Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A World Without Criticism

SNL's "You Can Do Anything" with Daniel Radcliffe-

Last weekend, Saturday Night Live aired a particularly prevalent sketch entitled, "You Can Do Anything. The only show that celebrates the incredibly high self -esteem of the YouTube Generation."

After the first guest fails miserably at juggling, one of the co-host's points out, "Now when people ask if you're a juggler, you can say yes." While guest #1 responds, "Because I have no shame or self-awareness."

After the second guest joins the group, he announces, "I'm what you would call Twitter famous." Then the co-host adds, " Meaning...?" To which Guest #2 replies, " Not famous."

Then the other co-host chimes in, "And I assume your self-esteem reflects that?"  Guest #2: " No, on the contrary my self-esteem is through the roof, because no one's ever been honest with me about how mediocre I am."

Host Daniel Radcliffe was the third guest who spouted the best line after he performed his unique talent of combining Irish dancing with Chinese calligraphy, " I tried, and therefore no one should criticize me."

Suddenly, my life flashed before my eyes; scenes of a friend of a friend's mother telling her daughter that she was the worst one in the school play. My best friend's cousin's aunt who was the last one picked for every team in gym class. My dermatologist's cat's vet's mechanic whose boyfriend only dated her for her hair. Why did they feel the need to criticize when every one of these nice, young ladies tried so hard?

Recently, I was watching an episode of The Wonder Years when Kevin's dad came home from a bad day at the office. The kids knew to stay away from him when he was angry, and that's exactly how we were brought up. Most of us feared, respected, and even loved our parents. I don't know how our roles became reversed, but many of us now fear that our children won't love and respect us.

Then I realized that many bloggers probably endured tough childhoods. Those of us who weren't beaten up at recess, may have been forced to take the garbage out more than our spoiled siblings. Some of us may have had to wear hand-me-downs right down to our grandparents' drawers.This is why as a whole, we are a kinder, gentler people who empathize, sympathize, and even fertilize our fellow bloggers' sites, so we may grow in harmony as writers.


  1. ...this post is very similar to the subject matter of my novel, "South of Charm." How a troubled childhood can fuel youthful aspirations into something beautiful as an adult.

    Great post ;)


  2. One's childhood can be responsible for many adult thoughts and teachings. I was lucky to have had a wonderful childhood despite not having a father(who passed away when I was three yrs) Music was my first love and even today I love it.

    Thanks for the visit much appreciated,

  3. I think I would've really liked that SNL skit. Ever watch American Idol try-outs? All those God-awful screechers who can't carry a tune, but are absolutely convinced they have voices like angels? (Because everyone's always told them so!) And their shock (I say SHOCK!) when the judges tell them the truth?

    "... fertilize our fellow bloggers' sites ..." I like that!

  4. P.S. Oh, and my father had absolutely NO trouble criticizing everything I said and did. None at all. Funny thing was, when he finally told me he was proud of me, I was in my forties, and it made me cry, because I realized I didn't NEED his approval. All those years I tried to please him, and in the end, I didn't care. (STILL trying to please everyone else, though. Old habits die hard.)

  5. I don't know too many people who can claim great childhoods. Everyone had different issues they had to deal with. No one in my family ever had a problem telling anyone how mediocre they were. But all those things helped form who we are, good and bad.

  6. I wish I hadn't missed that episode. "Because I have no shame or self-awareness" - priceless. My kids' childhoods are very different from mine. What's good for them was bad for me and vice versa. Kids have the opportunity to have their voices heard by a worldwide audience - and have the criticism of the whole world on them at the same time. They can communicate easily with a huge group of people - and be mocked or bullied in an instant. I'm starting to appreciate my crappy childhood.

  7. Think you nailed it with the reversal thing.
    I think I'm one of the few that had a nice, normal childhood with no real trauma. Of course, I was a military brat, so we moved around a lot and I had to make new friends - most people wouldn't find that normal.

  8. Elliot - Thanks for following me and I look forward to hearing more about your book!

    Yvonne - Your mother was an amazing woman, and I know how much you still miss her. I'm sorry that you lost your dad when you were both so young. Thanks Yvonne

    Susan - It is unbelievable how talented some of the contestants think they are, but they are the most fun to watch.

    Sorry your dad was so hard on you, but that's probably the way he was raised. I'm glad he finally told you how proud he was even though you had to wait over 40 years to hear it. You did give him much to be proud of with raising a wonderful family, and your radio career.

    I remember my dad telling me how proud he was when I was 16, and on the honor roll while working at the movie theater. It was my best report card, and he really appreciated it. This meant so much to me especially because I lost him less than a year later. Thanks Susan

    L.G. - Back then when we heard something positive, we knew that we usually earned it which made it all the more worthwhile. I was fortunate to have had a good childhood, though there were bumps along the way. I always knew that my parents were there for me, and I wish that I had expressed my gratitude more often. Thanks L.G.

    Tonja - I don't think I would've liked growing up with FB and everyone posting embarrassing photos all the time, not to mention the obsession with being stick thin. In those respects, kids do have more to worry about now. You can google the SNL skit "You Can Do Anything" at Thanks Tonja!

    Alex - That must've been tough at first, but you obviously adapted quickly. I'd love to hear some of your stories growing up! Thanks Alex!

  9. I wish I had seen this SNL skit, your description makes me laugh. I didn't have a bad childhood, and was actually a lucky kid, but I was always the last one picked in gym class. If I was in charge of school, I'd abolish mandatory gym immediately. For athletic kids, it's a great thing, but for kids like me, it was a nightmare.

    I love your closing paragraph, such a great description of the blogging community! :)

  10. I was beaten up by public school kids.
    I was beaten up by nuns.
    I had to take the garbage out before the invention of plastic trash bags.
    I had to breathe second-hand smoke in a closed car.
    I was bitten by a dog. MY dog.
    I fell off my bike and broke my jaw.
    I saw my parents doing "it."
    In order to wear pants that fit my waist, my mother had to take six inches off the length.
    I fell through the ice. At a skating rink.
    I write a blog.
    Uh oh.

  11. "fertilize our fellow blogger's sites, so we may grow in harmony as writers." Love this. It's so true. I get so much positivity from fellow writers/bloggers that I honestly don't know what I'd do if I didn't have this community to be a part of.

    Great post.

  12. In a way, maybe the youtube generation has allowed more people to realize their dreams without the harsh critiques that were part of many a prior generation's childhood. I'm not a fan of the gold star mentality that pervades today, but there is something to be said for encouragement for those who have the guts to try in this day and age.

  13. I love how this post has brought out all of these thoughts from readers. I know I spent so many years trying to please everyone, I was in my late thirties when I said to heck with it. I color my hair what I color strikes me, got a couple of tattoos and play roller derby in my mid forties. I remember being told as a kid to just be yourself, apparently though being yourself meant "be whatever fits in with the world".

  14. Julie - Sorry you also suffered through gym class though I don't think "abolishing" it for the uncoordinated kids (like my best friend's cousin's aunt) is the answer. At least now at many schools girls are allowed to bring in their own gym clothes and bathing suits, instead of the ill-fitting uniforms, and swimsuits we grew up with. Thanks Julie!

    Al - I admire your courage, and hope it helps to finally let it all out. You know like what your mom did with your pants. This explains so much about the man you are today. Do your parents still "do it" in front of you, or do you have your own room now? I think all of that driving around in our parents' cars "breathing in second-hand smoke" with the windows closed did something to our brains! Thanks for the great laughs Al!

    Jennifer - I meant it as more of a double entendre in keeping with the theme, but your interpretation works too. Thanks Jennifer!

    Julie - I agree that it's important to encourage people to follow their dreams if they have the talent and determination. The characters in the SNL skit wanted to be famous just for showing up. Thanks Julie!

    MSBjaneB - I think it's great that you're doing what you love, and getting a fantastic workout while you're doing it! You could go crazy trying to please everyone, and some people take a lifetime to realize that. Thanks for following me, and I look forward to getting to know you! Julie

  15. I've never forgotten that experience. Which is why I take great pains to ALWAYS lock my bedroom door. Mrs. Penwasser then complains, "But she'll know what we're doing."
    I counter with the fact that, while that may be true, walking in to see her parents doing "it" is far, far worse.
    Ten toes up, ten toes down.......

    1. Are you sure that's all she's complaining about? I'm sure your daughter is very grateful! Seriously, her therapist told me. Oh and thanks for the sound effects!

  16. I think a lot of people are way too easy on kids today. Some kids never hear 'try harder' or anything negative. Even if they bring home bad grades, their parents tell them it's the teacher's fault. What's going to happen when these kids get out in the real world?

  17. Carol - That's a very good point! My kids will probably just blame me either way. Thanks Carol!

    Choms - Thanks for following me, and I will do the same!

  18. Thanks for Posting! Following!

    Visit my blog!

  19. What a wonderful post, and I love the thought of a world without criticism. The blog world is indeed fabulous for all its support and nurturing.

  20. Oh. My. Gosh. The comments are almost as interesting as the original post! Very thought provoking! A lot of parents often tell me that they think I'm too tough on my kids ... but then the same people complain about how rottenly behaved their kids are and they complain that they wish they were as lucky as I am to have such great kids. Well ... it wasn't an accident. While I've worked hard to encourage self-esteem, I've also set high expectations and set rules and limitations. ... okay *sigh* ... I didn't mean for that to sound egotistical ... my point is = parenting has changed A LOT over the years ... hmm ... maybe I should delete this?


    Great post. ha.

  21. fortheinternet - Thanks and I look forward to reading your blog!

    Talli - I agree with your thoughts about the blog world, but sometimes I think it's okay to be more enthusiastic than others. Thanks Talli!

    Margo - Don't you dare delete this, and thanks for writing "almost as interesting!" I think it's wonderful that you set rules and boundaries and followed through with them. It's also important to have a partner that backs you up, so the kids don't play one parent against the other. It's easy for me to write this now, but I wish that I was more consistent when my kids were growing up. Consequently, if you're too strict than they're more likely to go hog wild in college. The key is balance and I think you've found it. Margo, I'm so happy you stopped by! Julie

  22. A world with zero criticism would be complete chaos. Everyone would think that they are correct on any given subject.

  23. What a great post, Julie!

    I think the "self-esteem of the YouTube generation" is a good thing, but can also present its problems. Today's youth see the "successes" of the Hiltons and the Beibers of the world and want their piece of the pie. Nothing wrong with that.

    But I think it's just as important to remember that "success" is not defined by money, fame, or to put it in online community terms, one's Klout score.

    I've always tried to teach my children that each of us is alloted the same number of breaths each morning. It's how you make each breath count, and whether you can go to sleep at night knowing you haven't polluted anyone else's air, that really matters.


  24. This is a powerful post. It had me reflecting back to the way things were while I was growing up. Things have changed, much like you said about the episode of Growing Years. We feared our parents as well as loved and respected (and obeyed). My kids friends do not call me Mrs. Sugar , they call me Ms. Melissa or Melissa. Kids do not seem to have the formal respect we were taught. I am not saying they are any worse than we were or that they are bad, just different.

    Competition seems to have been eliminated as well. Field day for my younger ones does not allow individual winners, rather a class races against another class and they all win spirit ribbons as opposed to 1st, 2nd & 3rd place. I understand the concept of teaching kids that they are all winners, but let's face it, they will not grow up to receive promotions at work for simply showing up or doing mediocre work.

  25. BragonDorn - Unfortunately, I already know a few people like that. Though you're right - it could always be worse. Thanks BragonDorn!

    Bryce - Thanks for your positive feedback! I especially like your last paragraph about teaching your children about, "making each breath count," as well as the satisfaction in... "knowing you haven't polluted anyone else's air.." These quotes are also very Model Poetry worthy!

    Melissa - It is so hard to teach healthy competitiveness and good sportsmanship. They are both very important, yet one often cancels out the other. I agree that kids should be taught early on to do the best they can, and if their best is considered average at one thing, then they should find something else to strive for. I really appreciate your comments Melissa! Julie

  26. Great post Julie. I think your last line is my favorite. "fertilize our fellow bloggers' sites, so we may grow in harmony as writers"- Brilliant.

  27. You brought up so many relevant topics with this post, Julie. With focus on an SNL episode - you have great taste! [It's one of the only good shows left on Tv.] I really appreciate what you say about our childhoods too. I'm currently stalling on some writing regarding mine because of the emotions I need to cut through to get to the page. Somehow your validation helps. Thank you!

  28. I always had it pretty good, but fortunately there was enough honest feedback for me to have a true self-assessment. Truthful criticism done appropriately only helps to make us better at the things we do. Sadly the trend in much of U.S. society is downgrading us closer to mediocrity.

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  29. Thanks Rhonda!

    Robyn - I hope that in time you'll be able to work through those emotions. You're such a good writer and maybe you could jot down your thoughts in a private journal. Then you can always decide to publish it at a later date. Thanks Robyn!

    Lee - Thanks for the excellent summation! And the key is "truthful criticism done appropriately."

  30. We used to know to keep out of the way if Dad came home in a bad mood. I don't think Dad was aware that we did it and in the same way I don't know if my kids ever did the same with me or their father. I suspect they did.

    I too love your last line. It made me smile. I felt like I'd been praised.

    1. It's interesting how things have changed throughout the years, but our kids probably did pick up on certain signals that we never thought about. Thanks so much Rosalind, and you deserve lots of praise!

  31. That was just...pretty! Damn pretty! I never had toys when I was young. So I cut up paper and made my own creatures which were no more than just legs with wings really. But my imagination soared and I loved those paper toys. And when I got older and my mom bought be a western doll set with horses, I still made my own paper toys, wings and all.

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