My daughter has grown up in a world where every person she meets tells her she’s beautiful. Because, quite honestly, she is. She relishes the attention, and thrives on the words thrown upon her.
“You’re so smart!”
“What a wonderful singer!” “What an amazing drawing!”
“You should be in Movies!!”
“Why doesn’t your mother put you in pageants?!”
From my perspective, it gets a little old. I wish people would stop, or at least take it down a notch… Or three. There’s no doubt that I’ve thought all of these things myself about her. I’m in love with my beautiful, perfect little girl. I couldn’t have imagined anyone so amazing, and I know how lucky I am every day when I see her sweet face.
Except that I also don’t want reality to slap her in the face the moment she becomes an adult, and people start to get real with her. So, my daughter likes to cook, and I let her. But she’s not good. Yet. And I criticize her very honestly about that fact.
“Baby, it’s too salty. Go lighter on the salt next time.”
And with that, tears. She cries. She’s been ‘cooking’ (if you can call it that, because really, she seasons the food and I manage the blade and fire wielding) for all of a month. I gave her one little criticism– scratch that– I gave her my honest reaction and some advice, delivered, I think, very matter-of-factly, and it resulted in tears and a very emotional “you think I’m a bad cook! I’m never cooking again!”
My daughter is learning a lot from her cooking experiments. She’s learning how to mix ingredients, she’s learning about measurements. On a more emotional level, she’s learning the value of recieving food, and how personal a gift that can be when someone serves you. She’s learning about cleaning up after her messes*– (she’s learning this slowly, however, and it’s a pointed issue in our current, compact living situation). But it’s my hope, that she will also learn how to accept criticism with grace, while still requiring to be treated with respect.
Something that this world needs more of is honesty and accountability. We’ve become a very emotion-centric society, having to delicately dance around everyone’s sensitivities. And while I appreciate, and have a great deal of respect for taking the time to carefully monitor my own interactions with people to avoid the ultimately unavoidable, though often unnecessary pitfalls of offensive or non-tactful retorts, I’m also not going to enable those who’s own character flaws inhibit them from healthfully receiving and processing this information in a way that effectively allows them to understand such feedback.
Some of the best chefs are the ones who earnestly receive input from patrons and consider the validity with an open mind, doing their best to remove personal bias or their own emotion. Soome of the best writers, have good, trusting relationships with their editors, considering, before reacting to changes, the benefits of those changes before allowing themselves to be personally attacked by them.
I personally have a high threshold for– I guess we’ll call it, “pain”– as far as my sensitivites go, meaning that I’m not very easily offended. I’ve had people actually try to tell me when I ‘should have been’ offended about something that I quite honestly never batted an eye to. I try to elicit honest feedback for my work, and this trait has me (for better or worse) always questioning any high praise, because I’m stuck looking for the catch. You know the saying “a spoonful of sugar…”? Well, I take my medicine straight.
My daughter is still learning about criticism; and unfortunately, she hears most of it from me- her own mother. I feel bad at times, but to be completely honest, I’d feel worse if I were constantly sending her a message that in life, success requires merely a positive outlook and good intentions. The reality is of course that real success requires far more than that. It requires failures, and it requires mis-steps. It requires knowing how to get up from those failures, brush yourself off, and try again. It requires resiliency. It requires determination. It is hard. And it is only through doing the hard things, and enduring all of those set backs (and there will be a lot), if you STILL maintain that drive, that passion, and find success through that, you’ll find that the success is even more rewarding.
Because you really, really worked for it- and you REALLY deserve to be proud of yourself.