By Fareeha Qayoom
oday, a funny thing happened. I met an old colleague of mine by chance. He had dropped by at my current workplace to look up old co-workers and friends and play catch up as he was in town; (he lives and works in Karachi now). He was reminiscing as you tend to do when you meet old friends. My name came up by chance (in a nice context!) and one of my newer colleagues told him, “Guess what! Fareeha is working here too!” So, he decided to look me up as well…you know what surprised me? He had apparently been praising me behind my back. (Yes, I know, people tell me all the time, “Fareeha, you are so negative!”) I am so used to putting up with constant stream of criticism from people all around me (friends and family, bosses and co-workers) that a little praise caught me off-guard!
I get these little put-downs all the time, “Fareeha! You are so negative” or words that mean the same thing “Fareeha! You have loads of baggage!” whenever I make a realistic observation about human nature! “Fareeha! You are so brutally honest!” whenever I am being accurate and factual, “Fareeha! You have no tact!” when asked for my opinion, I give it; “Fareeha! OMG! You can’t do (math)! It’s so easy!” whenever I am asked to perform a complicated math function that is apparently so easy that only I can do it who doesn’t understand math and the person who thinks it’s so easy can’t, “Fareeha! Don’t be so bookish! Get real!” whenever I offer advice in favor of doing the right thing! “Fareeha! Why don’t you lose some weight?”, “Fareeha! OMG, do you know there are at least four egg yolks in a lemon tart?” Whenever I am apparently enjoying my food and they can’t because they are on a diet, “Fareeha! You are so wrong! You don’t know what you are talking about!” Whenever I am asked for a comment based on my experience and knowledge and I the poor unfortunate mug offer it in good faith! On and on it goes…even when friends apparently praise me, it sounds more like verbal abuse…it’s better to bite your tongue than open your mouth in such hostile environment. It only invites trouble. So mostly I keep my mouth shut if I possibly can help it.
Even blogging invites verbal abuse. Today, I was told in passing, “blogging is so easy, create a website and start writing –there are so many bloggers out there now!” For a minute there I didn’t know how to take this comment, because the person who made it knows that I blog, besides, the comment was totally unrelated to the subject under discussion! (Yes, probably you want to join the bandwagon too and say, “Fareeha! You are so paranoid!”).
People who like to criticize you tell you, it’s for your own good. You should be able to take a little constructive criticism. That’s how you grow. The funny thing is, the so-called advice never empowers you – it diminishes you. The criticism in any case is supposed to put you in your place, whatever, that is, in the abusers mind. It’s never about you, it’s about them. As Steven Stosny says in his blog post titled Anger in the age of entitlement, “Negative labels in the form of nouns, adjectives, or criticism, like all forms of abuse, are more autobiographical than descriptive — they tell you more about the people who use them than those they are meant to describe. They tell you whom to avoid if you want a cooperative workplace or if you long for love without hurt.”
Me, I don’t take criticism personally or indeed seriously. If I did, I would have no self-confidence and be a mental wreck in no time flat. ■