Criticism isn’t always bad

We live in strange times; times when a man running for president of the United States doesn’t understand why there are no windows that open on airplanes.  I guess nothing should surprise me anymore. In these strange “me” centered times, one of the greatest losses is that of civility, instead we have morphed into this place where if you do anything that bothers “me”, you are bullying me and if you attempt to be critical of me, you are being mean. Funny thing is not all bugging is bullying and not all criticism is destructive.

When I started writing professionally almost a decade ago, it took some adjustment on my part, I would write a piece, submit it to my editor and sit back and wait for the pat on the back. Often times what I received was a piece returned to me with lots of red ink requiring that I rewrite the piece, part of that process included being asked clarifying questions and being given sometimes not so gentle suggestions on how a piece could be improved. Initially I was bummed, after all was I being told, I was a shit-ass writer? Nope, but I needed work. I have now worked with the same editor for a number of years and have learned to write with anticipation, the result is what I write for publication is often different than what I write as a blogger where there is no one asking the hard questions and providing criticism.

The reason I bring this up is that the longer I keep my toes in the blogging waters; I have noticed something, that frankly does separate the world of blogging from the world of writing for publication, and that is the role of criticism. Most bloggers and I have been guilty of it at times, are not too fond of criticism and frankly we need to be more open to it. Criticism doesn’t always feel good after all most of us would prefer the pat on the backs and the atta-girls, but the echo chamber often doesn’t allow us to grow either as writers or as people.

Despite my place on Babble’s list of “mom” bloggers, I am hardly one of the cool bloggers, my day job is my priority and the online world changes a bit too fast for this old bitch to stay up. Which is probably why until recently, I had no idea there were entire sites devoted to talking about bloggers and not always in the most favorable light. After hearing about one of these sites, I decided to go check it out. I have to be honest and say that while some of what these sites say is mean spirited, in many case there are nuggets of truth being dropped.

Criticism is not always a bad thing, several years ago my father in law sent my husband and I an email that hurt me on a very deep level. The type of hurt that temporarily had me wanting to have nothing to do with him ever again. He leveled some pretty serious criticism at us about how we were living and the impact on him. It took some time but eventually I got past the initial hurt and saw that as much as it hurt me to look deeply at our lives, he was right, in the end there was only one thing that he said that I just couldn’t get with. The result though has been making some changes about how we live and honestly re-working my relationship with money. I would like to think I may have come to this point on my own but chances are I wouldn’t have, not when everyone else around me was unwilling to tell the truth.

My experience is that whenever I hear criticism and that wall goes up, it is my ego getting in the way and frankly the ego is no one’s friend. Your ego wants you to fuck up, ignore it. Yet in a world where we can instantly connect to our “friends” and hear kind words that lack depth, our egos have landed in ego heaven which is why criticism is harder to swallow than ever before yet the inability to face truth in the long run does no one any good. I have been working more and more on telling my own ego to get to the back of the line since it’s in those moments when she goes to the back of the line, I can face my own truth more clearly, even the parts that frankly make me uncomfortable.

So yeah, while criticism never feels good, it can often serve a purpose and that’s in any area of life, I can’t speak for anyone else but I would like to think part of the continuous process of growing and living is to be the best me that I can be. That means occasionally realizing that criticism might be just what the doctor ordered.



24 thoughts on “Criticism isn’t always bad”

  1. at the risk of sounding like your cheering section, you make a very good point here.

    I kind of have the opposite problem because I’m always expecting the criticism (and of course, my background in journalism means I *expect* editorial input from someone)… so whether I’m cooking or working on my writing or pursuing anything, my biggest issue is feeling like something is done/finished, nothing more to polish off it to make it better. It’s so confusing to me when I encounter people who aren’t interested in critical feedback (which is not always positive), I used to think it was expected and have learned the hard way that it is often unwelcome unless it comes in the shape of “That is so amazing!”

  2. I absolutely agree with this. I learned this lesson, like you, from someone who cared about me and told me the truth about something that I didn’t want to know. In addition to reflecting on that particular issue, it also made me look at the people around me. Those that were okay with me doing what I was doing…they weren’t really okay with it. They just didn’t care enough about me to say something to me about it. I was messing up and they were cheering me on and justifying my behavior. I don’t need people like that in my world, and I’m not going to be that person for anyone, either.

  3. Of course you make a good point, and I’ve been the recipient of plenty of good, solid criticism in my life and my work. I never get upset, for instance, if I have to rewrite a piece for a client.

    But when that site you linked to writes about me, there’s nothing constructive about it, and the commenters have said horrible things about me, my body, my husband, and my daughter.


    Not acceptable. Sorry. If a friend says they are worried, suggests that I might need to make a change, I am quite capable of listening because they generally KNOW me. But a site like this knows a sliver of me and my life, makes extensive assumptions, and has actually done things that put bloggers lives at risk (such as listing home addresses). How on EARTH is that constructive?

    I like you a lot, but I have to disagree with you here.

    • Personally, I find bloggers who monetize mental illness and try to portray mental illness as something edgy and cool, who clearly don’t take their medications, don’t do behavioral modification, don’t live responsibly with their mental illness far more egregious than people sitting around bitching about annoying a blogger is.

      If you’re going to put yourself out there as the face of mental illness, you better act responsibly. But many bloggers don’t. They wallow in their illnesses and act like they’re in a melodrama. This sends a dangerous message to readers. This is what offends many, especially those of us with mental illnesses who still manage to live like adults, hold down jobs, and manage our illness.

      Bloggers who play like it’s cool to “be broken” further stigmatize those of us with real mental illness by looking like manipulative liars and they cast doubt on those who really are disabled by their illnesses. Shame on all of you.

      • I can not agree more…especially when the “Broken Bloggers” are using a Mental Illness BANDWAGON to promote themselves, thier blogs and their bank accounts. …Most of “that” post was near word for word ..a description of other peoples symptoms, including my own, available to her online via blogs and twitter.

    • Wait a second: bloggers often publish — in a world where real estate transactions are largely public — their real names, places of residence, and their child’s real name and likeness…and you say that it’s SOMEONE ELSE’S fault If people out there connect the dots?

    • NOBODY on GOMI has said negative things about your daughter and you KNOW that. Any parenting criticism has been leveled at YOUR serious lack of parenting skills. AND they are serious..Cecily…no matter how you spin it..6 years olds are not old enough to supervise themselves for hours while you sleep, tossing a laptop at her isn’t good enough. At last count ? Your kid still has no medical insurance…your self proclaimed financial and parental irresponsibility has in the last year endangered her HOME, changed her schools twice ? or more in the last 2 years…you blog about your hideous housekeeping, your own lack of financial accountability for the love of everything…OF course some people are going to comment on that, online AND IRL.
      You can’t put out these ridiculous *pity me* posts on your obvious 3 month cycle and not expect people to catch on to the blatant emotional manipulation going on with …”naked blogging” or what ever you are calling it now.
      Katie Granjou has leveled the same “GOMI is attacking the CHILDREN!!! nonsense…it rarely and I mean RARELY ever happens that a poster will say anything negative about kids..the ones who do are immediately pulled up by the rest of the GOMI community. In reference to your kid? Mostly expressions of dismay and sympathy towards her. You do not have to like the site, you don’t have to examine the critiques but you don’t get to lie about the community there to drum up more sympathy for your own GROWN self. You absolutely cannot handle the critique so…maybe ? understand THIS……GOMI is OUR space, either join in the convo or hit that little X up top..right ?

    • Facts? Whose life was endangered by GOMI. ??? The same spoikled priviledged Mommybloggers who “RISK THEIR LIVES TO GO TO BLOGHER? ” (your wording) This is why you have NO credibility….The sliver they know? THAT’S the *sliver* you put out there.

  4. On one hand, I think GOMI is 95% jerk offs and 5% nugget of truth. When they were attacking someone I knew to be completely insane, it was switched. But they do attack the kids of bloggers and that’s not cool, ever. All of sudden on my blog, I saw referral traffic from GOMI and I almost shit myself. There is no way in hell I would check what was being said. But someone else did and it was more of the Cecily Jr stuff, which we get a good laugh at. I really did not want to know as I do the whole “out of sight, out of mind.”

    I cringe every time I see “bullying” thrown around. Not everyone who disagrees, like you wrote, is a bully. Not everyone who says something mean is a bully. Perhaps they are being stern. Maybe someone is just mean and that doesn’t necessarily make one a bully. Blogger’s have incredibly thin skin and I think that’s because of the immediacy of the platform. I had a newspaper column where I wrote about being on WIC and being a young mother. When the column hit the internet, people were calling me a welfare queen and get a job. I know exactly what I am. Those people aren’t bullies, they’re not very intelligent. I didn’t sweat it for a minute.

    Great post as usual!

  5. Good point. Definitely a noticeable difference between working with an editor (and by “working,” you and I both mean actually working — as a professional writer) and writing for general consumption on the web. I find it’s the former that keeps me improving as a writer and the latter that lets me stretch and play around a bit just for fun.

  6. Cecily, Your daughter was mentioned, negatively, ONCE. The only time she ever comes up is in reference to your piss poor parenting skills. Your lack of self awareness, responsibility, or anything else resembling maturity is the snark gift that keeps on giving. People comment on the BS you post to make money from blogging.

    Negative things about your body? What’s positive about a woman who overeats and swills red bull like it’s going out of style and can’t cross the room without becoming winded? The only person who needs to take a hard look inside, is you.

  7. I think the difference that you’re missing is that while there may be nuggets of truth at GOMi, it’s all from anonymous people. How would you have felt about that letter from your Father in Law if it had been sent anonymously?

    • Much much MORE than nuggets of truth…and I and others DON’T post anonymously. Those who do? Are often OTHER Mommybloggers who don’t feel they can speak out under their own names without serious recriminations from the Babble Bozo’s Hitsquad. I can say what I want because I DO NOT get silenced for telling truths not BENDED truths either.

      • D R, you are one of the few people I’ve seen there with their real name. The VAST majority of the people commenting there are under aliases. How do you know they are other bloggers? I sincerely want to know.

        • Most via writing style, subject and or tone? And ALSO …DM’s etc..and I’m NOT outing anyone. Alice uses her real name, kids..what more do you need than a site owners moderation? Before y’all censor the beejeezuses out of people think on some(most) anons as people who don’t want to put up with a pile on of squawking indignation junkies yet WOULD like to discuss realities.
          Realities like…you call that AN OUTFIT? level discourse to How cruel can a mommy be that makes her kid sleep in a bathroom to..WAIT? They did what with how much money ??? The internet is publishing. Y’all get that right?
          Also? blah blah blah one bad apple etcetera…as far as nom de plunes are concerned. It has EVER been thus.

  8. This is a well thought out post on reacting to criticism and the benefit of thinking it thru .. It has ALWAYS been a factor in my life due to where my talents and ambition lie… I”d still be drawing stick figures if I refused all critique in my art classes. I’d still be putting out hideous Hallmarky writing if I hadn’t offered up my poetry for discussion in my writing classes. You’ve made some excellent points and I thank you for your intelligent and rational approach to this subject. Nicely done.

  9. I totally agree with you, especially after I’ve been called a bully for expressing my opinion. Unless you are threatened or terribly physically/mentally damaged, one’s opinion is not bullying. And yea, I read GOMI on occasion, I find it interesting.

    And while I don’t really agree with dragging kids into the discussions, but then again, it’s kind of a double edged sword, because bloggers put info about our lives out there freely, and as such, it’s open to criticism, analysis, and unfortunately, ridicule. (run on sentence much?)

    I know that everything I post/tweet is open to someone else’s interpretation, and why I might not like what they say about me or my words, they have the right to say it. The only way to achieve true privacy/freedom from criticism online is to unplug your computer.

  10. You say anonymous like it’s a bad thing.

    If you are getting paid, I don’t think it’s outlandish for readers to expect what the rest of us are expected to provide at work, such as integrity, reliability and truthfulness.

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