There are people who love to criticize. We see it daily – at school, at work, at home.
When you are young, especially, the criticizers can have a very deep impact on self-esteem. But even as an adult, criticism can sting.
In school, we had people who criticized and harassed about everything, especially the way we looked. When you are a kid, being teased can be very painful. The people who did the criticizing were called bullies.
Like many, I played sports when I was younger. Coaches, too, were often – but not always – big on criticism. I am not talking about useful feedback, but putting down players, especially ones they didn’t like. Not all coaches did this – only the bad ones.
When you are young, all criticism can feel like an attack, and much of it is. But not all of it. Hearing critical feedback can be a good thing. It can help you make needed changes, and it can also toughen your skin.
Most people need to have a tougher skin.
I learned very early in my career that criticism is a part of my profession. I wish I could say most of it is and has been constructive, but that is not the case. It is usually meant to belittle and wound. I had to learn early in my career to let that stuff slide off my back if I wanted to do my job. Even straight news stories made some people angry at me. Yes, it is weird. No, it doesn’t make any sense.
In general, as we age criticism lands in very different ways. It can hurt at home, but not as much in public. Frankly, I don’t care what strangers think. Why should I?
As we all know, this is the golden age of criticism. There are critics everywhere. People who know pretty much nothing about a topic act like they are specialists. This is rampant in our country.
Why? Well, it is easier these days to react in a public way instantly. Read something you don’t like on social media? Respond with a negative comment. Don’t like something you read in the paper or an online publication? Comment or shoot off an email.
This is so easy to do when you are not face to face. The much-derided keyboard warrior loves to go into battle when there is zero chance of an actual war. If they get return fire, they simply shut down the computer.
It is easy to be right when you never listen to someone explain how you are wrong.
I do know people who absolutely fold or get excessively angry when they are criticized, even if it is mild and deserved. People don’t like it.
Sure, it is not fun. But I have personally learned over the years that when I write a column, my job is not to change anyone’s mind. I am just writing what is on my mind. I am writing my opinion. It can evolve, and it can change – I am human.
But my job when I write a column is never to write what I think people want to hear. It should challenge at least some people. If not, I am not doing it right.
For that, I am often criticized. To be fair, I also get many positive and very kind responses. Or those who disagree but do so in a mature respectful way.
However it comes, I welcome it all. Criticism is a part of my job, and it is a part of life these days. I wish it wasn’t, but we are not a country of people who can’t let things go without a comment – even when we clearly should.