On Criticism

I was browsing through some blogs, and saw this post by Katy Warner. It’s high time that I talk about criticism, the unspoken stigma that plagues everyone. Most of us fear to be criticized that we would rather put our talents and skills in a shelf to avoid five minutes of embarrassment. I, too, am afraid of being defamed, especially in the age of the internet, where a bad joke could be the start of your downfall. But is that really the essence of criticism? Is it really intended to show who’s better and who’s not?

The Definition of Criticism

I think we can discuss criticism by first taking a look at its definition in the dictionary, particularly the root word critic. Merriam-Webster defines critic as, “one who expresses a reasoned opinion on any matter especially involving a judgment of its value, truth, righteousness, beauty, or technique.” Critic is also defined as, “one who engages often professionally in the analysis, evaluation, or appreciation of works of art or artistic performances,” and, “one given to harsh or captious judgment.” In all of these definitions, I would tackle the first one with depth. The second definition doesn’t apply to this discussion; I will talk about the third one separately.

As you can see, critic means the expression of a reasoned opinion on the value, truth, righteousness, and beauty about anything. Never was it mentioned that critic is negative or condescending. Furthermore, the definition states that the critic should put his opinion within reason to make it valid. Reason is a logical and rational explanation, which means that it should always be intelligible and not based on bias and subjectivity. Thus, reason should should bridge a positive communication — no matter how contradictory your opinions are — to achieve better understanding of the subject matter. At least in a perfect world.

Criticism and Hate

But does hate surround criticism too much? Why should a critic give harsh or captious judgment? The answer is simple: it’s human nature. Throughout time, we’re always out to be the best and to dominate other species. We’re the ones on top of the food chain. The ones with the most money, with the most land, with the most wisdom, and with the most power. Finding faults in another make us feel superior — this is not an assumption but rather a fact. And boy, does it feel good! I should know; I’ve criticized others for hundreds of times without looking at my own fault. And I’ve learned the hard way.

Criticism has turned humans into monsters, has broken families apart, and has gotten friends estranged. But today, the negativity that surrounds criticism has taken a whole new level, with the internet serving as a platform to express your thoughts while being blanketed in anonymity. Rebecca Black, for example, is a simple teenage girl who sang the song Friday. It’s true that the song has no substance at all, but does that justify the death threats she’s received for it? I think not. Can people say those remarks to her face? I think most of them cannot. How can Friday become the ‘worst song ever’ if there are clearly worse songs than it?* That’s right. Criticism gone berserk.

Coping With Criticism

It has been told time and time again that you have to develop a thick skin and form your own shell when being criticized. I remember watching Hillary Clinton in a televised symposium once when a protester stormed the room and screamed snide remarks at her. Mrs. Clinton kept smiling until the guards escorted out of the room. The reporter then asks, “how do you handle that?” She then replies, “That’s what I was talking about. Keeping a thick skin.”**

While most of us won’t be lambasted in front of the public, we will always be criticized by our bosses, friends, families, and even people we don’t know. Most of the time, their premise revolve on two things: they want to bring you down or they want you to be better. Either way, don’t close your ears to what they have to say. Their comments may be heartbreaking to hear (or read), but they have their own reasons. Remember the part that I talked about reason? We’re not in a perfect world and criticisms will always be met with some hostility. Despite that, be open to it; take the things that you can use and let the noise pass your ears. And if your critics say that you can’t be any better, smile, thank them, and work hard to prove them otherwise.

*Based on archaic events. Don’t know what happened to her after the video went viral.

**Not the exact statement made by Mrs. Clinton.

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