October 09 2013

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How do I process criticism and praise? When did I go from a person who crumbled under critique, to a person capable of filtering the constructive from the deconstructive? This is, an ongoing process but during my lifetime I have learned some important lessons that have helped engender my increasingly neutral reception of external analysis.

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The first and I believe most crucial lesson is this. People process their negative emotions differently. Some people turn their pain inward, while others lash out. In vilifying the individual who lashes out we give them power. While their behavior may be reprehensible and even require penalty they are human beings. As human beings they suffer. Most of their insults, though seemingly directed at others, are in actuality directed at themselves. They don’t give a damn about how much you weigh. The truth of the matter is that they are insecure about their own bodies. Though this type of extrovert can appear confident that is not the case. A truly confident person does not unjustly and destructively critique others. So when someone is screaming at me, I ask myself. Who are they really talking to? Chances are it isn’t me. I am sure you can recall a time when you were pissed off with yourself or someone else and snapped at an innocent bystander. So even if it doesn’t make sense, we all know it happens. I do not pity individuals in this situation because we’re in the same boat! I say some truly horrific things to myself. Make no mistake I am a bully. That said I am in no way condoning staying in an unhealthy or dangerous relationship. I am just saying compassion is a great harmonizer.  I am also not suggesting that people will never get angry with you. If you have done something wrong you have to take responsibility but right now I am talking about strictly destructive criticism. The type that is often contradictory, hypocritical, and even outright absurd.

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I do not retaliate with insults as this perpetuates the cycle of violence.

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If I find myself in an unhealthy and/or dangerous relationship and my efforts toward reconciliation and reparation have failed I end the relationship. When I ended the relationship with my father I was very clear about my terms if he wanted to have a relationship in the future. Teach others how you want to be treated. Communicate your needs. Respect. Respect. Respect.

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I remind myself that not everyone will resonate/connect with my work. There is no such thing as shallow poetry just a different means of articulating a shared human condition. We all have poems we resonate with and writers for whom we feel inexplicably connected. My poetry does not have universal appeal and in fact no poem can be the best as “best” is completely subjective. Conversely no poem can be the “worst”. I write for the joy of writing. I do not write so an audience can confirm my existence or establish within me a sense of purpose or worth. To give that kind of power to an audience is abusive and disrespectful to yourself and to your followers. I find purpose in my endeavors in the challenges that I embrace. My sense of worth comes from my perceived effort. Did I exhaust my ingenuity? Did I give of myself? Did I write from the heart? Only I can determine that. You are responsible for your happiness remember that.

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As I tell my daughter she is important, she is special and there is no else in the world like her. Why on earth would give up the gift of your authenticity? When authenticity is where all potential and talent lie? You cannot experience true love through proxy. You cannot experience genuine friendship through proxy. You cannot experience success through proxy. So long as there is an alter ego present there is doubt and it is that doubt that causes us to seek constant approval from other people. My main goal is to be myself. Part of dealing with feedback is being grounded and having a firm grasp of who you are and what you want from life. If you don’t know yourself then feedback can warp you. The closer you are to self-acceptance the less criticism and praise will impact your self-esteem.

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I am in competition but only with myself. I have a clear understanding of my goals, at least as far as my poetry is concerned. In yoga there is expression my teacher used to say your mat, your practice. No one experiences the world in the same way, we all have a unique set of attributes and abilities. When I do yoga I focus on my body, on what it needs, I push myself to my edge. The woman beside me might be a gymnast but I can’t practice inside of her body. Luckily I was blessed with a working body of my own. Same thing with writing I have been blessed with a heart, soul, and intellect. I can’t write as you and as selfish as this might sound I really can’t write for you. I can write and share it with you, I can even write about you, but when I write it starts with me it comes from me, it is me. No matter the lengths I’ve gone to avoid myself in the past, the truth is that, my relationship with myself isn’t one I can escape. So I have chosen to look at myself with an open and curious heart. I am working on the gentle and compassionate aspects of self-reflection and I am happy to say I have made some headway. It can be tricky to accept yourself without the luxury of excuses. I am trying not to fall into the habit of justification but that is a talk for another day.

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10 responses

  1. This is so powerful!! Wonderful and I think you are teaching your daughter so well. We do need inner strength. You know I can speak personally as well about toxic and abusive relationships.
    I do love your writing and I think beyond just the sheer talent you exude, it is I can feel it is genuine. It does come from a place of here I am….I speak to just get it out. If others can relate, that is wonderful. If they do not like, well they can write their own words. 🙂

    • You are so sweet Anja thank you for your beautiful words =) Exactly they can write their own words or express themselves in whatever art form they prefer. For Sam it is wood-working, photography, and coding. He is really good at coding and each person has a very unique way of coding believe it or not. There are so many ways to express yourself, it makes me a little sad to see that so much recreation time is going to video games, surfing the web, and television and that we are spending less and less time nurturing our gifts

      • I agree 100%. I know my son was going through some hard times, I went out and bought him a journal. I said use it however you want but just use it.

      • I think so too haha we are working out and she has just started school but like me she is easily frustrated and quite impatient. She tells us her stories, she has quite a quirky sense of humor. She is always telling jokes. She draws the most adorable pictures of Sam she cracks me up

      • She actually does make little movies with our camera and she takes a lot of pictures as well, sometimes she tries to interview us for her films. “What’s your favorite color mommy” she’s so cute

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