Maxine Harley: Is criticism critical?

Maxine Harley
Maxine Harley

I READ recently of an online author who’d managed to trace someone who’d been leaving nasty comments about her work.

The only clue to their identity had been a pseudonym and a cartoon image.

The result surprised me.

I’d expected the culprit to be a teenage social misfit thumping vitriolic words into his keyboard.

Instead the ‘troll’ was an apologetic middle-aged middle-class woman whose reason for being so nasty was that the author’s positive comments and apparent success in life hit a raw nerve for her and reminded her of how unhappy her own life was.

Her comments were very critical and yet not critical – in the sense of necessary or vital.

They weren’t valid, objective or relevant to the content or context of the author’s work.

It was a venting of her own frustration, sadness and self-loathing, whilst hiding behind an online identity.

Instead of looking inward and making changes to her own life she projected her venom outwards – seemingly detached from any empathy for the author and how it felt to be abused and bullied in this anonymous way.

Perhaps she was re-enacting aspects of her own history – which we can all be prone to do until we heal our old emotional wounds.

How ironic that positivity can attract and expose such negativity.

There’s a clear distinction between helpful feedback, and bullying criticism which is intended to make someone feel bad.

We all have a basic human need to be significant to someone, to be noticed, to make an impact; and if that can’t be done in a healthy way some will opt for nastier ways of being noticed.

Better to be hated than ignored – at least being nasty and spiteful gets you noticed even though it doesn’t win you any friends. It’s a trade off.

So, next time you encounter nasty malicious ‘feedback’ spare a thought for the unhappy soul behind it; and hard as it might be, feel some compassion for their struggle to be seen, heard and to make their own personal difference in the world.

Maxine Harley has a masters degree in psychotherapy, has written two books, and created four new approaches to psychological, emotional and physical well-being. She lives happily in Chichester with her daughter and grandson.

Maxine Harley – Do you want to be someone’s Valentine?

Are you making any new year resolutions?

Maxine Harley – Will you have a happy Christmas?