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Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Microstory 943: Constructive Criticism

As I told my therapist a couple years ago, I’ve always been a lot better at taking criticism than praise. Accolades always make me uncomfortable, because I don’t know how to respond. Do I say thank you? Okay, I do that, but then they just keep going, I guess because I’ve just validated their insight, and they don’t think they can stop. So, do I say thank you again? I make good use of a thesaurus for writing, because I don’t like repeating myself too much, as you can see with praise and accolades. I tire of affirming their compliments so quickly, and assume they’re secretly resentful of me for not somehow magically absolving them of their continued admiration, and allowing them to move on without throwing me a friggin parade. While I understand that most people need a lot of validation for the things they do, I need very little. I really just need you to tell me that it was right, so I can lock that behavior into my procedural memory, and go on to the next challenge. What I truly thirst for is criticism, but as you may have guessed from the title, only the constructive kind. I don’t like being berated or insulted any more than anyone else, but I do need to hear what I did wrong, so I can correct the behavior, and lock it out of my procedural memory. Because if you say nothing, then I’m liable to do it the same way again. I personally enjoying finding efficiencies, and perfecting a craft, if given the chance, so I won’t necessarily be stuck there, but if I have too little motivation, then I will. One of my favorite lyrics from the band, Muse comes at the end of their song Hoodoo. It goes, I’ve had recurring nightmares // that I was loved for who I am // and missed the opportunity // to be a better man. I think it speaks for itself quite nicely.

The lack of constructive criticism is one of my biggest pet peeves, because I’ve struggled so much with it my whole life. I will be a part of something for an extended period of time, and then at some point after it’s over, I hear all this garbage about how poorly I did. If true, these people had every opportunity to help me before, but they chose not to, for whatever reason. Perhaps they just like complaining about other people, and attacking them. Or maybe they’re so out of touch with reality, that they don’t even recognize the disconnect. Or—and this is the most likely explanation since I’m so introspective, and don’t generally have the confidence to trust my own past actions—they’re just lying about the whole thing. If this is the real truth, maybe they’re upset I didn’t need their help as much as they thought I would, or they don’t like me for some other reason, and feel the need to justify their hostility. Whatever the case, nothing they’ve done has helped whatever it was we were trying to do, now there’s a chance I didn’t help it either, and I certainly can’t grow and learn much from my experiences. Most of my teachers chose deliberately to not use red pens when grading assignments, because of the negative connotation, but I’ve always loved seeing all that red. It illustrates a clear distinction between what I thought was right, and what’s actually right. If I cannot pick on on that difference—be it for a piece of writing, or more abstractly for any other scenario—then nothing gets better. The world is as crappy as it is today, because too many people have been indoctrinated to believe that we have no room for improvement. I don’t believe that, and if you don’t either, then come the next two elections...#votethemout.

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