As you may have noticed, I don’t take kindly to criticism. In most cases I think it’s absolutely unnecessary and usually the only reason for criticizing someone is to make them feel bad, or to make them question their thoughts or feelings because they don’t match with our own.
My biological Dad started criticizing me when I was just a toddler. Nothing I did was right, despite the fact I was beautiful, exceptionally clever and in most respects the model child. At the age of 21 I decided that if your own Dad can’t see the wonderfulness that is you he doesn’t need to be in your life and my biological Dad is no longer in mine.
I was bullied mercilessly at school by girls 3-4 years older than me. I still can’t get my head round bullying behaviour. Do these people have so little going on in their own lives they have to focus intently, every waking second, on someone else’s? I was called every name under the sun on a daily basis for years, Lesbian being a favourite despite the fact I dated the same boy all the way through high school. You have to nurture your own self-belief that you are a good person, despite what other people say. This has stood me in good stead for being a Blogger, where you open yourself to some truly vile, angry individuals and those who lack social skills and appear to have no idea how to interact respectfully with others.
Of course, many kids who have difficult childhoods repeat learned patterns of behaviour in adulthood and I married a clone of my Dad. My husband was a manipulative, psychologically damaging bully who criticized me endlessly – how I dressed, how I spoke, my skills as a wife and homemaker. Luckily for me, and I’m not entirely sure how I managed it, I hung on to the little self belief I had and realized I deserved a better life. So I divorced him.
When I developed M.E. I faced a different kind of criticism. Every medic I’ve ever seen, at some point or another, has implied (or outright told me) that my symptoms were psychological and I was simply afraid of life/exercise/being well. At one point I even started to believe them, despite the fact I tried everything to get better and desperately wanted my life back. I turned my back on the medical profession in about year six of being sick – I didn’t need their kind of “help”.
There are various types of criticism of course. When I put my photographs online I expect some form of critique, but I expect it to be polite and constructive. I don’t expect someone to say “what have you done?! There is no soul in that picture!” which is a recent comment from someone on one of my portraits. That kind of comment dents a person’s confidence and makes them question their abilities, which isn’t going to make them better at their craft. My best mate is my toughest critic when it comes to my photos, but her comments say things like “not sure the lighting is right in the top right hand corner, can you maybe darken it down a bit?”, critique which does not damage my self-belief and is actually useful.
Criticizing someone’s appearance is never OK with me, which is why I was so offended by my neighbour recently saying I looked ancient and miserable in a self portrait I’d done. When you reach your fiftieth year and are menopausal you don’t need to be told that you looked better 5 years ago because you already know this. We can’t do anything about our genes, the aging process, our height, our skin colour, the shape of our ears or any of our other physical attributes, so criticism of our physical appearance is never justified and the intention can only ever be to hurt or belittle.
When someone leaves a comment on my blog which starts with “you are wrong……” I don’t even read it. If I’ve written a factual piece (which is rare, my blog is about sharing my life experiences) then politely pointing out I’ve made a mistake is fine. But telling me my views are wrong isn’t. What they’re actually saying is “I have a different view point to you and my view is the right view dammit!” which I find intensely arrogant. It echos with my husband’s constant diatribe of “shut the fuck up, what do you know anyway?!” When I can be bothered to question these people on their views they can never back them up with hard evidence. I’ve had loads of people comment that my ‘low histamine’ diet is a joke, but when I ask them to point me to the research on which they base their low histamine diet there is always a deafening silence…….because I know that this information doesn’t exist and all the low histamine information online is based purely on guesswork. The same goes for disagreeing with someone’s political views, or parenting skills just because they don’t match yours – after all, you are right goddammit and they are wrong!
There are times when criticism is both needed and justified. It’s absolutely right to question President Trump’s views on women, ethnic minorities and immigration because they are harmful and I’m intensely proud of those Americans who are standing up for their beliefs. I personally, however, have much less time for the Brits who whinged endlessly about Brexit purely because they had an opposing view to the majority in the referendum, and the MPs who are threatening not to sanction the triggering of Article 50 should be sacked – we live in a democracy not an autocracy (thank God).
When I was younger I was a people pleaser. I wanted everyone to like me and I took everyone’s views of me on board, as many young women do. It was intensely damaging and decimated my confidence and self esteem. I no longer entertain criticism unless I’ve a) asked for it and b) it is constructive. If the price I pay for self belief is that not as many people like me I can live with that.