When you’ve always been a writer, people will often weigh in on your work, either you’ll discover you’re very good or not so good. The people who see your skills will encourage you to practice, evolve in your practice and ensure you know how great you’re doing. This has been my fortunate experience. Ever since I was 5 or 6, my mom and my teachers noticed I had a way with words. I was called upon to write poems, essays for school competitions and I even wrote a book when I was 8, although I don’t think it was that good, my family members totally loved it. It never occurred to me that my writing could be rejected, and my voice wouldn’t be what a publication was looking for. What did anyone mean by saying that my work is not what they are looking for at this time?
The first time it occurred to me to doubt myself, was at work and this woman who looked like me told me I did not write very well. Oh my goodness. I was mad at her, and then I believed her and I really stayed away from writing for a little while. The fragility of my ego and my self-esteem buckled at the tiniest critique. I was in shambles over an opinion, because I was accustomed to being praised without honest critique from most people. When you write in school, the critique is present and expected. Most of my teachers and professors were excellent, and they provided me with a balanced view of how to improve my work and focus on strengthening my voice. However, once I was out of school I just believed that my people loved anything I’d written, and I believed I was at the top of my writing game. WRONNNNNNNNNNNNNNG!!!!!!!!!
I am a much better human being, and a writer for learning to accept praise, and criticism with a grain of salt. Objective and unbiased critique of my work is welcomed because I gain knowledge and insight I would not have otherwise. However, when someone either loves my work or hates it, I have to do my best to allow myself to rise above the head games I can create for myself. I was reading some of the comments on FB under one of my articles published by Thought Catalog, and I was taken aback by the feedback. The people reading do not know me, but the feedback they had for the author, on that particular piece was brutal. I write about unpopular opinions sometimes, and I know people won’t agree and I don’t need agreement, but I am troubled when someone writes about me being a narcissist. There were also comments about being unforgiving, and not truly a spiritual person. I unraveled a little bit at first, but I knew better than to allow myself to be rocked by these comments. I did, however, stop to read the comments objectively. I read the positive, and the negative parts that truly stood out, and struck me as something to explore and I left the parts that did not resonate.
This post is as much about writing, as it is a metaphor for life. A child will not grow to be balanced, and well rounded if they are only given praise, the same way if they are always put down. We are the voices in the heads of little children until they are able to formulate their own theories about who they are, and finding their self-worth. I tell my daughter that the feedback she receives from me, her grandparents, her aunts, uncles, and peers are all subjective. People will say nice things, and sometimes she will hear downright cruel, mean, and nasty things but it is up to her how she reacts. I would not be doing her any favors if I were to fill her head with ideas of her perfection. An honest critique is not meant to undermine, but rather give someone an opportunity to take their personal development to the next level. I am far from perfect, and I am reminded every day when I know I could have handled a situation better, or chosen kinder words. This is not a reflection of my worth, just a clear example of my humanity. Whether I am praised or admonished, does not truly matter if I cannot find value in the lesson to improve myself.
I would like to believe that I am the absolute bomb.com, however, my awareness about myself, and my shortcomings are very present on my mind. Thanks to the double whammy of a Caribbean mother, who is also a merciless Virgo, I am more familiar with critique than praise. I was so aware of my shortcomings, that I did not even know I was worthy of praise. Praise still feels weird to me, moreover, I have a difficult time accepting compliments too. Everything in moderation. I love and embrace the duality of taking the positive with the negative, and still using discernment to see what applies and resonates. Every day is an opportunity to grow, evolve and expand, and I will fall short sometimes, and that is okay with me.
2 thoughts on “The Complexity Of Too Much Praise”
Writing is a process and if you’ve ever experienced what I did getting through my dissertation, it’ll make you feel like you should never write again. But, the silverlining is that I don’t ever have to write a single word for anyone but myself. And if my words move you in some way, then great and if not, then that’s OK too.
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