Critics and “crickets”

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This post is an attempt to inform, inspire, and hopefully even save lives for National Bullying Prevention Month…. please feel free to share!

First, let’s talk about the critics….

“If you’re not in the arena… I’m not interested in your feedback”.  Brene Brown
For those who are publishing or performing in public, whether it’s digital, such as in social media, or actual, such as in an “arena” or some type of stage or auditorium or gymnasium or field, we all will encounter critics.  In my artistic endeavors of writing, singing, playing piano, and songwriting, I have had lots of highs and lows from people’s responses to me when I published my work and performed on concert stages.  As Brene Brown points out, however, unless a critic knows, through years of firsthand experience, what sacrifices, hard work, long hours of practice, expense, mentoring, coaching, training, and especially courage in showing the world your work when there are no guarantees that you will succeed or that anyone will like what you have created, their feedback is uninformed and usually inaccurate.  They have no credibility as critics unless they have taken those risks and been vulnerable in the arena and at a substantial level of mastery.
When we manifest a skill or talent to the world that is actually very challenging, but we make it “look easy”, that is a testament to the natural aptitude + the many years of training and practice that is involved.  When a critic suggests that “anyone could do that”, such as an armchair quarterback yelling at the TV screen, it is clear that person has not actually been in the arena.  Add the pressure of performing a highly technical skill that has no guarantee of success in front of others and we start to realize we should change from criticism to admiration.  Anytime I think “I could do that”, I then either imagine myself doing it or actually try to do it and then I can tell that I am not anywhere close to those who have spent countless hours making it “look easy”.
For criticism to be accurate and helpful, it is better if the criticism is
1)  Constructive
2)  Asked for, solicited
3)  From someone who is at a higher level of mastery in the field you’re in
4)  Given with a THINK perspective, which means all of these elements apply…
Is the criticism “True”, “Helpful”, “Important”, “Necessary”, and “Kind”
(Some say the “I” can be “Inspiring” or “Intelligent”, so whatever works for you)!
And for those who criticize when a person is struggling or suffering in some way, that is another kind of “arena” that they have no deep understanding of, unless they’ve been there themselves.  That is where empathy and kindness and compassion is especially needed or else they are adding insult to injury and making the suffering worse.
Now, on to the “crickets”….
When we publish or perform our work, we may “hear crickets”, which means no one responds at all, in a positive or negative way.  It’s that lonely sound when you don’t hear a single human voice, not even your favorite pet’s bark or meow, just… crickets, somewhere out there, not saying anything kind or reassuring or complimentary or even acknowledging your presence.  The crickets would just keep chirping, whether you’re there or not.
Criticism, especially if it’s personal, attacking something you can’t change, can feel like abuse.  “Crickets” can feel like neglect.  You’re being completely ignored, it’s apathy and rejection, like a cold shoulder, whether in a digital or a public arena.  It can be subtle, like a  look that shuts you down or body language that tells you “I just don’t care about anything you have to say”. Comedians compare a lack of laughter to their jokes as “dying” on stage, so it can feel like your identity, your reputation, and even your physical self is being threatened.  We want to be part of a group, to belong to a tribe, so “crickets” in response to a show of our vulnerability feels like we’re being outcast.
So, what do we do about the critics and “crickets”?
1)  Read this article over and over and share it with everyone you know (ha ha, but actually not kidding). ;-D
2)  People are busy and don’t have a lot of free time.  Seriously, I should be washing dishes and I’m writing a blog post instead.  So, they may want to share in the joy of your published or performed works, but they may literally not have a moment to themselves.
3)  It seems like everyone is trying to sell something, start a side hustle, show off on social media, or publish an album or book or video, so there is more “digital noise” than ever.  Even though it makes sense to be offended by criticism or to feel neglected by “crickets”, it could be just that your skill or talent is being crowded out by everyone else’s.
4)  When you’re starting a “do it yourself” business and you have to self promote, some people think that automatically means you don’t have any special skill or talent.  And they’re “put off” by you “showing off”.  They may see you as bragging and telling everyone how great you are in your attempt to get the word out about your work.  They don’t know that it costs thousands of dollars to pay someone to promote you and that some very creative and talented people are unknowns because they don’t have the money for marketing and PR.  There are tons of examples of starving artists that died penniless and then someone realized their worth and promoted their art and made millions doing it.  It’s often times much more about the business and the media’s portrayal of someone’s worth instead of the actual artistic or entertainment value of the work that you’re publishing or performing.  A great example is Joshua Bell, one of the best concert violinists in the world, performing in a subway station as a social experiment and getting hardly any notice.  If you don’t have the PR and the fanfare and the right kind of “stage”, your talent can be criticized or ignored.
5)  If someone doesn’t know how much sacrifice and challenges and creativity and talent and emotional upheaval, etc. your published or performed work involved, they won’t appreciate it fully.  Sometimes if it’s someone we know personally, we think “Well, they can’t be that good” or “it can’t be that hard” because they’re not seeing all the work behind the scenes.  Possibly, it’s because sometimes “familiarity breeds contempt”, those we are most familiar with are those we are the most likely to abuse or neglect!
We may have to just forgive those who “know not what they do” (or don’t do, or say, or don’t say).  If they really don’t know what it’s like to be in the arena, if you’ve done your best to explain what the arena is like for you and they’re still not being kind, you may have to let go and start the process of forgiving.  Whether you have a conversation to create boundaries or to ask for an apology is up to you… it may depend on how often the criticism or “crickets” are happening, how hurtful it was or still is, and how much it impacts your life in the present moment.  Our society has the unfair expectation that the one who has been hurt somehow has to do more of the work of forgiving or reconciliation or seeking justice than the one who has been unkind, so we have to take the high road and keep doing the right thing, even if others aren’t.
6)  Maybe, and only just maybe, our work is actually not that great or we’re not presenting it in a compelling way to the world…. naah, that’s not it, we’re all awesome and everything we do is genius!  ;-D
But seriously, let’s all keep trying, let’s go for it, even if it’s awkward and there are lots of unknowns, which there will be.  But we do need to be open to learning from what’s working as well as what’s not working and adjust if needed.  And open to constructive criticism and figure out how to reduce those “crickets” moments as much as possible!  Those who are taking the risks, failing and falling, being vulnerable, and learning what needs to be improved upon are those who have the best chance of succeeding.
And most importantly, there is the spiritual side of success, which is not society’s definition of success.  I really like the quote “Judge your success by what you had to give up in order to get it” for that reason.  And the excellent book “Falling Upward” by Richard Rohr talks about the second half of life, where your identity and proving yourself in worldly ways start to not matter anymore.  So, there’s that aspect of how to handle critics and “crickets”…  deciding you will transcend the parts of the world that are petty and unkind, love yourself in a healthy way, and make service to, and communion with, all living creatures and the divine your main goals.  And serving others and God with the gifts and talent that God gave you is a way to be true to yourself, to give credit to God, to show gratitude, and to connect to God and others.  That kind of spiritual success is how we can truly leave a legacy.

Academic, career, health and wellness counseling

After writing an article about telehealth, I was intrigued by the possibility of providing online therapy someday.  I am grateful to say that I am now offering online consulting and counseling.  As a professional counselor licensed in North Carolina, I can work with any client in the state of North Carolina online.  And as a mental health consultant and as a certified health coach, I can work with clients in any state online.

There are many benefits to telehealth, which I wrote about in this article in 2017.

 

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I accept Aetna and BCBS, as well as online payments.  Please see my profile on Psychology Today for more information about my work.

 

Psychology Today

Safe and Sound

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When we think of the idea of “safety”, we often think of our physical safety. There are safety goggles, safety belts, workplace safety, and safety pins, which are designed to keep us protected from physical harm.

But there is also emotional safety, which relates to our health and wellness just as much as physical safety does.

According to clinical professor of psychiatry Dr. Dan Siegel, we all have a basic need to feel “safe, seen, soothed, and secure.” There are so many situations in relationships, at work, at school, and in the community where we may not feel a true sense of emotional or physical safety. If you live or work in an environment where you don’t feel safe, it can affect you emotionally, intellectually, physically, and even spiritually.

There are many ways, conscious or unconscious, that we try to protect ourselves from physical or psychological threats. Some ways we work to make ourselves feel safe, strong, and connected to others are healthy, such as eating nutritious food, being physically active, playing music, bonding with family and friends, “pet therapy”, prayer and service to others, and practicing mindfulness meditation and movement arts like dance, yoga, and Tai Chi. Some ways that we try to make ourselves feel safe are not as healthy, such as using behaviors or substances to provide a sense of comfort and protection in a stressful environment or situation. There are often natural, adaptive, protective, and even unconscious reasons for why we started to act, feel, and think in those less healthy ways. So, acceptance and compassion for ourselves and others as a “work in progress” is important, while also realizing that, with the right knowledge and support, we can feel safe to try making healthy changes. Advances in neuroscience, with research by Dr. Shauna Shapiro, Dr. Dan Siegel, Dr. Kristin Neff, Dr. Rick Hanson, and many others, show that you can actually change your brain function and structure for the better, just by how you think. These changes in your brain then improve how you think, feel, and act, at all levels, mind, body, and spirit. But you have to let go of shame and judgement as you do the work of transforming your life, focusing instead on positive attitudes of acceptance, hope, genuine love, kindness and compassion, in order to change your brain in a healthy way.

Everyone needs kindness and compassion when trying something new, when making difficult changes or decisions, and when dealing with loss, trauma, failure, and disappointment. With support from health and wellness professionals that address the mind, body, and spirit, you can begin to naturally let go of emotional and physical pain, continue to grow healthy and strong, and learn to feel truly safe.

 

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Love

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love.

But the greatest of these is love.

When we are trying to make sense of these times and to do and say whatever we can to make the world a better place to live, it can be challenging.  I believe that love will always be more powerful than anything that is not love.

There are so many examples of how goodness, even in the smallest acts of kindness, can change hearts and transform lives when done with the faith, hope, and love of God.

Faith, as small as a mustard seed, can move mountains.  You may be moving the mountain one stone at a time, but it can be done, with faith in a higher purpose and with others that have that calling.

Having just a glimmer of hope can make all the difference in emotional and physical healing.  We are moved when we see even the smallest example of encouragement offered to someone who needs it.  We need hope to believe in ourselves and others.  Hope keeps us going when life is hard.

Our attempts at love, no matter how meager, become so much more powerful when we let God love through us.  Like a single candle, love can light up the darkness.  Like a small stone thrown in the lake, love can create so many waves.  As with all the resources God gives us, God multiplies our love, no matter how limited it may seem, when we choose to love with grace and mercy, compassion and forgiveness.

When you think that your efforts, no matter how small, can’t make a positive difference, think of Margaret Mead’s quote, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Here is a song I wrote called “Small Wonders” about how something small can make a big difference.

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The best is yet to come

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Here’s a chart that I came up with recently, about expectations about a future event and then how rewarding the event actually ends up being.  The chart shows the potential emotions a person can feel with the various levels of reward (on the vertical axis) and levels of expectation (on the horizontal axis).  For example, if you have high expectations that a future event will be very rewarding to you and it’s not, you will be disappointed.  It is possible that you will be less satisfied in that situation than with any other combination of reward level and expectation level.

Although I believe in having a positive outlook on the future overall, I also think that there needs to be a balance with how low or high our expectations are about any one future event.  Thinking that the best is yet to come and having a sense of hope for the future in general is good.  But expecting too much from any one experience can lead to disappointment.  Like when you have heard great things about a new restaurant and your meal turns out to be just average, you are often more dissatisfied than if you had no, or low, expectations about the food.

So, maybe we need to try to find a balance between feeling good about life overall, but not having overly high expectations about a particular event, person, thing, or place.

Accepting – low expectation and low reward. If you keep your expectations low about a potential reward and do not receive it at all or do not receive it at the level that feels rewarding, you can feel a sense of acceptance.

Elated –low expectation and high reward. This usually will mean that you will be at a higher level of satisfaction than any other of the options. You will be more likely to be pleasantly surprised and feel more gratitude when you kept your expectations low or weren’t even anticipating a reward at all.

Satisfied – high expectation and high reward. If you have high expectations and receive a high reward, you may feel satisfied, but not at the “Elated” level.

Disappointed – high expectation and low reward. This will be the least satisfying situation and may even result in feelings of loss or failure because you fully expected the reward and did not receive it at all or did not receive it at the level you wanted.

Jill of all trades, master of many

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Stacey K. Black                       http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/staceykblack

 

What do Hedy Lamar, Oprah, Rita Moreno, Joan Chen, Florence Nightingale, Debbie Allen, and Laurie Anderson (and many other famous women) all have in common?  They are all Jill of all trades, master of many… women who are multi talented “Renaissance women”.  And we could add another woman to that list, Stacey K. Black, pictured above.  Stacey has been a top hairstylist for major TV shows, a film and TV director, a writer, a filmmaker, a singer, and a songwriter… and she loves telling people’s stories with all of those skills.

There are lots of example of people who have managed to be a generalist and a specialist.  They don’t have to be mutually exclusive.  There are many reasons remarkable, talented women like Stacey are able to achieve mastery of several different skills.

  1.  Although women traditionally only had a few choices for careers (nurse, secretary), the options for careers for women now are greater than ever.  Men have had those opportunities for centuries, so there are many examples of “Renaissance men”, but in recent history, women have been allowed to show this creative diversity as well.
  2. Like cross training in athletics enhances performance overall, learning one skill (such as writing) can help you learn another skill (like directing) more quickly and deeply than specializing may.
  3. If it’s true that it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill, we are living longer than ever before, so we have more time to learn multiple skills than we ever have before.
  4. We are more open as a society to changing careers than ever before, so we have more support and encouragement to try different careers.
  5. Many careers don’t require professional credentials to show mastery.  So, although you still have to go to medical school to be a doctor, you can discover how to write or make films with all kinds of avenues.  And technology is making it easier to learn those skills as well.

The opportunities are greater for all of us to be multi talented than in any time in history.  So, let’s recognize and be inspired by the creative potential of the generalist and the specialist, the women and the men, who continue to make this world a better, more innovative place to live!