I have two critics.
Well…two that actually sting. I am positive there are more. In fact, I could list a few more off the top of my head very easily. Past friends, acquaintances, etc.
But these two are the ones that I count. These two are the ones that hurt.
I started “hiding” my writing & social media posts from these two. I put them on the “restricted” list on Facebook, and any time I would post an Instagram story or photo, I would ensure I clicked both of their profiles to be kept safe from the hurl of their hurt.
For a while, this actually worked. I posted more freely; comfortable in stating my true heart, sharing my real struggles & joys without the shackles of the judgement they would surely throw my way. I did not feel the urge to edit or tip toe. I didn’t censor what was truly felt, even knowing it may help someone else, for the sake of possibly “pleasing” these two. Or even for the sake of them not saying anything at all. I was freed.
Luke and I label, date & save some of our wine corks. We have an unnamed cork (we were BROKE during this chapter, y’all) from when he came home from Europe in 2015. We have a Dave Matthews Crush red blend cork from a night we made spaghetti & sang 90’s Dave Matthews Band songs together (because, why not?). A Trader Joe’s Green Fin cork from the night before I left for my mission trip in Malawi. A rose cork gifted to us from our wedding planners. We have a champagne cork (ok…two champagne corks…) from the first time I got published. All of these sit in an ivory nesting bowl on our dining room table. We have some overflow packed up and tucked away in another vase. When I’m feeling down, I love sifting through these to see all the amazing moments we’ve walked through together; the momentous ones and, even better, the “ordinary” ones.
Last month, we brought home three bottles from Italy. These bottles not only taste unbelievable, but each bottle holds meaning for various reasons. We decided to label each bottle with an “Open When” goal. I’ll keep these three goals between us for now. But what I will share is this: as we were daydreaming about these goals, assembling the puzzle pieces more and more, picturing the moment we would finally get to pop each specific cork in celebration, I realized something: if you are going after something with your whole heart, hiding is impossible. Not only is it impossible, it’s damaging and likely even detrimental to the likelihood of achieving said goal.
When that goal happens…how are you going to hide from it?
When you apply for grad school and finally get in…are you going to not show up for class? Are you going to fail to submit your assignments?
When you finally open up your own cupcake shop…are you going to completely neglect sharing the news for fear of judgement; keeping yourself “hidden” from criticism…while also keeping yourself hidden from the ability to succeed and find loyal customers who believe in you and your tasty new shop?
When you finally get the promotion…are you going to stop showing up to work? Are you going to never speak up in a meeting or conference call ever again? Just to appease everyone else and completely limit the potential of positive growth-of yourself and of the company?
When you finally finish writing the book…are you going to keep it “safe” in the confines of your Word Document, for fear of the inevitable “no” countless publishers will surely serve up…completely holding yourself back from the one “yes”?
When you finally get the “yes”…are you going to hide your book from the whole world to ensure no one ever says anything hurtful about it…no one ever writes a rough review on it…no one ever awards it…feels less alone and forever impacted by it…feels like maybe this world isn’t quite as dim as it feels, and good Lord, they aren’t actually the only one?
Anytime someone reaches out to me to tell me my writing helped them in some way…tells me to please keep going…asks me questions because the door for conversation was opened…I screenshot it and save it. I have an album in my phone dedicated to these comments. It might sound weird, but any time I consider not sharing something for fear of what the naysayers will say…I open this album and read. And that, every single time, is why I keep going.
Because you will never get to the good stuff if you stay hidden from the bad.
So why just two critics? And what makes these sting so sharply? Because, shockingly, they were people I thought were rooting for me. To me, people in your circle should always be honest with you. They should provide constructive criticism to your face, like this:
“Hey, paragraph two was a bit too wordy. Maybe wiggle it down.”
“Hey, what you said in that meeting wasn’t very *you*. Are you OK?”
“Kel. You spelled your name wrong!! Paragraph seven!”
From there, behind your back, they talk you UP. Never pointing out the stumbles to others, instead talking about how hard you are trying and how pumped they are for you.
What does it not look like? It does not look like saying to your face that what you are doing is fantastic! Amazing! Incredible! only to discover that to others, they’re busy tearing you down.
“She’s never actually been through anything hard…she has no idea what she’s talking about.”…
I recently came out of my hiding spot. I stopped restricting these two from my posts. Why? Because if I want the Good Stuff to continue…the connections…the healing conversations…the community…I have to learn to be OK with the Rough.
An acceptance into grad school is meant to be showed up for. It is, and you are, deserving of that walk across the stage.
A cupcake shop is not meant to be empty. It is, and you are, deserving of a bustling shop: filled to the brim with those celebrating the big and the small moments made all the sweeter by you.
A promotion is not meant to be hidden and shushed. It is, and you are, deserving of being celebrated and challenged.
A book is not meant to be tucked away in a virtually dusty Word Document. It is, and you are, deserving of a carefully selected cover, held in the hands of many, page by page bringing hope to those who feel hopeless.
Unhide yourself. There will always, always, be critics. Break through the barrier they have set for you and live the life that your Creator has so very carefully knit together for you.
Big Hugs. Always.