Thoughts on… being criticised



“What the public criticizes in you, cultivate. It is you.” ― Jean Cocteau

I’ve spent a large portion of my mortal life being criticised.

Either for one thing or another.

I’m fairly certain I was criticised for the way I was born and chose to take my first breath.

Damned if you do… damned if you don’t.

How on earth do you not get damned by someone else… or yourself.

Let’s face it, if someone else isn’t picking on us for this, that or the other thing… we’re probably doing it, and doing a far more effective job of it than anyone else because we know how to really hurt ourselves.

The hurt others inflict on us is just a flesh wound. It may feel like more… but that only happens when we help them push the sharp knife in… sometimes we’ll even give them a sharper knife because theirs is just not doing the job.

We say to them – That’s not a knife (film quote alert!) – we pull out a bigger and sharper one – This is a knife! – and then we show them exactly how to hurt us, slice us open and leave us with a wound which never heals and always bleeds… because just as it starts to heal naturally we stab it again, maybe with the help of the same person or someone else… but we’re still helping them do it.

We all know the pain of criticism and variations on the endlessly painful theme…


“What uniform can I wear to hide my heavy heart?
It is too heavy. It will always show.
Jacques felt himself growing gloomy again. He was well aware that to live on earth a man must follow its fashions, and hearts were no longer worn.” ― Jean Cocteau

But what about the flip side of criticism.

Such as…

What if what we’re being reproached for is not a weakness, not a fault, a flaw, an imperfection… but the greatest thing about us.

What if what disturbs others about us is… that we are proud of ourselves. Of our uniqueness. Our individuality. Our life. Our experience. Our thoughts. Our feelings. That what we say and do shows others that being yourself, authentic, real, expressing yourself as is… is something to revel in, something to cultivate and propagate. Whether it is liked or not. It is us… something to be celebrated in some way, perhaps using a form of celebration which offends… some… but not everyone.

Why does our celebration of ourselves offend others.

Perhaps it disturbs them because they’re not being themselves… so… we aren’t allowed to do it either.

Misery of a certain sort loves company… the more the unmerrier.

Doing something, anything at all, even just breathing… can disturb someone else, piss them off and make them want to criticise you for it.

Your existence offends them in some way.


“When I write, I disturb. When I show a film, I disturb. When I exhibit my painting, I disturb, and I disturb if I don’t. I have a knack for disturbing.” ― Jean Cocteau

When you do something like blogging… you put yourself out there and anyone can become aware of you.

If they like you because you’re being yourself and doing it publicly, and it encourages them to be themselves and do it publicly… it’s amazing, a rush, a communion of beings saying ‘yes’ to life in all its complexity.

If they don’t like you… there’s that too.

They don’t always see you as a person. A human. A living breathing life form like themselves. You’re a thing compared to them, one which offends them. A wrong compared to their right. Or something like that.

There are endless variations on the theme of being human.


“It is dangerous not to conform with people’s image of us, because they do not readily retract their opinions.” ― Jean Cocteau

What is more valuable. A compliment or a criticism.

Both… when they show you something about yourself which you need to know, to be aware of.

But don’t see it like they see it… their perspective is their perspective. It is skewed whether they love you or hate you or anything else. They see you through the filter of themselves. But it does inform you… sometimes about yourself, sometimes about them… sometimes a bit of both.

Mirrors - jean cocteau