This I Believe

Vanessa - Moraga, California
Entered on December 7, 2006

Criticism – Just Treasure It

Criticize me, correct me, but don’t praise me. Yes, I am a staunch supporter of criticism – not malicious comments, but blunt, sincere criticism. At times, praise can offer slight boosts to my ego; criticism, however, never fails to raise my self-esteem and fill me with a warm rush of happiness inside just by giving me knowledge that someone in the world cares enough about me to take time out of his or her day and tell me what I was doing wrong.

Truthfully, it wasn’t until this past summer that I adopted this belief. School had just ended, and I was debating whether I should visit my relatives outside of the country because there, I suffer constant disapproval for my rowdy and less than 100 percent perfect behavior – especially from my eight-year old cousin, Maggie. An angelic little girl on the surface, she is, in fact, a living nightmare. If she dislikes anything about those around her, she will openly assault them with disapproval, regardless of hurting their feelings. Well, I soon found myself sitting in Maggie’s room ready to see a new side of her that I had neglected to see before. Nevertheless, and not to my surprise, she criticized my attire the first instant she laid eyes on me. Despite my terrible urge to scream in frustration, I remained calm. And gradually, the more time I spent with her, the more I grew to love her straightforward nature and boycott of innuendos.

Reflecting back on all the times when teachers were critical of my work, when my sister often condemned my poor temper, and even times when my friends lightly reproved me for not raising my hand in class albeit I knew the answer to a question, I soon grasped that the criticisms I had received helped me improve as a person. I still remember my cousin fussing over me, trying to get me to drink a bottle of Coke “correctly.” Grumpily, I questioned her interference. “How does this concern you?”

She answered in her frank and grave manner, “Of course this is my business – because I like you.” Something in my mind clicked when I heard that.

I believe that when people criticize a person, it does not necessarily mean that they do not care about that person. In fact, it can mean just the opposite, which is why I no longer go to great lengths to avoid criticism. Instead, I find myself drinking up every last drop of criticism I hear, and then reflecting during the night on ways to amend my indolent attitude, my stubborn approaches to physics problems, and just me in general.

Sure, there will always be unpleasant criticism out there, criticism that does not have good intentions behind it, criticism that is so caustic that it clearly reflects insecurities of the person criticizing. Nevertheless, I choose to look on the bright side of life and believe that, in the end, criticism can only strengthen my character.