Triumph, Life After the Cult: How to Change Negative Self-Talk Into Positive

Feb 16, 2019 by Renee Linnell
“Criticism is something we can avoid easily by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.” – Aristotle

I’d like to write about critics, especially cyber bullies. And I’d like to tie it in with trusting your voice, owning your story, and putting your work into the world; especially if you are an artist. This is a pep talk for myself; but also, hopefully, helpful to you.
 
What is the saying? “Opinions are like assholes, everybody has one.” 

As I develop the courage to put my work into the world—as more people read my memoir, as I write more blogs and do more interviews—I am setting myself up to get criticized. When my lawsuit in New York hit the NY Tabloids I was also in a prime position to be criticized. And I learned quickly, as I read the comments under the online tabloids, that people are cruel. The same lesson we learn in kindergarten and grade school. I’m not sure of the psychology behind why some people feel better when they criticize and shame others, but it has to be based on deep seated self-hatred. I have discovered that the way people treat and talk to/about others is the way they treat and talk to themselves. Kind loving people are usually at ease with themselves; mean nasty people are usually in a lot of pain and can’t stand themselves.

It’s easy to sit in the privacy of your own home and write ugly things to and about strangers. It is tremendously more difficult to expose your heart and soul through your artwork and put it out into the world with your name and face attached, for all the world to see. 

The Buddha said to not be swayed by praise or criticism, but no matter how hard I try I still feel crushed when a stranger says something cruel to me or about me. It feels like a knife in my heart. And I feel myself start to shrink, start to doubt myself, and want to explain/defend myself. But, fortunately I have grown strong enough to take a few deep breaths and shake it off: I have grown wise enough to realize no reply to the stranger is necessary nor worth my time. I have learned that nervousness and insecurity and wanting to defend/explain myself come from wanting others to understand me and the longer I write from my heart, the more I understand that no one on this earth can ever totally understand me because no one is me. Which leaves me with two choices: stop trying to express myself (and deprive the world of the love and wisdom inside my soul), or express myself the way I want to express myself and allow that to be good enough, trust that maybe my words/thoughts/opinions may possibly help others. Knowing that my perspective is so entirely unique, wouldn’t it make sense for me to share it with the world? To realize that if I don’t share it, no one will ever be exposed to my unique point of view?

I had an epiphany one day as I raised the shades in my bedroom to let in the sun: some people hate the sun streaming in their home. They worry about it fading the furniture; they complain it is in their eyes. Others, like me, love the sunlight. We build homes with huge windows in order to maximize sun exposure. We choose living locations based on how much sunlight floods in. Do you think the sun contemplates how brightly it will shine depending on who’s complaining (Goddamned sun!) or on who’s basking? Nope. She just shines as brightly as possible each and every day. 

You are the only version of you on this planet. When you decide to not go into a room or not walk into a party or not write what you want to write or draw what you want to draw or say what you want to say, you deprive the room, party, world of your unique energy imprint and of your unique perspective. You deprive the world of your gift. Others will always have their opinions. And, the more true you are to yourself, the less you morph and blend and quiet down (or speak when you don't want to) in order to fit in and make others comfortable, the more likely you are to draw criticism, to not be liked. But, hey, not everyone likes chocolate cake or tequila or surfing or snowboarding (some of my favorite things of all time) . . . that doesn’t make any of those things bad or wrong or less-than.

I say we put ourselves out there; we say the things we want to say, we dress the way we want to dress, we write and post what we want to write and post . . . and we allow those that resonate with us to come closer and those that don’t to move further away.
 
So many of us with the quietest voices have the most wisdom to share. So many of us that live on the outskirts, that observe rather than participate, that think deeply rather than chatter mindlessly have so much to teach. Let us not be held back by fear; let us not stall because of self-doubt. Let’s just go for it: put it out there. Let’s at least try. And when we read negative reviews or cruel careless comments, let’s simply say to ourselves, “Those are not my people” and quietly move on. Undaunted. Unashamed. Unafraid.