My internal battle between wanting to play it safe and wanting to live a creative life is a long one. In Junior High, I wanted to be a writer and joined the journalist staff, but very quickly realized that I did not like my writing critiqued and so I changed course. In college, I wanted to be an interior designer. I was completely in love and enthralled by my History of Furniture course. Yet when it came to my personal designs being critiqued, I hated it and ultimately fled. My defense was always “how can something with no right answer, be wrong?”
The strange thing is that while I clearly did not want my creative work to be criticized, in all other areas of life I handled criticism pretty well. Professionally I used the only time I ever got fired, the worst criticism imaginable, to grow and become a better version of myself. On a personal level if a friend or lover criticized me, I often mulled it over in my head, dissecting how much truth there was in it. Discarding the useless bits but holding on to the true parts, using them to try to do better.
But creatively I just couldn’t take it. So I settled for the least creative degree imaginable in Information System Security. A degree that 8 years later, I have never used because I can’t actually bring myself to get a job in the field.
Over the years, as my passion for baking, crafting, scrap-booking, party planning, decorating, writing, & photography developed, I noticed that they all have a common thread of making things beautiful. I also noticed just how happy I am when creating. So after years of the same internal question “what do I want to be when I grow up?” I found a home in Living Darling, an outlet for all of my creative passions.
I was immediately flooded with excitement and joy as I worked on learning new things like Photoshop and how to design my website, taking pictures, creating posts and sharing my passion with friends and family. But I was also overwhelmed by the countless things I didnt know how to do and constantly confronted by my fear of being criticized.
My imagination went wild, taking on the form of various hero lifestyle bloggers and designers that I admire, each of them questioning things like my authenticity, uniqueness, and style.
With each blog post I swept these fears aside and kept moving forward but unfortunately they persisted. Slowly chipping away at my motivation and excitement. Until last week when I stumbled upon a forum devoted to bashing one of my favorite bloggers.
I was honestly surprised that such a place existed. But like most figurative train wrecks, it was hard to look away. I spent a couple of hours reading through 6 years of post, searching them for a truth that I had maybe missed after all these years of admiration. Trying to reconcile my version of her blog with this one. Was I wrong to love her work? Was she really such a monster? I went back to her blog and her Instagram and then back to these horrible comments. And what I found, buried deep within most of those critical posts was jealousy. Jealousy of her success, of the picturesque life she has curated, of her hustle.
I spent days thinking about this forum, shocked that one of my favorite blogs could inspire so many vitrolic comments. And then I read this quote by Theodore Roosevelt
Then all at once I felt a huge flood of relief at the inevitability of criticism. We live in a world full of critics and a vastness of diverse opinions. There is no escaping someone who thinks they could do it better. If these horrible things are being said about this highly successful, talented blogger, they will always be said about anyone who puts themselves out there in the arena.
In hind sight, I wish I had developed a thick skin early on and accepted that criticism has its place. That while being vulnerable to criticism sucks, there are much worse places to be like the “cold and timid” sidelines. But enough with the regrets, I can only hope that someday I will have put myself out there enough that there will be pages of people taking the time to critique my work. And whether I know victory or defeat, here is to daring greatly.