In his article, Ridicule is a Bad Investment, Drew Chial makes some great points. In response, I would like to make a few of my own.
“Can’t nobody make you be somebody you don’t wanna be.” After listening to eight and six year old sisters argue for three hours, then watching them get fighting mad, I separate my daughters and they immediately launch into two tirades as to who started it and whose fault it was.
“She made me…” one little plaintive voice whines, even as the other child starts with the same excuse.
“Stop right there,” I say. “Can’t nobody make you do something you don’t want to do.”
Turn the page on the same story, I walk into the bathroom to find the walls covered in lipstick hand prints. I am not joking, and I am not exaggerating. Amidst a chorus of “She made me!” and “I did not!” my children heard a single word, uttered quietly from me, “Enough,” which quickly got their full attention. They got another of my standard responses that I felt was adequate to the situation.
I went on a tirade of my own, “That will never be a good enough excuse, not for you or anyone else, and I’ll tell you why. You are responsible for your own actions. You may say, ‘She made me do it,’ but you’ll suffer the consequences of your actions regardless of the reasons behind them.”
If you read Drew’s Ridicule is a Bad Investment, and I sincerely hope you did, you may be wondering where I’m going with this. Stay with me, I’ll try to be brief.
Why do critics criticize? Because they are paid to? No, that can’t be it. Critics are inside each of us and all around us. Random people just like you or me, albeit not as kind as we are, start blogs for the express purpose of criticizing others. As Drew said, each of them is entitled to his or her opinion. I believe most of them degrade others to make themselves feel better or important, to validate their own existence or purpose, because they know of no other way to do so. For those, I feel pity. They will probably never know the joy that can be felt by helping someone for no reason other than to watch them rise.
Critics will continue to be critics. The world will never lack people who are quick to judge, then promptly slam anyone or anything they deem unworthy or lesser. The only thing each of us can control is how we respond to criticism. You know who you are, and who you want to be. Don’t let anyone change that. People close to you, family and friends love you, but the critics hate you. “Why?” you may ask.
“Does it matter?” will almost always be my response. Read the negative reviews, if you must, then move on. Don’t waste time there. They have nothing on you, that’s why they put you down. They see someone who is better than them in some way, and feel the need to defeat that person to take their rank. Life is not a video game or an arena, though it may often feel like it. They can say your work is shit, and keep saying it until they’re blue in the face. Their opinion doesn’t magically turn your work into shit. Once again, I agree with Drew; A person’s opinion, a scathing review, should not be seen as fact.
Ultimately, most people who fail to offer constructive criticism are bullies. You would think that men and women would have outgrown such childish antics, but any adult on the receiving end can tell you that it’s not so. The most important thing you can do with harsh criticism, especially when there is nothing to learn from it, is not let it change you. Write it down on a sheet of paper, word for word, then crumple it up and toss it. Even better, burn it.
I have very few friends, but the ones I do have support me in everything I do. When they don’t understand, they simply smile and tell me how proud they are of even my smallest accomplishment. Having one person like that is better than having the respect of every paid critic in the world. I am fortunate enough to have a few.
I may not be popular, I’m certainly not famous. Critics don’t know who I am, and I will probably never be critically acclaimed. That’s okay. Criticize me if you must, but know that your words are wasted on me. I am who I want to be, not who you want me to be. More importantly, most importantly, I am loved, just as I am.