I enjoy editing. I like to pick apart a story or a sentence. I like to worry at a word until I find a winner. I like grammar rules and enjoy being able to implement them.
But I have a hard time hearing criticism of my own writing. Maybe because I edit myself so much that when I finally show a piece I have written, when I finally put it out there to be read, I don’t want to learn that I messed up, that it has flaws.
It isn’t just my writing about which I have a hard time taking criticism. I have difficulty accepting criticism in general, about anything. I don’t know where this difficulty came from. I don’t know how it manifested. I hope that however I came by it, I am not unwittingly passing it on to my son. Intellectually, I know I am not perfect. I know I make mistakes and have character flaws and could do things better than I do them. I know these things, but to hear someone else point them out hurts.
I don’t know why I cannot separate a failing from being a failure. My brain understands this. But emotionally, I struggle. I think part of this challenge comes from having really high expectations for myself. I really, really want to do well, to be good. So when I don’t, when I’m not, I’m less than pleased.
Here’s one example: I really, really, really want to be a good mom. (Incidentally, I would like to give the benefit of the doubt to all moms everywhere that this is also their goal in motherhood). For me, part of being a good mom was breastfeeding my child. Well, turned out that my son was not able to get all of the nourishment he needed from nursing alone. My husband was the first to truly grasp this, and suggested we supplement Liam’s feedings with bottle-fed formula. I was devastated. I felt like I was failing Liam, that I was starving him, and that I wasn’t a good enough mother. And this wasn’t even true criticism, just clear observation of the situation really, and still I had trouble accepting it.
My actual awareness of this flaw is relatively new. My husband, Jim, helped me see that I don’t react well to criticism. I know it cannot be easy for him to criticize when he knows how it will affect me, that I will be upset, frustrated, possibly mad. But I am grateful that he does so anyway. When it is warranted and constructive, criticism is the path to betterment. I recognize that. I do.
I doubt there is really anyone who enjoys being criticized or having his or her imperfections pointed out, but I wish that I could not lose sight of my self-worth when faced with one of my deficits. I guess I am getting better. With this flaw of not taking criticism well, I at least understand that this difficulty doesn’t make me a bad person. I guess that’s a start.