Refuse to be Passive

Criticism? No thanks.

In Life in General on February 24, 2010 at 10:05 am

I don’t take criticism well. I never have. I remember being in the advanced creative writing course in university and having to put my work up to every one of my peers’ and professor’s scrutiny. It was painful. I never wanted to present my work because it seemed the comments were always more negative than good. But I knew it was a good exercise for me, and constantly reminded myself that it wasn’t me they were critiquing, and that in the end, they were trying to help me be a better writer.
Sadly, it seems that I’ve forgotten the lessons that course taught me about constructive criticism and being gracious in the face of it. I’ve forgotten how to appreciate it as help. The truth is, I don’t want help. I like to think I’ve got it all under control on my own. Now, I could turn this into a theological/spiritual rant, but that’s not actually the direction this post is going.

A couple of weeks ago I was at the swimming pool with my sister, and one of the guys who was swimming in our lane said something to me when we were both on the same end of the pool, grabbing some water (yes, you can get dehydrated even though you’re swimming in it). He said. “Kick from the hips more, don’t use your knees so much.” I was immediately taken aback. Why would he critique my kick? What right did he have? And worst of all, I thought I was kicking from the hip. Dang. How do I adjust something I thought I was doing properly? I certainly wasn’t going to ask him. He was in his late 20’s and in good physical shape. But what really bugged me was that he was critiquing me when he still had things to work on in his own stroke. Granted, he was right. I should kick more from the hip and bend my knees less. I just don’t have the strength– which I could develop if I really wanted to. But did he know that when his arms came up out of the water he then slapped them down, creating huge amounts of splash, rather then leading with his hand? Now, regardless of that, this guy moves fast. Kudos on that.

He was at the pool again today and I found myself heading for the hot tub before my swim, hoping he’d get out and then I wouldn’t have to risk his criticism again. My sister and I had started to call him “chip guy” because I had initially commented to my sister that he probably thought “he was all that.” And she added, “with a bag of chips.” Anyway, I finally hopped into the pool , as he wasn’t leaving and I couldn’t put it off anymore if I wanted to get in a half decent swim. I chatted with my sister and chip guy came tearing towards the end of the pool, splashing water on the way. He stopped at the end, where my sister and I were chatting to grab a drink. It was then I noticed a small tattoo at the top of his back, right below his neck. It was a fish with a cross in it. Simple, small, but with a definitive message. Dang it.

What I had seen in him as arrogance had been him trying to be helpful. My pride and prejudice made me assume he was being a twit. Really, I was being a twit. Why couldn’t I have thanked him for his advice and taken it to heart, rather than deciding from that one sentence that he was a jerk? I think I might be the most judgmental human in the world. The funny thing is that, in assuming he was the jerk, it was I who took on that roll.

Oh, and I took a look at his kick. It’s rather perfect.

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