All throughout my life I’ve struggled with how to deal with destructive criticism. Several years ago I realized that, no matter what I did in life, I was inevitably going to upset one person or another. At this point most people would just go “so what?” and move on, but I couldn’t. I always took every negative remark personally, even if the person attacking me didn’t know me. I first came into contact with reality when I discovered online forums around the age of 12. (Early 2000′s) I posted something someone didn’t like, and that person said mean things about me. The anger someone could express while hiding behind anonymity shocked 12 year old me.
That turned me off to forums for a long time. I ran into the same problem when I started this blog. I naturally accrued a variety of nasty comments on my posts over the years. I had a hard time trying not to take them personally since this blog is a digital embodiment of my person to an extent. A nasty comment on the blog was a nasty comment on myself as a person, and it would often ruin the rest of my day.
Worrying about what other people think has become an issue again for me recently in a couple of ways, but one example is a post I made on reddit. I took a funny photo and posted it up on reddit. At the time of writing this, 1,480 people said they liked my photo. 549 said they didn’t. (72% approval rating) I was thrilled that so many people liked it, but there were two comments that were particularly nasty and hurt my feelings. Why I focus on these two and ignore the almost 1,500 people who liked it, I don’t know, but I do.
It’s funny that I’d even bother posting on a site like reddit, given my hang-ups about mean people on the internet. Indeed, most of the things I do post get downvoted (disliked) so often that I’m starting to wonder if there isn’t some malicious bot someone has programmed to automatically downvote everything I post. It’s easy to just tell someone to not take it personally, but I’m starting to get the feeling that many things in life are impossible to fully understand until you’ve learned the lessons first hand. It’s easy to tell someone “Don’t make the same mistake I did”, but while they can try and remember your instruction, it will never resonate with them the way it does with you. In the same way it’s hard to give someone advice about how to not mind what others say about you, but that person has to work it out in their own head before it will sink in.
Concurrently, all throughout my life I’ve struggled with what I can only describe as feeling like you’re a character in someone else’s story. I never really put this and my inability to deal with criticism together until now.
Who is my audience? Who am I trying to please?
If I am a character in a story, who’s watching? Who am I performing for? I really only just recently started to dawn on me that I’m my own audience. I’m doing this for me, and thus only my opinion really matters. I posted that funny picture up there because I thought it was funny and it made me laugh. That’s all that matters. Sure people are going to criticize and nit pick, but I’m not doing it for them, so they don’t matter. I’m doing it for me. It’s my story and I’m the only audience that truly counts.
That might sound harsh, and I’m not saying it’s never a good idea to take into consideration what other people thing, especially those people whom you respect, but the sentiment I’m trying to convey is in the same vein as “Everyone dies alone.” It’s not that everyone dies alone in a room but that, even if you die with other people in the same incident or with others standing around you, you can only experience your own death by yourself. In the same way you ultimately have to live with yourself. You are ultimately responsible to yourself for your actions.
Someone could have tried to tell me this, perhaps even on r/howtonotgiveafuck, but it would not have sunk in until I put the pieces together myself. This is still something I’m going to have to work on. I imagine I’ll have to try and train myself to some degree not to care what others think of me. At least now I’m starting to formulate a way to do that.
So to all the people unhappy with my right now, tough shit. You’re not my audience, I’m not performing for you, your opinion is irrelevant. ^_^