It was so timely that a friend posted this short talk by Brené Brown today, on not focusing on your critics. Just last night, while we were getting ready for bed, I said to Bruno, "If people think writing and talking about health problems and friendship changes and life challenges is so negative, why is it those topics exactly that I get such an intense response to?"
I've had a few people confront me over the last few years about being "negative" online - I'm sure a lot more than that have had the same thought. And I guess I can understand why some people might find talking about challenges to be a negative thing. Trying to have your life appear perfect to the outside world is pervasive, both online and off. Perfect and pretty is nice and everything, but the truth is that connection doesn't happen over the fluff. Not real connection.
Real connection happens when someone talks about something that's really important to you, or something you're struggling with too. When they open up and tell the truth: that their life isn't perfect, that they aren't perfect. When they tell you how they're trying to figure it out. When they ask for help or advice. When you're able to share back. When you're able to learn together.
That's how closeness is formed. Not from fleeting, fluffy interactions.
How do I know? I post about a real mix of stuff on here - plants, travel, art, health, sewing, political topics, friendship struggles, life ponderings... Never has anyone commented, never mind written me saying they really connected with me over travel photos or a sewing pattern review. I don't think those posts changed anyone's lives in the slightest.
I like art. I like plants. They inspire me, and I'll continue to talk about that too... But the important stuff is not the happy "positive" stuff; that's not what helps people.
What helps people, what people thank me for, what people connect with me over, and what people have written me about over and over are the hard topics. Health problems, broken hearts, navigating changing adult friendships, losing loved ones, trying to learn how forgiveness works... These are the topics that I've written about that have mattered to other people and made some small difference in their lives.
No, you won't find their comments, because for the most part, they've been private messages or emails. Why? I pondered this last night as well, and Bruno plainly said, "It's taboo." Talking about health or friends is that taboo? Well yes, it must be. And why? My only conclusion is because it's seen as negative.
I don't think it's negative. It may be personal, it may be scary, it may be very honest, it may be hard to talk about. But that doesn't make it negative. Negative is a judgment, and I'm not that interest in being judged based on what is important to me and what I've been told over and over is important to others.
In the talk, Brené said:
We're hardwired for connection. When we stop caring what people think, we lose our capacity for connection. When we become defined by what people think, we lose our capacity to be vulnerable. (Not caring what people think is its own kind of hustle.)
I may not stop caring what people think, not completely, but I'm sure not going to be defined by it either. She says if courage is a value for you, you have to do what you have to do - it's okay to fail, but it's more important to be brave.
The people who have the most courage, who are willing to show up and be the most vulnerable, are the ones who are very clear about who the critics are. The ones who reserve seats for them; say, "I hear you, I get it, I know where the messaging's coming from. I'm not buying it anymore."
And I do - I hear you critics, I get it. But I'm not buying it anymore. If you don't like it, don't read it! I know what I say is important to people, even if it's only a handful, and they (and I!) am who I'm writing for. You don't need me, but I'm going to keep being brave for us.
Yeah, it's so scary to show up. It feels dangerous to be seen. It's terrifying. But it is not as scary, dangerous, or terrifying as getting to the end of our lives, and thinking, "What if I would've shown up? What would've been different?"
And at the end of the day, it's those people who get it, who understand why I choose to talk about the things I do, who matter the most to me. Brené says to let the people who love you be more important than your critics. So I will.