Saturday, February 13, 2010

Criticism and Caring

Can't believe it's Saturday again and what a week it has been in this particular neck of the woods. The wonderful thing about blogging is that it can really generate lots of feeling and discussion on all sorts of topics.

The issue of "criticism" came up a number of times and I thought it worthwhile to blog more about the subject. Here's an excerpt from about two forms of criticism.

Constructive Feedback

So you're working on your novel and you want people to tell you how great it is, and give you ideas to make it even greater. You might pass some copies to your friends or post it somewhere on the internet, and ask for feedback.

A lot of the time people misunderstand and tell you what's wrong with your work and give you suggestions to improve it. Seriously, how is that supposed to help? I guess people are just jerks sometimes.

Seriously, though, you will get all kinds of responses, from helpful people who have good suggestions to well-meaning people with bad suggestions to assholes who put you down but do not have any suggestions. Since you can't seal yourself like a hermit and avoid all criticism, you are just going to have to learn to sift and filter all this and smile politely at everyone, since you did ask for it.

3. Personal Criticism

Sometimes people will criticize you for very personal things, like the fact you are 400 pounds, or that your mother sleeps around with many men. This is actually worse on the internet than face-to-face, which is puzzling because while internet anonymity means people feel freer to say these things, internet anonymity also means that those on the receiving end must know their accuser is pulling this all out of their ass since all they can see is a username and some words.

Nevertheless, people get very angry about being told that they are fat, or smelly, or have sex with animals, by an accuser who can't see or smell them and had no way of seeing what happened with that goat behind closed doors. (They were just talking.) If these things constantly upset you, it might be worth exploring why.

The author at makes an excellent point that you need to learn to sift and filter all of this. Some of us may be frightened of getting run over by a bus or savaged by sharks, but many of us are even bigger wusses when it comes to handling criticism. I believe that if you choose to make your presence public on the Internet whether by blogging or Facebooking or Twittering, then you need to be aware that criticism is a possibility. We need to accept we're all "fair game".

I don't know anyone who enjoys being criticized. It's a wonderful feeling to get positive affirmations for what you do and how you live. However, when someone drops a big "C" bomb on you (btw, that's criticism, not something else!), you can feel hurt, confused and rather aggrieved. In reality though, it's a gift that enables you to self evaluate, filter and integrate if need be. I equate criticism with caring - some of the most defining moments in my life have come as a result of being criticized - yes, it has hurt but knowing that somebody cared enough to give you that gift can propel you forward. Criticism can strip us back to our soul, and encourage humility which in turn leads to personal growth.

In the realms of Group Fitness, any coach wanting to improve undergoes a filming and assessment process. Everything gets broken down and critical feedback given where required. As a GFI, you want constructive feedback, but at the same time it's a little scary. However, the process I've gone through for RPM has taught me to be less fearful of criticism and hence I feel that I've become more open in terms of my own personal growth. I've also learned how hard it can be for the assessor to be critical. I've had a few discussions with my mentor about how some people can't handle the truth. It's difficult for him as well, having put the time in to assess and give the feedback in the first place.

The other interesting thing I saw this week was a post with a defence of eating organically - maybe prompted by this post and perhaps the fun I poked at those who wipe their butts with organic toilet paper. Disclaimer - the toilet paper was all in good fun.... My opinion of the whole organic debate that it would be fantastic if animal husbandry and general farming practice could swing towards more organic production. I completely understand why many people choose to eat organic food and adopt a healthy lifestyle. No criticism there from me (though I do think organic toilet paper may be taking things too far lol!) If I can afford it, I eat organic produce too, purchased at our local markets. However, being able to eat exclusively organic foods is out of the reach of most Australian families. From what I've read, some farming practices that produce organic foods are way more labour intensive than other ways. I don't know whether this is the case for all organic produce but it all comes down to economic viability for many producers at the end of the day.

If we are to be passionate about giving Australians more choice in the foods that they buy by being able to reduce the cost of production of organic products, we need to start at the grassroots level. I don't claim to have any expertise in this area, but small and sustainable changes to practice may just be the way to go.

In the meanwhile, there are simple ways to remove pesticide residue from produce (washing before using is an excellent start) and to avoid preservatives (more fruit and veg, less processed stuff). Heck, there's even a good argument for the responsible use of animal protein which is well illustrated by our Indigenous people and American Indians - if an animal was killed, the entire carcass would find a use - no leftovers.. which meant animal protein was consumed sparingly. Of course there are different theories on this - I found my lone sociology subject to be very interesting!


Anonymous said...

There is an easier way to get organic produce - grow it ourselves. The only chink to this is the rain fall. We don't have a rain tank yet, but make do with what water we can salvage. Carrots, lettuce, pumpkin, zucchini etc can all be grown easily and costs less than a few bucks.

Criticism is something we tend to not handle well. Probably because it wasn't handed out well when we were kids. I, too, hae come to see it is a cheap form of learning. I learn more from it than I learned formally at uni! No kidding! And i don't have a HECS debt attached to it. Sure, there are a few restless nights, but my HECS debt caused more than that. Shifting the way I view criticism has helped me to become a more rounded person. I agree, Liz, that it can be a gift of self growth and forward looking action.

LizN said...

Thanks Kate - I'll have to get some carrot growing tips - I have been woeful on all counts. We have a tank at our new place and have cordoned off a vegetable garden. Can't wait to get my hands dirty.

Thanks for the perspective on criticism xoxo