The Grain And Chaff Of Criticisms

I think a LOT about what I write on here. Well, not just on this blog, on all social media platforms. But I’m thinking most about what I write here because it tends to be more long form. I edit carefully (for content and message, not always for grammar and spelling AS I AM SURE YOU HAVE NOTICED) to try to be diplomatic and empathetic. I also try to be as benign as possible, and non-confrontational, depending on the topic. By the time I publish I feel pretty good about what I’ve written.

That is until I get a negative response.

And then suddenly I doubt everything about myself.

20 people could want to share my posts or retweet my tweet or comment on my blog, but ONE PERSON dislikes it and I start rethinking whether I should have written it at all.

And this is not about constructive criticisms, I’ll be forever grateful for the people who corrected my use of “illegal immigrants” when I wrote about that relatively recently. I mean, it is embarrassing as shit to have that stuff pointed out, but that’s not the kind of thing that keeps me up at night.

This is more about people who are just debating my positions. Like when I’m discussing systemic racism or criminal justice reform and someone thinks that makes me anti-law enforcement. Or when I’m discussing SNAP benefits or Section 8 voucher housing reform, and I maybe respond a little to personally to poverty shaming, and I’m criticized as self-righteous and part of the problem in terms of government reform. It’s the criticisms that might have a seed of validity or truth, depending on where you’re coming from.

It’s those comments that make me stop and take a moment to reflect on my efforts as a writer.

And this is a big deal because I’m going to be attempting to write a LOT MORE in the next few weeks. And I need to figure out how to deal with these lingering doubts that get triggered by negative responses to my words.

I’m putting together a collection of my essays on race as The Formerly Unknowingly Racist White Lady’s Guide To Help Other White People See Racism As A Real Thing We Should Be Addressing Because It Takes White People To Fix It Or Else People Of Color Would Have Fixed It Already.

(That title is a work in Progress.)

It’s something I’ve been thinking about doing for awhile as it is something I’m passionate about and I feel it is a truth that White people have to step up and do the leg work as our Black neighbors have been shouting it from the rooftops for decades and it’s our turn to put a little effort into it since – you know – it’s our people causing the problem. So I’m going to pull a lot of my stuff from here and build it out with less personal snark and more citations from resources and try to submit it somewhere for publishing.

So, I need to either

1) Get thicker skin
2) Develop more confidence in my writing
3) Stop caring

Or maybe a little bit of all three, to be honest.

Yesterday was a good day to face these demons as I saw so many people talking gun control online and so many other people debating them about it and my mood was fragile and the tears were flowing and I just could not stop wanting to respond and address some of these contrary thoughts and opinions and a few times I even got my feelings hurt and that lingered and I finally just said STOP IT, ZOOT. And I added an extension to my chrome browser that does this whenever I visit Facebook or Twitter.

Twitter is not as much of a problem for me as I curate it so it’s mostly sources from my favorite writers and news outlets, it’s more of a way to keep up with current events than a social network at this point. BUT STILL, I blocked it and I took it off my phone.

I just think as I focus on writing I need to remove the demons of self-doubt because when I’m at my best, my most confident, I truly believe this is what I should be doing. When I’m at my worst, I want to push a giant DELETE button to erase my blog, my Facebook, and my Twitter. And for now, I’d like to stay closer to the “confident” end of the spectrum as I try to piece together something worth submitting to publishers.

What about you? How do you filter out the voices that say, “Hey! You should be using the word ‘undocumented’ instead of ‘illegal'” and ignore the voices that say, “Black Lives Matter is a terrorist organization.” How do you toss out the chaff and keep the grain without actually looking at the chaff? You can’t really filter comments blindly, you have to LOOK at them but the bad ones, man…THEY HAUNT ME.

10 Comments

  • Fraulein N

    I think maybe you have to sit with the criticism for a second (or minute), like you do when somebody legitimately calls you out.

    “Is this making me uncomfortable because I know it’s something I need to examine within myself, and I don’t want to do the hard work of learning and growing as a person?”

    “Or is this making me uncomfortable because I know, based on what I’ve learned, that this person is WRONG AS HELL?”

    And then, hopefully, you can move on. It’s also important to realize that you can’t change everyone’s mind on an issue, no matter how right you are or how much you want to do so.

  • Beth E

    Its your blog. Write what you want. I have learned a lot from it as far as correct terms, and information about systemic racism. I love your passion for this. There will never be full agreement with you Take your stand . Sometimes it seems like you focus on what you may have said or done in the past and feel guilty for it. Try to let this go and focus on moving forward. Yes, we need to step up and take a stand against racism when we see it. Is it hard for me to do this. It definitely is. Am I ready to do it? I hope so. I have worked on stopping racism in the past- at the level of knee high humans. The training starts. It is a bit easier with small kids. They are a lot more accepting of the idea that everyone is equal. That if everyone looked the same it would be boring. They are fascinated with people that speak different classes and the fact that some of t heir classmates can speak 2 of them. Keep working Kim.

  • Samantha

    This is something I struggle with a lot. I don’t have a blog, but if anyone comments negatively to something I post on social media, it bothers me because it feels like confrontation and I avoid that at all costs! I’m trying to get better about it. For me it’s a self-esteem thing. I have to keep telling myself that it’s ok for me to have opinions, and I don’t have to capitulate to someone who has a different one. I might change my views if their argument is valid, but I shouldn’t just because they shout me down. Their not agreeing with me has nothing to do with my self-worth as a person. It’s a tough lesson for me to learn though. I keep having to re-learn it. Your views are valid, and I enjoy reading your essays on white privilege and race. I think they would sell well as a compilation in a book.

  • Hillary

    1. I didn’t know there was anything wrong with saying illegal instead of undocumented until just now. You can’t know everything, is what I tell myself. It’s what you do after someone tells you that a phrase or word is incorrect/hurtful/whatever that matters.
    2. I love your writing. I’ve been reading your blog for what, 14 years now? And I’ve always enjoyed it. But your writing has gotten so strong and has so much depth these days. Political discussion has gotten so overwrought in this country that I shy away from a lot of it and just refuse to engage, but the way you write about issues is very accessible! And also very useful to me as I argue with my conservative relatives. Yesterday, one of my fiercest 2nd amendment rights relatives was so upset about Parkland that I thought I might actually reach him and I thought of you and how you would explain things.

    So please believe in the strength of your writing.

  • heidi

    First, I cannot wait to read your book! I am confident I will be doing that in the not so distant future. Second, I have no advice on dealing with negative comments. I’m sorry. But, telling you to just ignore them or use them to strengthen your resolve is less than useful, I know. Maybe your therapist has some thoughts on this?

  • Lindsey

    I am so excited to read your collection. Really, so very excited. I have learned a ton and gained a new perspective many times. So make sure every time you start ruminating on negative criticisms that you also make sure to internally highlight those statements of true praise that you’ve received.

  • Lisa

    I think as an unmarried woman in my late forties I sometimes feel I am a small voice in a stiff wind, talking loud but fearing I am making no difference that will matter or last. I am not sure this will be at all helpful to you, but I think raising empathetic and informed children, which you so clearly are, is a balm in these tough times. You ARE making a difference because you are majorly contributing to the next generation of caring human beings that actually can help make our world a better place. That does nothing to separate the grain from the chaff or help you deal with the immediate issues you speak of (and which I totally understand). But damn, it means the work you do is not small and will count and make things better. And I hope that helps, in some small way.

  • Lisa

    (And I meant to say unmarried and with no children, as it is the latter not the former that was my real point. I am not raising kids who will carry on my hope to make our world a better place, and although for the most part I do not regret my decision to not have children, this is one of the reasons I sometimes do. My voice feels small because there is only so much I can do and say and I am so aware, particularly now, that I am not making a contribution to a better future. But I am so glad people like you are!)