In the last few weeks I have taken a step back to do some soul searching about my writing, this page, and how I wish to use it as a tool for self-expression. I have been listening to others who are close to me, as well as to those who are experienced authors and/or journalists who have faced criticism for their work and words.
Here’s the thing: When I’m wrong, I will admit to it and attempt to correct myself and convey my apologies. Note that I did not say “if” I’m wrong, I said “when” I’m wrong. Being human, I am wrong more often than I would like to admit. So, when someone I love is hurt by my words here, in my mode of self-expression and self-exploration, in my attempt to understand the world and the people around me and to understand myself in relation to it and to them, I want to make it right and tell them, “I’m sorry.”
What I’m sorry for is hurting anyone, unwittingly or on purpose. I’ve expressed my apologies to specific people. However, for the record, I want all of you who read my posts and blogs and stories to know I’m sorry if I hurt you or made you uncomfortable. I realize my work is not everyone’s cup of tea, and though it’s been hard to come to terms with some of the criticism, that is okay. Part of being a writer or someone who expresses any kind of opinion in a public forum such as this Facebook page or on Facebook itself or in a blog on a website, in books or magazines or on television or radio, is that there will forever be people who disagree with what is said or written.
I do not agree with everything I see on social media or what is written on some of the blogs, pages, magazines, books, or that is said on television or on the radio. I have an eclectic and diverse group of friends on Facebook, and in my life, all of whom have varying points of view, beliefs, and just as many ways to express them. Just because I don’t like or agree with what I read, it does not mean I have to shun or ban them from my life by unfriending them, blocking them, or avoiding interaction with them altogether. It’s like they say, “Take what you like and leave the rest.”
Now, a personal attack is altogether different. A difference of opinion is one thing. Verbally chastising, mocking, attacking and brow-beating is another.
This is where I have to draw the line for my own sanity and self-protection. When someone says something I don’t necessarily agree with I can take it for what it is and, sometimes, even learn from their point of view. In fact, I have learned MORE from those with whom I did not agree with than I have from those with whom I have similar thoughts, feelings and opinions.
However, when someone singles me out and offers hateful remarks about my writing, posts, opinions or when another cuts me off because they don’t like the way I stood up for myself to those verbal barbs, then I have to assume that those individuals do not wish to be open-minded enough to hear or read what I have to say without bashing me or turning their backs on me. Furthermore, I must reasonably assume that those individuals do not care about me as much as I thought they did. Coming to this realization is sometimes quite painful, especially when I believed my relationship with someone was reciprocal, and they cared about me as much as I cared about them.
I suppose the core values I have gleaned from the last few months and the painful experiences I’ve had with some family and friends and how I express myself is this:
- It’s okay to be me.
- It’s okay to be different from everyone else.
- It’s okay to disagree with others and for them to disagree with me.
- It’s okay when others don’t want to read what I write and vice versa.
- It’s okay if I lose a person (or persons) from my life whose negative opinion of my words becomes their negative opinion about me as a person, and not just as a person who writes something with which they disagree.
- It’s okay for me to disallow any toxic or personal attacks leveled at me—by anyone, at any time. It’s okay for others to do the same for themselves as well.
What is NOT okay is what I have been doing, and that is I have been angry and hurt—with those who hurt me—but most of all, with myself. I have lashed out. I have withdrawn. I have quit writing and expressing myself. I have stopped being me.
This is not acceptable.
Anthony Hopkins said, “My philosophy is: It’s none of my business what people say of me and think of me. I am what I am and I do what I do. I expect nothing and accept everything. And it makes life so much easier.”
In order to do what I am meant to do, I must follow this sage conclusion as well. I do not have to forfeit who I am, what I believe, how I feel, or what I think just because others disagree, at the very least, and even hate me in the most extreme of cases.
I do not have to buy into their opinion of me, and likewise, they do not have to accept my opinions either.
My purpose is to write. I am a writer. I have to be fearless and do it even when others wish to censor me. I have to be willing to write even when I am afraid to be hurt again, which in turn leads to a destructive process where I am censoring myself because of the criticism I receive.
I mistakenly thought that I needed to be heard by others. Though it is satisfying when I realize my words have touched someone in a positive way and they give me this feedback, what I now understand is that I need most to be heard by…me. I need to love what I have to say. I need to say it.
Now that I have tasted the sweetness of self-actualization, of knowing my purpose, by coming out of my cocoon and transforming into a butterfly, I must not clip my wings or allow anyone else to do so. I do not have to attack anyone or ridicule them, either. I can simply be me and let them go.
It sounds easy. Yet, it is in truth, quite difficult. But there is no turning back now.
Rachel Platten sings it best in her song, Fight Song:
“And all those things I didn’t say,
Wrecking balls inside my brain
I will scream them loud tonight
Can you hear my voice this time?”
July 27, 2015