Why Your Critics Can Sometimes Be Your Best Friend


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.

critical_thinkingI 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.

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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…

26 Replies to “Why Your Critics Can Sometimes Be Your Best Friend”

  1. Good article, Grimwald.

    My personal experiences with Filipinas is this: “accept me for who I am; accept my flaws, I am not perfect”.

    I was always stunned when I hear people say that. What happened to: raising the bar higher and rise to the occassion?

    1. Sounds like a mix of the widespread defeatist attitude (which I might have if I’d been raised in this place too) with an inferiority complex when talking to someone they’ve been conditioned to think of as ‘high status,’ e.g. white foreigner.

      1. Hey, I’m a defeatist too. In fact, it probably wouldn’t be surprising if, one day, I simply stop posting stuff here or anywhere else. And then, maybe a week or two, somebody will find some corpse in a landfill somewhere likely killed by a gang or had died through suicide. Then, a week from then, the body might be properly identified and be revealed to be schmo behind the identity of Thaddeus Grimwald.

        Before that happens though, I plan on writing as much as I can because I believe in what we’re doing for the country.

      2. Dave,
        it sounds like I must feel flattered but I dont. Yes, I am a white/caucasion foreigner but that does not imply I am superior/better per se.

        Anyway, the statement made (“accept me for who I am; accept my flaws, I am not perfect”.) is a real turn off for me and is killing for any next conversation. It implicitly says “dont change me”.

    2. I think it’s a lot better to say:

      “I’m not perfect but I will do the best I can for as many people as possible. I’m not a hero or a saint but I believe in the good in people and I’m willing to fight for that.”

      1. Grimwald,

        what is that obsession in your country about helping other people? Is that the first thing you (Phili people) think about?

        ” … I will do the best I can for as many people as possible.”

        I really dont know what your daily routine/regimen is but mine looks like this:

        waking up, breakfast, showering, going to work, work, going home, doing groceries, preparing dinner, eating dinner, time for hobby (or doing the usual chores), going to sleep.
        During days off and weekends this routine doesnt change much except for the working part.
        And when somebody calls me for assistance/advice/help (doesnt happen often) I will help her/him to the best of my abilities.

      2. I think it’s a lot better to say:

        “I’m not perfect but I will do everything to turn/change my flaws into non-flaws”

        and that will be my mission statement of my life. Otherwise living is a waste.

        1. Indeed. Yours sounds a lot better. You can’t really help everyone because there will always be those people who will refuse help or won’t be willing to help themselves.

          It’s better to just focus on what you can do for yourself and maybe help others along if you can.

        2. Grimwald,

          its probably a cultural difference between what you stated initially and my perspective.
          If I would only be here (on this planet) to help others then it would be better to make it my professional job because then I was trained and educated to do that (besides the normal and typical things we do for friends and family (friends service). But bec they are mostly self-reliant, the need to help them is a rarity).

          Probably, people in your country are far less self-reliant. I wonder how come. To keep on asking somebody else’s involvement (help) would make me very embarrassing as if I cant solve my own shit and own problems.
          I really think it something has to do how we are raised and brought up. Taught to be independent, autonomous, thinking critically and learn how to be self-reliant from a very young age.

  2. Everyone has a right to an opinion. However, all opinions are not equally valid. There is a prevalent anti-intellectualism that manifests itself in the conviction that my ignorance is just as good as your well informed analysis.

    Simply expressing your personal preference is of limited value. if you can back up your preference and justify it by providing evidence to substantiate your assertion; then your comment will carry more weight.

    For example, simply claiming that Aquino is a traitor who should be hanged; for no other reason than you feel this to be so, as a matter of deep conviction; is like a childish rant.

    One needs examples of how he has betrayed the trust of the people and why this particular betrayal rises to the level of a high crime that warrants execution.

    Another practice that one sees writers and commentators in GRP engaging in, is a practice called “stacking the deck.” That is where the writer makes an initial subjective judgement and then cherry picks the data and only selects those facts that support their original prejudice. Evidence that supports an opposing argument is simply rejected or ignored.

    This is a practice that I am guilty of myself. Sometimes after reading several different editorials; I wish i could take back what I had written earlier and had created something more balanced, instead.

    1. I might not go along with the idea that Aquino is a traitor or anything like that because it’s we, the people, who put him up there. However, he must still be held accountable for his mishaps. He is in charge of the country and therefore responsible for the health, safety and security of the people.

    2. Actually, what I kind of find baffling is this expectation that our writers remain “unbiased” — as if we are some sort of newspaper reporter or something. This is a blog composed of opinionated writers — not “reporters”.

      We have our respective opinions and positions on various matters. The forum is open to commentary subject, of course, to our content moderation terms (which site editors and admins exercise at their discretion). So the key here is to provide compelling arguments — whether for or against — the positions taken by our writers.

      When a commenter’s arguments (whether for or against our positions) become circular, repetitive or get unnecessarily drawn out and ultimately contribute nothing new towards moving a debate forward (i.e. start becoming time- and space- wasters), we tolerate it over a certain number of iterations before we make a decision on whether to continue hosting their posts or terminating their access here.

      It’s simple, really. 😉

      1. “…the key here is to provide compelling arguments — whether for or against — the positions taken by our writers.”
        I get it that most, if not all, writers here holds critical view of the government/president. The only thing, if permitted, I’m suggesting is, if a commenter committed infractions of whatever kind would a warning be proper so that the concerned be given the chance to rectify or mend ways and also for others to be informed as to what and why certain posters cease posting? Of course I’m referring to posters that regularly or occasionally post and not the one-timers, the agitators and the hit and run type posters whose posts you can cancel anytime without notice.

      2. @jameboy: Our style of communicating with offending commenters before punitive action is applied ranges over a spectrum of approaches. Rest assured, we effect what we believe is best.

        (btw, we’re investigating that issue with your original handle that you reported earlier)

  3. the enemy of enemy is my friend, eh?

    and for the record: I have no moral obligations to anyone,anywhere. I pack my bags and go on guilt trips for no one.

  4. Since we’re on the subject of criticism, here:


    Like I said, I am willing to accept all criticisms and comments and I’m willing to consider those who wish to argue for a valid point. So as a writer, I invite you all to critique my work and here is one of the 1st parts on the 1st story of “Hired Help”. Hope you guys enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it and, if you guys want more, don’t worry, there’ll be sure to be more soon.

  5. You can still vote even without voter’s ID as long as you are registered and not a flying voter. I like that you relate timely situations to your learning experiences. Backing it up with research or facts, it serves as filler to those groping on the core of the issue. I myself am just relying on what I read and watch sometimes and make my brain work from there. Reading clashing opinions and arguments different from yours is both challenging and an eye-opener. And thanks for the day’s quotable quotes: “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.” However sometimes I do catch the negative energy here. Giving criticisms is no longer in the form of good feedbacks in that it shows the person being criticized what he’d actually done or not done and would make him explore better choices he could apply. Sometimes other criticisms make you back away like you can never make mistake (unless making mistake is all you’re good at) or you should’ve nailed it at the first try even when you really don’t know what you should know. But I guess that can’t be helped. There are really those who would give poor performance when you don’t have high expectations.

  6. @ Grimwald

    I have no idea of your past achievements but if this article is the product of your ten plus years of writing experience, my guess is you have not done a whole lot from where you started.

    You asked why Pnoy and Kris Aquino have achieved success through no effort of their own, the answer to your question is simple: “a great story line” their family tragedy, exile, mystery and political persecution from the Marcos dictatorship. Successful people in politics, business, entertainment, religion, authors all over the world have one thing in common, a great story to tell.

    1. Uh, there’s a link up there somewhere to another site. If you’re looking for a story, I think this is the wrong place for that. Of course, I’m just starting with it so don’t expect much right now and I can’t tell you much because it might spoil everything.

      Here is the link again if a story is what you’re after:

      If you have criticisms or observations, you can comment there.

  7. Its easy to accept compliment but hard to accept mistakes. We are not perfect and those simple mistakes that we have can be our other source of learning.

  8. Filipinos are very sensitive to criticism…remember, when a guy named “Nasty”, wrote an article here, criticizing Filipinos. A lot of Filipino Bloggers, ganged on him. If they would had took hold on him. They would had Crucified him.

    I have a good German friend at work…he is also a Technical Man like me…an OFW also.
    He gave me a good book written by the late : Albert Speer. It is titled: “Inside the Third Reich”… It described the inner circle of the government of Nazi dictator, Adolph Hitler.
    Albert Speer was the Minister of Armament of Hitler…he is an Architect by profession…very intelligent man.

    Hitler equated Criticism, as Defeatism. Hitler also has a “Delusion of Grandeur” and Paranoia. (Although, he never bought a Honorary PhD, and aspired for a Nobel Prize…). People are afraid to criticize him, because, they can end up in those Death Camps.

    So, he went up to open two fronts. Made Wars with the Allies and Soviet Union. Remove field Commanders, who would retreat.
    Hitler even believed in Ultimate Victory; even when the Soviet Tanks were already around Berlin.

    So, he ended up in defeat, after defeat. Until, he committed suicide in his Bunker in Berlin…

    So, ends the man who do not accept criticism…

  9. IMO, this kind of mindset is a lot more ridiculous in Cagayan De Oro, where people like Dongkoy Emano publicly treats his critics the same way drunken people picks fights with random passersby. At worst, he would send his supporters to harass and silence critics.

  10. Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfills the same function as pain in the human body; it calls attention to the development of an unhealthy state of things. If it is heeded in time, danger may be averted; if it is suppressed, a fatal distemper may develop.

  11. Some people, especially here, often are thin-skinned and gets upset easily when it comes to criticism. Even when there is an attempt to be constructive some still respond with feelings of anger and defensiveness without even presenting a contrary view. Worse, some will even attack you out of nowhere.

    And when you call their attention to it, you will be the one accused of being thin-skinned or worse, a paid hack, heavens! Everything will be reverse against you simply because you critique or disagree on some ideas.

    There are people who prefer to stay on a comfortable place surrounded only by people who agrees with them. I completely get that. What’s hard to swallow is the very same people will attack and insult just because they think, through your criticisms or independence, you don’t belong to the group. You are on the side of the enemy.

    Can’t we be friends even if we do not agree on issues? Isn’t diversity of opinion better than just waving the flag of exclusivity for anti or against some people or something?

    That is the reason why the title of this article is very relevant. I never do this but just the same let me say it: kudos to the writer of this piece.

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