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At some point — I think maybe during middle school social studies — I got empowered to look for things to critique. “You’re a special snowflake! Go make some rudimentary analysis of media or society and then feel really good about yourself!” I feel like that was a PPS thing, especially — not at all bad for teachers to encourage critique, but maybe it was a bit too validating for me. Maybe I have never left this criticizing-makes-me-special mindset that I acquired back then behind. It would perhaps explain why every attempt I’ve ever made to “review” something has retained a sort of middle-school-social-studies quality.

Here’s a class I would have benefited from: doing a thing, ever: 101! Do a thing before you rush to criticize a thing. I talk to my boyfriend about this, and of course he is —┬ávery much┬álike me — built to criticize. He squirms at what seems to him like an oppression of thought. My view of it, however, is that criticizing is so easy — so much of a knee jerk reaction for all of us, that it would never be in danger of being quelled. Of course it’s like that because we live in a society that has the privilege of critiquing everything, therefore, the actual skill is spent deciding what is worth (or not worth) critiquing. If at any point you realize, “hmm, maybe I’ve held my tongue too much”, there is a ridiculously easy solution. Step 1: congratulate yourself. Step 2: slightly touch the knob labeled ‘CRITICIZE,’ and watch the great flood that comes out of you. If your problem is having said too much, well — that solution is much more energy intensive.

So if it seems like everything around you deserves to be knocked down a peg… Maybe you need to spend sometime looking for higher quality things to surround yourself with? That’s not terribly profound, but I feel like I need to remind myself of it once in a while. Keep looking until you find enough things that you are actually impressed by, things that you want to strive towards — enough things to occupy you that maybe you’ll shut up for five seconds. I know that much of my angst was the result of just trying to apply too robust a critique to things that honestly weren’t even that interesting. I ended up ruminating, when I could have been looking for more complex subjects to delve into that would have delighted (instead of depressed) me.

Maybe I’ll try to take my own advice. Or maybe I’ll be back here in five seconds to complain about something. Not that I’m incapable of making the distinction between complaints and criticism! My whole adult life seems to have been about what setting my criticism dial should be set on. How much criticism am I allowed to have before it makes me a “negative” person, or before it makes me incapable of seeing enough good to make me happy? I’m still trying to figure it out. Luckily now I don’t have anyone telling me that I criticize too much, or not enough, so I can make the decision without having to factor in how I will be valued by others.

Edit: Every time I write now, I’m slapped in the face with the extent to which I’ve become illiterate by not writing enough. Specifically — what tense am I in again? Why did I start everything in the pluperfect?! Nooooo, ugh. And of course, what is the difference between “critique” and “criticize”? I looked it up, and apparently they can be the same, but critique is more often used in the formal sense of rendering a judgment about a work of art or literature, whereas criticize is more often used in the context of finding fault with something. Just in case you need to relearn the English language, because I do.