Thursday, December 23, 2010
A post over at Nella Lou's blog about the Blogisattvas has spawned some discussion, including this post and this one (I'm pretty sure). Nella Lou comes from a place of strongly opposing the awards, and then takes the opportunity to use the award her blog was given to support the work of another blogger whose work hadn't been upheld.
I actually don't have much interest in hashing out pros and cons about the awards. What I mostly found interesting is how a single piece of writing standing strongly against something spurred a lot of defense of the awards. A similar thing happened regarding the only other post that stood strongly against the awards.
Basically, what's at play is the very common - perhaps universal - tendency to gravitate towards negative reviews and opinions of something you have said or done. There were probably dozens of bloggers who wrote positive things about the Blogisattvas, who congratulated the winners, who were excited and/or humbled to be mentioned at all. And yet, the moment a negative review comes in, the mind fixates on it like it's a cancerous growth, threatening to kill. Or, in this case, many minds became fixated on it, including my own to some degree.
This just shows how challenged many of us are around perfection narratives. Thinking we have to discredit the handful of dissenters to our work, or our ideas, in order to feel ok about it. It's not enough that the vast majority love what you did or said. You want it all. I know I've been like this before.
In some ways, it might even be easier when most are against you. When your ideas or actions are either misunderstood, or totally hated, there's no illusions about being loved. If you keep going, or stand behind what you're saying, it's because you believe you're on the right track. (Obviously, there are plenty of pitfalls here, but perfection narratives like "Everyone needs to love this" aren't one of them.)
I spent a year working as a teaching assistant in 1st and 3rd grade classes. The kids loved me. The two teachers I worked with had great respect for my experience with "difficult kids." The principal of the school nearly cried when she had to tell me the school didn't have the funding to hire me back for a second year. In other words, I was doing a good job. But you know, more time than I'd like to admit was spent fixating on the negative comments made by the other 3rd grade teacher, who I occasionally had to work with. She didn't like me much, and frankly had no confidence in the work I was doing. And even though most of her teaching colleagues found her sour and difficult to work with, I still found myself believing her views of what I was doing. In fact, to the point where my work with the kids was actually worse when she was around.
This was a year before I began practicing Zen, so I'd probably handle it differently today. However, it's also probably true that I'd still get fixated on her views to some degree - even with all these years of "mind retraining."
Gravitating towards criticism, and attempting to mitigate it, is a classic defense mechanism. A habit that's hard to kick.
May we all be successful in kicking it, one moment at a time.