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Hard On You

They say everyone is a critic, and this is true, I suppose, in that everyone formulates an opinion about things, whether these things be food or television or what-have-you. The way these opinions are expressed, however, can make or break not only the person expressing them (as I have learned from past years when I was a media critic for an online magazine), but also the receiving end. And I don’t mean this in a professional way—a few bad reviews or whatever—but in a personal, emotional sense.

They say in the industry (the broad umbrella of “entertainment”) that you must have a thick skin, but these are people used to being on stage or in front of cameras; they know how to fake it. A brave face is easy enough under a spotlight, but it doesn’t mean the slings and arrows don’t hurt. There is soft meat underneath the shell.

I am as guilty as any critic of tossing out a barb now and then. I don’t do it to be hurtful (some critics do), but I fear my being direct has hurt a few feelings. (I’m looking at you, Benedict, and you too, Rob.) I’m hardest on the people I like and care for most—aren’t we always?—the ones I have high expectations of, the ones I know are more than merely capable of the work they do, who are in fact brilliant. In my mind this goes without saying, but perhaps it’s nice to hear it said once in a while anyway.

So consider it said. You are brilliant.

I want you to do better than well because you can and shouldn’t settle for getting by or resting on your laurels. When things get easy, find something more challenging. You can do it. Life is one long learning curve, after all. Once you plateau, you might as well be finished. And so, yes, when I think you’ve slacked a little, I’m liable to point it out.

It is my major failing, I think, to sometimes be tactless, unable to filter my words. I am trying to be better about that. Certainly, as someone who does not always take criticism well either, I can sympathize. And so if you are angry at me for saying anything at all, I can understand that, too. You may say to yourself, “I think I did fine there, and she’s completely off base.” Or you may say, “I know that wasn’t my best, and I don’t need her to point it out.” Either of these are valid responses, the exact kinds of things I would think in such a situation.

Do try though, for my sake, to take it kindly. Maybe tell yourself, “At least someone is paying attention,” and “At least someone cares.” Because there will be days when you find yourself surrounded by people trying to please you, and you will realize you cannot necessarily trust them to tell you the truth. And while it’s nice to have so many people saying how wonderful you are, you’re going to begin to wonder. No one is wonderful all the time. Every artist’s work is a spectrum, and you’re going to want to know where this or that moment falls. A bit blue? Too red? But everyone around you insists you’re golden.

And that will be the moment you’ll want me. Because I don’t want anything out of you but your best and won’t hesitate to tell you when you haven’t delivered. But I promise, from here on out at least, I will try to be gentle. More needles and fewer bullets.




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