Criticism versus Failure

No one needs to tell me twice that I’m my own worst critic.  But it really came to a head this week.

It’s finals time in the world of academia, and with it comes all manner of stresses.  Usually, I’m pretty good at letting my ideas “stew” for a little while as I prepare my papers, however this time I something happened.  Something was not right.  No matter how hard I tried, I was unable to even begin writing and my mind was utterly blocked.

As the wire came down, it was just me and the page.  And tears, lots of tears.  Now I’m not usually one to be ashamed of the concept of crying; though I don’t make it a point to show everyone, my tears usually come up when I am under exceptional self-stress and I don’t pretend that I am able to control them.  But I am ashamed of my tears when I am in professional or academic situations.  Suffice it to say that I have been crying in front of almost everyone this week: deans, professors, colleagues, random people in restaurants, everyone.

And for what?  Because I had hit a wall, mentally, and I was unable to cope with my stress.  And the more I thought of not being able to complete the semester on time, the more I felt like a failure.  I do not like feeling like a failure.

Thankfully, a series of events has occurred that make it possible for me to finish this paper… albeit not by the deadline.  It means that I will be working through the break, but it’s better than what I’ve been going through this week.  It also means that I am not technically done with the semester yet, but it feels like it for all the stress that has been lifted from my shoulders.

And this is my primary concern: at the end of the day, what in the world is worth that kind of self-abuse?  To break down into tears at the sight of a blank page and the prospect of failure… that’s an enormous emotional block to place in front of one’s self.  Put on top of that a kind of self-disdain at having cried over it, and what comes out?  More tears.  I am absolutely my own worst critic, and I’m learning that criticism is not always the most productive posture to have towards one’s self.

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