Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Criticism.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately – about criticism. There are so many different forms and they come at me and all of us in so many different ways. Sarcastically, back-handedly, jokingly, honestly, and downright mean sometimes. Let me just say this – I suck a major huge big fat giraffe’s ass at taking criticism. That in itself is a flaw I’ve wanted to change my whole life. I mean a perfect stranger can say something – true or not – and I’d be crushed. Life would be over. Everything good I ever did was negated. I gave the criticizer ALL the power and let them determine my self-worth. And usually – I’d spend my life trying to change their mind…like it mattered. When it didn’t.


I envy those people who take and welcome constructive criticism and use it to fuel improvement. Me? Yah, criticize me and I’ll probably give up. I can’t get past the pain.

I know where it comes from. It comes from a lifetime of trying too hard and excelling so certain people would finally notice…all to no avail. It comes from doing so many things right over my lifetime that my super-sized ego is shattered when someone dares to say I did something wrong. It comes from feeling like the people who mattered didn’t like me so when someone outside that circle validated those feelings of less than with a criticism, my world would come crashing down. And they were right in my mind. I was worthless or less than or unloved or whatever. And recovery from one tiny remark for me – could take a lifetime.

I’ve changed a lot in this area. Not nearly anywhere near okay with criticism – but better. And that’s a start right? Part of it comes from being a public online blogger and realizing that opens me up for criticism. Which is good. Hurtful – but a good lesson if I can de-personalize it and learn from it. It’s criticism from a perfect stranger…and the truth is that if I know who I am inside – it shouldn’t matter.

I recently experienced the honest kind of criticism – that’s probably necessary – but cuts to the core. It was from my family given out of love but Jesus, Mary and Joseph…it’s like they slashed my heart with a dull knife. It happened when the other day Rambo and I contemplated adoption again. We’ve discussed it many times. This time however, my 9 year old mentioned it to my mother who in no uncertain terms looked me straight on and said what her heart believed when I asked her, “What…don’t you think I could handle another child?” Without a second’s hesitation – she looked at me and simply said, “No. You can’t handle your life now.”

Well shit. That’s some honest criticism right there. And yah, it hurt. It stung. I even called Jenny about it. And now? About a week later? It might still hurt – but she’s right. She doesn’t even know about last week’s depression relapse. She didn’t say it to hurt me or be mean. She was being honest. And man do I want to be the kind of person who can take that. I also want to be the kind of person who people feel they can give that kind of feedback to without retribution or fits or tears or whatever. I want to be able to hear…and really listen.

I think that kind of criticism is better than the backhanded, sarcastic kind anyway. In regards to being overweight, I can remember my Dad never really saying what he wanted to say about my mom’s small amount of fat she carried. Her whole body is tiny but she always carried a little extra around her mid-section. And when she’d get dressed and complain about it – he’d make a joke. Even name her fat. And she’d laugh. A real laugh…I could tell it didn’t hurt her. And other times he’d tell her to stop eating so much of something – in a serious tone – because later he knew he’d hear her complain about not fitting into something. Truth be told – he was scared to death for her health and of losing her – but he didn’t have the balls to say that. So he chose the joking, sarcastic kind of criticism.

On the flip side – he never did the opposite and told her she was beautiful. I never heard him speak those words to her ever. Hell, he’s never spoken those words to me. Maybe she would have taken his criticism better and actually heard him if on some occasion he’d have made her feel beautiful.

It’s hard for me to understand because I live with a man who makes me feel like a goddess every day. I swear he can’t see my fat. When Rambo sits at his computer at least once a night, I go over there and by now he automatically pushes his chair out because he knows I’m going to sit on his lap. I did this the other night and I sat there and said, “I’m getting fat. Look at this roll.” He said, “Stop it. Don’t do that to your skin. You are not fat.” And he meant it. And just for one second I prayed that I would see my body like he does. And just for one second I believed him. And I felt beautiful.

Then I think about the fact that Rambo could stand to lose 30 pounds. I could care less about how he looks and still find him wildly attractive but I’m scared for what 30 extra pounds means for his health. Once in a while we laugh about his belly but most of the time I tell him I’m scared for him. I want him fit so he can walk our girls down the aisle. I want him to live a long life with me. I push but it’s not my fight.

I think I’m realizing I can’t take criticism very well…and I may indeed not be the greatest at giving it out either.

Is telling Rambo I’m scared for his health good criticism or bad? Am I doing what my dad did to my mother? Does he know I think he’s beautiful? Does he know I’m just scared? Was joking and yelling and never really saying what you feel better – the way I learned it was as a kid?

How does your family dish out “fat or health” criticism? Does your significant other or family make jokes? Or plead and beg? Or yell or demean? How do you deal with any kind of criticism – about weight or any other subject? Does it kill you or drive you to be and do more? Do you try to see the truth in it or do you just feel the pain?

Do you give criticism in a healthy manner? Or do you stay silent?

I don’t know the right answer…all I know is I have a lot to learn…in receiving AND in giving criticism. How about you?

14 comments:

Nikki said...

I too take criticism at times way out of context and hurt feelings are the end results. But I have gotten so much better than when I was younger. It's a work in progress; not quite were I need to be. As for my spouse, I would never, ever tell him he needed to loose weight. I may suggest healthier meal options or try to steer him clear of ice cream at 8:00 at night, by diverting his attention elsewhere. Like your Rambo, my J see's me as perfect and has never, ever said anything about my weight at my highest or my lowest. He loves me for me, flaws included. Therefore, I reciprocate. The only time we ever comment on weight is if we are dieting together. Now, if it ever came to a point where his health was being affected; yes - I would offer weight-loss suggestions. But in a way that "invited" him to join me. As for my family, my mother would always kindly suggest, "now do little girls really need 2nd servings?". Never did my family make me feel unsafe, uncomfortable or unloved. Her "gentle suggestions" were always enough to often steer me away from added calories. I had a few family members that were harsh and very blunt, but I think we all have a few of those leaves on the family tree.

Lucrecia said...

This is some damn good food for thought. And I didn't want to have to actually think today!

I know I suck at receiving it! I don't like to hear the truth and I get defensive - it's not pretty! Depending on the type I'll either dig my heals in and prove them the hell wrong or sit and cry and make it worse.

I suck at giving it too! I'm scared to death my husband is slowly killing himself with his weight, but I don't know how to express the depth of my fear so I just make little comments here and there that really have no effect at all.

MandaPanda said...

I don't do take criticism well. I'll usually defend whatever my position is to the death...even if I know I'm wrong. That being said, to answer your other question - my family takes both the sarcastic comedy tactic as well as the serious heart to heart "it's all about the health" aspect. I think you need to be able to laugh at yourself sometimes but you have to be honest too.

Read said...

hmmm - this is a good one Draz.

First of all, is a giraffe's butt really fat?

The taking of criticism - I'm brilliant at it. I live in a world of denial. If I'm criticized I will say to your face. Wow, thanks, I appreciate your feedback. (well if I want to speak to you again) if it was a stranger, I'd say "If I am looking for advice about parenting or the fat content of my food, you'll be the first person I call, I swear I will. Do you have a card?" (the tone there is very sarcastic).

In both cases, I quickly sweep the comment away and lock it deep in a box and pretend it never happened. Later, months maybe, in the middle of the night it'll wake me and I'll worry incessently about it and think about all the things I should do to avoid such comments in the future - but then I'll find the strength to lock it away again and pretend it doesn't exist. I'm telling you denial - it's a good place to be (hmmm, is that sarcasm I hear again?)

As for giving it. I suck at this. I'm worried about the extra weight my husband is carrying. He seems to be moving in the wrong direction and I know he worries about his health as do I. The fact that I know it bothers him should make it easier, I'd think, but I've been desparately trying to find the right way and the right thing to say to him - I love you and I'm worried for your future. I've met your parents, I see their health problems - don't go there. Recently, I've just been looking for opportunities to jump in there and be supportive about his weight loss efforts. If he gives me the slightest opening - if he says, I've been eating really well. I jump all over it with praise, but I haven't figured out the other side yet. I so hate it, and it so crowds those damn boxes in the back of my brain when I'm criticized that I'm deathly afraid of doing it to someone else - there has to be a middle ground. When you find it, please pass it along.

Kristin said...

Taking criticism well is a skill that needs to be developed. I haven't quite developed it out of the infancy stage, but it's a life goal. ;)

I too get sad about criticism, and incredibly defensive when it's about my children and comes from my in-laws but that's another story. (For some reason, I don't get defensive when my parents or siblings say something about my kids. Maybe because they are never unkind or trying to prove themselves the superior parent.)

It's tough to take criticism, but I'd argue that you take it fairly well. Your mom's comment stung, but once the emotions subsided you sat back and took a look and acknowledged to yourself that she is right.

So give yourself some credit - you're doing better than you think!

Carmen said...

believe it or now i rarely get criticism, why? i don't know....but when i do it's usually about something that i NEED to be critized for so try to take it as best as i can. i also try to keep in mind who it is coming from, most people will critisize someone on something they are jealous of. in my oh so humble opinion. on the flip side i don't offer up criticism unless asked....if you ask me my honest opinion on something i will give it, but i always warn, don't ask if you don't want to know.

Justawallflower said...

My husband is a lot like your Rambo. He always tells me how beautiful I am, even though I am his third wife, and by far the heaviest. When we talk about weight he just tells me he wants me to be healthy. He does like the old pics of me from when I'm thinner (which he's never known me as), but he doesn't but a size on me, and what he wants me to be. He just wants me to feel good physically, mentally, and for my health to be good. He has a really good delivery system in that he never makes it about my appearance, but in how I feel and keeping me around. I always pretend to take criticism really well, and even encourage it, but truth be told, it really hurts. It's like I feel these things about myself and I fish to hear them from others just to validate the feelings I have about myself. I know this is not healthy, but that is how I work!

Anonymous said...

Oh, wow. I try to be good about taking honest criticism but man, it stings.

My Mom was always overweight when I was growing up. Eating dinner with my mom and dad, my dad ate fast and talked none. He would be done eating first. He would push his chair back from the table, say "anyone who eats longer than me is a pig", and walk away.

He never commented about my weight directly until I was in college. I had come home and was eating dinner with my parents. My Mom said something about her weight, and my Dad asked me "well, you must be up over 200 pounds now, huh?".

and I wonder why I struggle with seeing my own beauty..

Building Blocks said...

I don't guess I learned critism very well as a child because now I am very blunt. BUT, I phrase my critisms in a certain way - NOT to be as hurtful. I have two daughters that need to lose weight - I tell them "you have fat on your body that you need to lose" - I don't tell them they are fat. I am this way with pretty much everyone. I am hard enough on myself, so I take critism well - Mr. Strong has a way of making me feel beautiful too - he doesn't see the imperfections I see. We are both blessed in the husband area...lol.

Amy W. said...

Well, this is what I can say about "you can barely handle your life now"...

WHO CAN? You have kids, 19 jobs, and a house....I have none of those things and can barely handle life. I think you are doing just fine by turd skittle.

River said...

Isn't this post assuming most criticism constructive. Cos once you admit they really are not may be you could go a little easier on yourself!

Personally I just spit it on people's faces and I do it regularly. Comes from my mother I'm guessing. She is like that. She can't help herself and I am just like her. I tell people they are beautiful too! I do this often as well. Actually I can tell they are beautiful to perfect stranger out on the street. I enjoy making people good about themselves as much as I can't stop criticising.

May be I'm still young to understand your situation but from your post I didn't get that you can't handle your life. You didn't submit any proof to that. You were told something and you believed it seems. I hope that's not the case. But only you can determine if you'd be able to get through with even more in your hands. That's all I know.

Gen said...

Forget the fat criticisms, that comment that you can't handle another kid really seems hurtful to me. I'm sorry, you don't deserve that. I think we can all handle what we are given in life - you too. And adoption is wonderful. Decide for yourself, not based on others' opinions.

And - my father was horribly critical of my mother's weight. But she was even more critical of herself. Really terrible. Don't even want to think about it! She's in her 60s and still battling the same old issues!

Sandy Lee said...

I don't take criticism well, even constructive criticism. Also depends on the person. My hubby never said anything about my weight although I knew it bothered him. He comes from a family of morbidly obese brothers (one over 300, one 275 and his mother was 5 foot and 250). In the early 90's he started karate and just dropped the weight. He eats and drinks what he wants but exercise wise got into running, karate and biking. I weigh less than him but not by much. Health is more than weight. Why not get the whole family involved in karate or something similar. For some reason big strong men think karate is cool-they even bow when entering the dojo and all these people respect their teachers (DH is a 4th degree black belt-and he is 56). Men don't think much about diets. I think we women got that gene.

And adoption-why not. It's up to you and Rambo. If it feels good do it.

Dizzy Girl said...

For me it all depends on how the criticism is presented to me. If someone is thoughtful in how they say it to me- I can take it. I want truth- most of the time. But when people just bluntly burst out with something- especially when unprovoked- I can get super defensive and crushed. I also have a tendency to brush it off after a few days of stewing over it. In the end I'm grateful for people that are honest with me- and especially grateful for people who can phrase criticism in a way that is not demeaning to me or my family in anyway. But that in and of itself is an amazing gift.