Constructive Criticism Helps Us Lead A More Authentic Life

AUTHOR: | POSTED: March 11, 2013 | COMMENTS: 4 Comments
CATEGORIES: Authentic Life, Blogging Honestly, Constructive Criticism,

Carolyn Savage

Every once in awhile I skip over to Amazon and check on Inconceivable.  How’s it selling two years after publication?  Any new reviews?  I have to admit that I often hold my breath when I see that my review count has increased.  There’s always a little anxiety involved in the anticipation of what someone may have to say about a piece of work that is so personal to me.  Early on, I checked on what people were saying about me more often than I care to admit.  Sadly, at the time, I was in desperate need of some validation.

When I’d read comments about our story or reviews about our book that were complimentary I was pleased.  “Someone got it!”  Thank God.

Unfortunately, for my very fragile self back then, every once in awhile someone didn’t get it and had some very, very harsh things to say about me.  I cannot tell you how unpleasant it was to read the thoughts of others who didn’t like me, what I’d done, or how I felt while I was doing it.

In the beginning of this process, I’d quickly dismiss the criticizer as hateful, jealous or ignorant.   It was comforting to imagine that a less than flattering critique was coming from a sad, misguided person that was acting out because of their own discontent.  I’d also get upset and defensive, sometimes even tangling with the critic in an online forum.  Rarely was that productive.  After a while, however, I got used to the occasional hateful message.  Let’s face it, after getting beat up over and over again–regardless of the cause for the beatings–human nature is bound to kick in imploring the “beatee” to ignore.  It’s called growing a thick skin out of self defense and when you are in the public eye for whatever reason, thick skin is important.  Especially for a recovering people pleaser like me.

But here’s the thing…

I think it’s possible to grow your skin too thick.

Meaning, not every less than flattering comment about our story, Inconceivable, or anything else that I do is hateful.  Some of it is truly constructive and deserves contemplation.   For instance, the day “L” was born (and long before Inconcievable) Bonnie Rochman, a journalist currently with Time.com, wrote a piece entitled “I Don’t Support Carolyn Savage Carrying the Wrong Baby to Term”.  When I read the piece I was hurt and stunned.  I’d just reunited “L” with his parents, was navigating the early stages of  an epic case of post partum depression complicated with a diagnosis of post traumatic stress disorder and was teetering on the edge of a very dark place.  Out of self-defense, I had to dismiss the article as just plain evil.

Fast forward to June 2012.  I’d just finished judging an IVF contest for SIRM and a request came in from Time.com for me to speak with a journalist about my experience.  I agreed and a few hours later, I was chatting with Bonnie Rochman.  I never let on during our conversation that I knew she’d written about me and how she’d really hurt me during a very fragile time in my life . It didn’t seem relevant.  Plus, by June 2012, I was able to read her piece with a more contemplative attitude.  I’ve learned over the past four years that not everyone is going to agree with the choices I made and they are entitled to voice their opinions. In addition, some of what Bonnie wrote made me think about important issues…particularly how critical it is that I continue to take inventory of our relationship with Jennifer (our gestational carrier) and make sure that we move forward with the twins in a manner that keeps Jennifer comfortable with her role in their lives.

Of course, hateful, curse-filled messages demerit themselves when written out of vitriol.  Those kind of sentiments should be ignored, but I’m learning that I have to be careful not to dismiss every critical comment and that’s tricky.  It’s not fun to “check” myself against constructive criticism because acknowledging my own shortcomings can be unpleasant, but’s its the only way that I can continue to strive towards living my most authentic life.

4 Comments on “ Constructive Criticism Helps Us Lead A More Authentic Life ”

  • Cheryl Voisin | March 11th, 2013 11:46 am

    Hold your head up high! You don’t answer to the ignorance of people, you only answer to your God and that’s all that matters! It’s only a test, and remember Satan is out to destroy God’s children! My family face’s a lot of adversity also, because of the Ochsner’s hospital screw up, but we try to stay focused on “Who” is really important, and that is GOD!!!! He will see you through, just as he has in the past… You are a true inspiration to a lot of people, especially to my family! Those with the negative comments have never walked in your shoes and I pray they never have to! Thank you so much for all you have done and all you continue to do!
    Praying continued Blessings to you and your beautiful family!
    Cheryl Voisin

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  • Grandma Honey | March 11th, 2013 12:31 pm

    What this Bonnie does not understand is your faith in a higher being. Or anyone’s faith in God, it sounds like. You were not going to destroy one of His children. And He blessed you tremendously (the twins) for your horrific sacrifice.

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  • Teri | March 12th, 2013 9:59 am

    I’m not good with criticism, constructive or otherwise, so I applaud you for being the better person. My mouth usually gets the better of me and I speak way before I think. Kudos to you!

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  • Lori Lavender Luz | March 12th, 2013 3:14 pm

    The higher profile you have, the more chances you have to practice this discernment you speak of.

    And, as you say, distance and perspective can help. I admire how you have dealt with these issues.

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