They say that the truth hurts. Well, as a writer for more than a decade, I can attest to that. Yes, when people call you out on your mistakes, it can really wipe off that smile on your face. When people tell you about the moments you screwed up can really ruin your day. But then again, now that I have time to think about it, I’ll actually note that it’s better to know your mistakes here and now than deal with the consequences of making a lot of them later on.
Over the years, I’ve come to note just how resistant most Filipinos are to criticism and how they are quick to judge critics as either bitter or jealous. Look, let’s face it, criticism hurts and it can really make you question your faith in yourself. But remember that it is criticism that helps us change for the better. Criticism may be painful, but like disinfectant, it cleans our wounds so that we can heal to become stronger and sturdier.
I have seen that this kind of behavior in many of my fellows over the years and is especially prevalent among the higher echelons of our society such as our big businessmen, celebrities and politicians. An article by Kate Natividad goes on to show how people like the Aquinos (people who are seen as leaders in both the government and society) deal with criticisms thrown at them. President Aquino makes good use of the blame game and deflects critical hits towards his enemies like some character in an RPG. Kris Aquino, on the other hand, simply chooses to turtle up and accuse her critics and critics of her family as bitter and jealous people and that they should just shut up and stay out of her life despite the fact that there are a good number of issues that she and her family really need to address.
It’s really shocking to admit that while these may be the people who sit on top of our society, they made their way up there and stay in their position through no effort of their own. Always, they resort to appealing to the emotions of the people such as expounding on their mother’s death and how painful it was to them when their father died. While a death in the family does indeed merit some sympathy, it does not mean that you will be entitled to “special treatment” nor does it give you the right to be a jerk to others. Still, when anybody calls out the Aquinos, their reaction is almost always “this isn’t my fault” or “you’re just jealous” instead of making a formal apology for their actions. Take for instance President Aquino’s stupid grin after that bus hostage crisis that happened all those years ago as if he’s trying to imply that he had nothing to do with the tragic outcome of that predicament.
Look, I’m not perfect and I’m most certainly not as smart or as a good writer that I’d like to think I am. No, I am nothing like Rizal, Bob Ong or I probably wouldn’t hold a candle to Benign0 if it ever came down to it. But I’m also willing to admit that it was the criticism slapped unto myself and my works over the years to become better and better at what I was doing. For a better idea of what I’m talking about, allow me to share with you all my personal history as a writer. Take note however that this isn’t about me, this is about how criticisms helped improve me and what I do over the years.
I was never always a writer but even as a child I was a storyteller. My mother always told me stories before I went to sleep at night and, later on in life, I would try to combine them with shows I watched like G.I. Joe or Transformers or videogames I liked such as Super Mario. I know they sound stupid but, being a kid at the time, I had yet to fully explore my creativity.
In grade school I was often called weird. I wouldn’t really deny that because I’m still weird even now. In fact, today, some people might even say that I’m a little creepy. I was addicted to videogames at that stage in my life and I often wrote fanfics of Marvel vs. Capcom (that’s where my obsession with Morrigan Aensland began) and Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2.
In high school, I tried to join my school’s Literature Club as it seemed a good place with people who have a passion for storytelling. Alas, I was denied entry and my fanfics of Marvel vs. Capcom and Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2 were deemed “childish” and I was labeled as just a “wannabe writer” by the president of the Literature Club. Of course, I was hurt by those statements but, eventually, I decided to just write something that could be taken seriously. I began to do a lot of research on World War II particularly the events of the Holocaust and the fate of child laborers in Victorian England. I wrote a short piece about the lives of starving child laborers in a fictional European steampunk setting with elements borrowed from Maria Louise Ramé’s A Dog of Flanders as well as Hans Christian Andersen’s A Little Match Girl which I presented to the Newspaper Club instead. Before I graduated, I learned that I had somehow earned the respect of the Literature Club’s president albeit begrudgingly.
In college, or rather before that, I was often called out for not being “romantic”. There was this guy in high-school who kept bugging me about my works being too “aromantic” and that it was my “aromantic” way of thinking that prevented me from getting a girlfriend. Well, he could be right considering my less than stellar interaction with the various women in my life but I decided to take a stab at it when I was in college. Of course, by the time I was 1st-year in college I was already a somewhat respected member of my school’s Newspaper Club so I decided to sign up for a romantic story contest for our Valentine’s Day celebration. I did a short story called Night Bloomers which was about a ninja vampire girl who fell in love with a slender-man-esque humanoid abomination who was her childhood friend. When I look back on it now, I tend to think that the story I wrote was utterly absurd and probably isn’t all that different from the Twilight fanfics I see out there. Nonetheless, for reasons that continue to elude me (it could be the absurdity of the premise itself or the merciless slapstick nature of the story), my story won first place. While it wasn’t Twilight, I was congratulated for writing a story that was unique (I can actually admit to this), funny (very much so) and inspiring (huh?).
A few years after I graduated, my mom died. That sucked big time. For the next few years, I was quite the jerk. In fact, I wasn’t all that different from the way a certain person in Malacanang behaves. I was a self-entitled jerk who thought that people owed me stuff I didn’t deserve. I had a super-inflated ego and I believed that I was better than everyone else. Heck, I even supported (I couldn’t vote at the time as I didn’t have a voter’s ID) Noynoy Aquino when he ran for president.
It was only after my last girlfriend left me that I came to my senses. She left me for another guy (who was some sort of rock star, if I remember correctly) and went on to say that I was just a “nobody” who was too full of himself to understand his situation. That hit me really hard. But it was only after accepting my own mistakes and failures did I realize that it was my fault that my girlfriend decided to leave me behind. It was because I kept trying to pass the buck like blaming my mother’s death for my bad attitude, pointing a finger at my alcoholic father’s stupidity for my dickery and using the apathy of society as an excuse for the more questionable things I’ve done in my life that my girlfriend ditched me.
Now look, I don’t want your sympathy. What I want is for everyone to learn something from the experiences of my life. Sometimes the people who point fingers at you might be right and you’d probably do well to listen to them. You shouldn’t give up on your dreams, but you should also take the time to listen and understand what your adversaries have against you.
I’m not saying that you should simply allow your critics to win the argument, oh no. What I’m trying to say is that you should at least hear out what they have to say before you react negatively or otherwise. The greatest of men and women in history like Thomas Edison, the Wright Brothers and Amelia Earhart didn’t get to where they were because they ignored their critics. They became the historical figures that they are because they chose to work with the criticisms against them. They used the criticisms labeled against them to identify their own mistakes and improve their work. If they simply ignored the criticisms set against them, they would probably continue to make the same mistakes and never get anywhere in the process.
While criticisms can be painful, they aren’t always without merit. Sometimes, your critic might actually be right. What people get wrong is that while it’s said that you shouldn’t let yourself down because of criticism, it doesn’t mean that you won’t have to listen to what your critics have to say. When people criticize you, it doesn’t mean you have to give up, it just means that you may have to reconsider your methods and adjust your strategy. Remember, when you leave the restroom and some guy nearby tells you that your fly is open, he’s not trying to insult you, he’s just preventing you from embarrassing yourself further.
Nothing defines insanity better than repeating the same mistakes using the same methods while expecting a different outcome. And no one emulates this better than people who refuse to even acknowledge that they can make mistakes like everyone else. While I believe that we are all gifts to the world, no one person is ever too special as to be the center of everyone’s attention. We are all special and we are all accountable for the bad things that we do.
We all have moral obligations to one another and we’ve all made mistakes that we should atone for, more so if you are a leader of a nation or a public figure that people look up to…
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