If you cannot feel safe expressing yourself amongst those closest to you, then what do you do?
Everyone out there, despite one’s denial otherwise, are hurt or injured to some degree when openly disrespected and criticized for expressing opinion or feelings–or for one’s work or ideas–whether it be art or otherwise. Why do you think so many of us keep silent? Why do so many would-be writers or artists, who want to put themselves out there with their work, whether it be blogging, memoirs, fiction, or opinion, are so afraid of doing so? Why do we see workshops and webpages solely dedicated to overcoming the fear of criticism and rejection? Why do people isolate and keep interactions to a minimum, whether in person or on social media? Why do marriages, families and friendships suffer when one is chastised for his or her own stance on an issue?
Granted, there must be some sort of dialogue. We must be able to converse with one another despite our differing opinions. When it comes to art (as in life)–well, there will always be critics. Constructive criticism allows us to grow and become better–better people, artists, employees, spouses, sons, daughters, mothers, fathers and friends. It allows us to become better artists and citizens.
Some people have trouble separating the person from the idea, work of art, or opinion. Admit it, we are all guilty of doing this from time to time.
For instance, we may read what a friend posts about their political leanings and we automatically judge them for it, not only their opinion or idea, whether we agree or disagree with it. If we agree, then we see them as informed, intelligent and eloquent. However, when we disagree with their ideas, we automatically put them down as a person instead of simply agreeing to disagree with their opinion on the matter. We take their response to an event personally, instead of simply taking it for what it is–an observation and an agreement or disagreement–of said event.
The same goes for disagreements between friends and family in everyday life.
We have a propensity to respond to others with our preconceived ideas. We think others should act like we expect them to act. All the time. They should not say how they feel or what they think, especially if it makes us uncomfortable or we do not fully understand their position.
I am guilty of doing this, and most are or have been in the past. We disregard those we claim to care about because we don’t like it when they act or express themselves in a way outside our expectation or comfort zone.
And here is where the terms “criticism” and “constructive criticism” diverge.
Anything other than constructive criticism, which aims to improve, enlighten, uplift, or agree to disagree, is damaging.
We can choose our words and actions carefully and express our feelings or ideas or reactions from a constructive place, or we can spew them out from a place of anger, pain, or disdain for that person in general.
We can also choose how we respond to either one. We can take what we like and leave the rest, or we can let what others say bring us down, thereby, shutting us up and essentially creating a rift which may or may not be fixable.
Today I choose the former rather than the latter. I will not retreat to silence because others don’t know the difference between me as a person and my ideas or expression.