m calling the pope, you’re so holy-righteous-awesome that he needs to resign immediately and give you his job” comments.
And yes, in a related development, Sara Silverman is totally stealing my thunder.
Back to my ratio. Those numbers are hot but there’s more to this super sexy story that doesn’t get captured in that formula. For example, as a direct result of blogging for myself and other people I have received two marriage proposals. One man is gay and the other was sereptitiously insane so I hereby, publicly decline both offers [PSA #1] but as you can see the outpouring of love far exceeds the hate.
So it may well be that I’m not growing as a person and am still a fragile, external-praise reliant flower but validation is hogging all my airspace the nasties can’t land. I’m okay with that.
Is it the wisdom of the ancients?
Honestly, I took these general pieces about focus and letting go of cleverness far more personally than I did the criticism actually aimed at me, because those spoke to my actual worries and weaknesses.
And that’s because in most critical cases, it wasn’t really about me. One of the guys who wrote smack about me (and it was only half-hearted smack because he said nice things too) writes in his bio that that he’s not really a douche, he just plays one online.
A lot of us do.
So that’s PSA #2: sometimes criticism is warranted and useful and you can learn from it if your ego is in check. But sometimes criticism says more about the offerer than it does the subject. And so you should just let it slide like water off your ducky back.
Maybe that’s the key. Maybe thinking about the source and intention of the criticism allows us to laugh at -and yes, even enjoy – online douchery rather than react with a drunken flight on the wind beneath the wings of Grey Goose.
Because sometimes controversy is fun. We like being outraged. There’s actual scientific research documenting this fun fact, which brings me to PSA#3: The revolution will be kvetched.
About the author: Kelly Diels bakes cupcakes and rages against the machine which means she is a writer and a mama and basically a superhero. She totally wrote this bio herself.