I don’t do well with criticism.
There, I said it. Sigh. Load off shoulders. I have all sorts of thoughts and reactions to this, and admitting it to others is hard, because A) it tells toxic people that if they want to get to me, all they need to do is criticize me, and B) I’m an adult. And as such, I’m supposed to be mature, and mature adults are able to process simple things like criticism, and not have it spiral into something insane.
But the truth is that I am not so able to process it, and it does spiral. Insanely. Not always, but often. Some criticism seems to roll off my back, but other things hit someplace deep and core in me and tells me that I’m a screwup, I’ve always been a screwup, I’ll always be a screwup. This is probably the number one core belief I have about me, and no amount of kudos or not screwing up seems to cover that ancient wound.
When it is touched — maybe I should say when it is speared — I tend to find myself in six-year-old mode. I want to take my toys and leave. I want to behave in ways that are passive aggressive, so that the person who has criticized me will be sorry when they see what they’ve driven me to, which is basically like drinking poison and expecting the other person to drop dead.
I should take a moment to say that one thing that is NOT helpful when it comes to this is telling me to “grow a pair” or “toughen up.” Yes. Duh. But what it sounds like to me is confirmation that I’m a fuckup. Which I really don’t need, especially when I’m in a sensitive state.
A person I love mentioned to me this morning that it probably makes sense to work on that, especially before The Porcupine of Truth comes out. Yes, this sounded a bit like “toughen up,” and that didn’t feel good, and I went to my child place. But she could not be more correct. While Openly Straight brought me more polarized reactions than the rather sweet and likable Out of the Pocket, I am assuming that Porcupine with explode those reactions. As soon as you talk about God and religion, even if your message is genuinely accepting and gentle, you’re sure to bring out all sorts of reactions. And there are other things in Porcupine that will surely (and already have) brought out extreme reactions in people.
So the prickly truth is that if I want to survive the reaction to Porcupine, I need to do some spiritual/emotional pushups. I need to get to a place where I know who I am, and I know that I’m an extremely fine human being with tons to offer the world, that I am a human with flaws and gifts and all that comes with being one of them humans.
Here are the steps I plan to take to improve my ability to hear the good and the bad. If you are a person who struggles with this and you want to do this along with me, by all means! Comment below any time you’re working on it, and I will be there, right by your side. We’ll do it together.
1) Affirmations. I know, they’re very Stuart Smalley, but I’ve had great success with them in the past and it’s time to do another one. I will take the five things I like least about myself, the five most painful weaknesses, and turn them into strengths. For instance, with “I am a fuckup,” I might say, “I do the right thing” or “I am very good at doing many things.” If it was “I am ugly,” I would say, “I am good looking.” I will take those five things and make them into a sentence, and I will write it out and tape it next to my bathroom mirror. Every morning and every evening, I will say that affirmation. For 30 days. In my experience, it feels silly for about five days and then it starts to feel really, really good.
2) Random acts of kindness. I have been doing this all year, but I will step it up now. Once a day, I do something for someone without them knowing. This is really something I do for me, because it makes me feel good. It makes me feel hopeful that I have put something out in the world that is positive, and that the waves of it will reach many people.
3) Pray. I know, some of you are not believers. Some of you are. That’s all fine. I don’t think you need to believe in God to pray. I think you simply need to believe in a power greater than yourself. Call it the universe. Call it nature. I have to ask that higher source for help because there are some things I simply cannot do on my own. This is one. I don’t know how it works, if it aligns my energy with something greater or if there is a God or if it simply sets my intention more clearly on a task. It simply works. I ask for help, and if you’re struggling with this, you may want to consider doing the same.
4) GET OFF SOCIAL MEDIA! This is less about criticism than it is about negativity. I have noticed these last six years on Facebook that I start my day by reading my Facebook page, and while I truly enjoy hearing what my friends are up to, most of the time my blood pressure is raised. One might say that there are good reasons to be upset, and I agree; there most certainly are. But it’s not a great way for me to focus my energy, as it takes me to a very negative and angry place. I have been an advocate and a leader and helper of LGBTQ people with my actions for 13 years, and now I am in a different place. I still believe in equality, and deeply so. But I also believe that other people can and will heed the call to lead, and at this moment I need to focus on getting myself well.
4a) That means Goodreads, too. Especially Goodreads. This is just preventative while I do the pushups. It does me no good to read praise if I react more strongly to the negative. Why should I ingest that stuff? Maybe when I’m stronger, but for now, I have to remember that no part of the “writer” job description insists that I take on people’s criticism. And just so it’s said: kids, don’t send authors notes about how they’ve disappointed or offended you. Talk about it with friends and counselors. It is not my job as an author to respond to your disappointment. That goes for adults, too. The age of social media may tell you that you now have access to everyone and everything, and that it’s fair game to share your misery with every author, but that’s a really transgressive act. If you want to share a kindness, how lovely. If you want to share your negativity, find a better avenue. This author doesn’t want to hear it, and I know I’m not alone.
5) Writing about it. I am going to spend 15 minutes every day writing about this particular core belief. I am hopeful that doing so will help take it out of the darkness and allow me to be more cognizant about it.
So that’s the plan for now. I may add to this, but this is how I’ll start.