⋆。゚☁︎。⋆。 ゚☾ ゚。⋆

the thing about criticism

When I look around me and the people directly in my life, I can see that for as long as I can think, I have been receiving a lot more, and more in-depth, criticism than many people around me. It used to make me sad and feel like I can never be good enough, especially when the wishes for improvement were contradicting; why me, while the others get so little in comparison? How can I become great for everybody at the same time? It felt like people were always harder on me than on the others; parents, teachers, friends, coworkers, strangers. That feeling is still something I have to actively disarm. I think this is normal for children who did not have understanding, maybe even very perfectionist parents who could always find a fault in anything and were not tactful, or not keeping a good balance between criticism and positive feedback.

I have noticed though, that the presence of criticism is actually good, even if it doesn't feel good, and I try to remind myself of that often.

For example, I see people around me who do not do great work; others are disappointed in them and their many mistakes or characteristics that harm the goal. They've been written off as a loss; feedback seems to have been useless and the person did not improve after repeated interventions, or even doubled down stubbornly. The others don't want to waste their time and breath on someone like that. So they leave that person alone and don't try to teach or correct them anymore with valid criticism. They tell others "Oh don't bother, they're always like this."

Similarly, there are people who fly off the handle with every little criticism. They get angry, attack others personally, hold grudges and become passive aggressive. People quickly stop giving them negative feedback too. Who wants to trigger such an outburst and deal with the fallout? No one, at least not if it can be avoided and isn't something important that has to be said at all costs. This angry person will not hear criticism anymore as well.

Strongly connected to that is the type of person to immediately be severely crushed by any valid criticism, no matter how nicely it is said. They take it very personally, and you see something in them break. They leave the conversation with hanging shoulders, maybe even crying. This also, like the above situations, introduces an environment that isn't great for giving negative feedback. You don't wanna hurt this person, and they make it very hard not to do that. It is almost unavoidable. You start to choose very carefully what to bring up, if at all, and may compensate by exaggerating the positive. This person is also not receiving the criticism they might need or deserve, maybe none at all.

Then there's the type of person that has their potential all maxed out. They're doing a solid job, they're average, and while there is technically room for improvement, you know this person is at their personal limit. When I think of this, I think of the art skills of several people (but it fits to a variety of other things, too); some have a bit more talent and room for skill, others are trying their best but it may never look a certain way. You fit your criticism to what you think makes sense to tell them, and there is no sense in telling people very high level, sophisticated criticism to improve x and y if you can see obviously that this is how good it is gonna get, and that this is enough. They have maxed out, there is no more growth to achieve, and setting the bar too high is doing them a disservice. You have to manage your expectations realistically, after all.

Seeing all that makes it clear to me that when people give you a lot of constructive criticism, it doesn't mean you are hopelessly wrong all the time; instead, there is hope. They haven't given up on you yet, they haven't written you off. They believe you can still change and become better. They may have a vision for you and see your potential. They trust you to take it the right way, and they feel safe enough to say it. And that's worth a lot! Sometimes it feels unfair, but when I think about it, would I like to be like the ones above? Have people treat me like that or say that stuff about me? Absolutely not. No one wants to be like them; minus the one who has maxed out their potential, this happens to all of us in different areas. But the price for not being like the others above is receiving more negative feedback than they do.

I have had people tell me that they've been hard on me or went tough love on me because on the outside, I seem pretty stoic, unmoved, very controlled and organized. Some others said I look like I "have it all together" and barely or never make mistakes. That I looked like someone who could take very elaborate criticism easily since I was already operating on a high level and they assumed I must barely hear anything negative about anything I do or say. They had assumed that the worse you are, the more negative feedback you get, and the better you become, the less you're subject to negative feedback. And if they perceived me as really good at it, they thought criticism would be a rare occasion, and this also influenced how they wielded it.

Some also openly said that since I seemed competent to them or they were impressed by one thing, it increased their standards for me a lot compared to others. This happened especially at school and when I was still a trainee.

Of course, there is the possibility of people voicing a lot of negative feedback out of jealousy or to elevate themselves, but I like to assume that is a minority. Either way, you cannot avoid that either. There have been a handful of people in my past who admitted I made them insecure sometimes simply by my presence or what I said and how I said it, or how I did what I do. There were people in art class at school looking over and becoming discouraged because they compared theirs to mine (and I did the same with people who were better than me :P), there were people who did not wanna partake in discussions anymore because they felt they would sound stupid in comparison (when they didn't sound like that at all!), among other things. And I've been on the receiving end of criticism that seemed rather personal because of this. I think there is only so much you can take of a person making you feel insecure until you instinctively shit on all their stuff and think it's overrated and easy - saying you could do that too, you just choose not to. You then enjoy picking their stuff apart because you want to level the field of what you perceive as too much positive attention or praise.

I am currently going through something similar at work where an older coworker is intimidated and is trying to micromanage me; note, they aren't my supervisor, and we do the exact same work. She doesn't do this with anyone else in the team. She tries very hard to know what I am doing at all times, how fast I am progressing with work tasks, and tries catch me in supposed lies, contradictions or mistakes. She never brings stuff up to me directly, just immediately via mail and CC with the team and boss, attempting to get me in trouble or as a pressure to explain something. I don't let myself be stressed out by this and so far, it has always backfired, because there is nothing to her claims and attempts. Instead of exposing me or finding something bad about my work, it has always elevated me further in the eyes of others and made her seem questionable.

My boss was impressed with my levelheaded reply and explanations, agreed with me, and said she would have answered in a mean way if she was in my position; and she said she would seek a word with that coworker because her tone was inappropriate. I understand where the coworker comes from though, because she is quite a bit older, slower, bad with tech (and we work a lot with that), and has trouble with a lot of mistakes during her work. The mistakes aren't bad and easily fixed, but it does add stress and embarrassment for her. I am young, tech savy, and work quickly and this results in far less mistakes and a better work output. She relies a lot on calling me and asking me how to fix something, and I think it puts her in a bad position of feeling like she relies on a child to tell her how to do things. I think so especially since she recently put a literal middle schooler's math exam into my internal office post box, saying she found it near the printer and had assumed it was mine because I study at university. And literally, it said middle school on it, 7th grade, and was math. I study law. It was very obviously the handwriting and exam that children would have, and she immediately associated me with that. It almost seemed like a staged microaggression to me, but even if it was a genuine mistake, it did confirm to me how she sees me.

Anyway, this is what I always try to remember when I get criticism from others. I think instead of worrying when it comes, I should be worried when it stops coming.

𓇽 ° . ༻ 𓈒 ꒪ ๋ ° .𓏲⠀ ๋࣭ ♡ ͘ ࣭⠀⸰ ⋆ ֗ ִ ᨒ .⋆゚. ͘ ࣭⠀⸰ ♡ 𓂂 ◌ 𓇽 ° . ๋ 𓂂 ⠀✼ 𓇽