The Little Bastard of Self-Criticism, or Use Your Words for Good, yo.

Photo from my 18th century French Lit text, where I learned I hate Rousseau.

I am still a little insecure about my blog. I don’t know how to do the tech parts well, and I have a little bastard voice still that says blogs, (really just mine, of course) are self-aggrandizing and vain. But I keep writing anyway. I don’t seem to be able to stop.

Last week’s I felt was a risk—I’m still fumbling around with a new platform, still out of my groove from taking a holiday break. And it was an ok idea (though not original), that all stories are palimpsests, but I’m not sure I did it justice…. Yeah, the little bastard voice is strong this month.

But the day after I posted it, a colleague approached me—made an effort, went out of her way—to talk about it and tell me she enjoyed it. It was all the difference to me on a cold, cranky morning, and it reminded me how much it matters that we tell people what we appreciate about them.

I try to do this. I try to remember to thank people for their efforts, try to point out what’s awesome about individuals, but I know I’ve missed lots of opportunities over the years. I’m happy to say I caught one recently, though. In the wake of the Very Bad News of 650 foreign language programs being cut from university curricula in the last several years, I panicked and looked up my alma mater to see if the French major still existed.

Not only does it still exist (though pared down, certainly), one of my favorite professors is still teaching there twenty-five years later. So I tracked down his email and wrote him a letter thanking him. He taught me French literature and culture. But even more importantly, he taught me how to learn languages, a skill which I have put to good use over the years. He also modeled honest, emotional, and aesthetic reactions to literature. From this… from this I have made a career.

He didn’t remember me. I didn’t care. I put some positivity out in to the universe, and some came back to me almost immediately.

So the Little Bastard of Self-Criticism got overshadowed by the Bigger, Stronger Voice of Gratitude this week. I probably need to do some work to turn my big, grateful voice inward, not just outward, in the near future. But today it was enough to notice that the little bastard is little, and the better voice is big as I conceive of them. That’s something to build on.

Remember to tell your people they’re awesome, y’all. We are fragile, all of us, and it helps to hear it. It helps even more, though, to say it.

2 thoughts on “The Little Bastard of Self-Criticism, or Use Your Words for Good, yo.

  1. It’s great that you wrote a letter to your former French prof. Why not? Once I wrote a letter to my 7th grade English teacher after she died. Why not?


    1. Right? It feels good to acknowledge the help and inspiration we got along the way. I’m glad he was alive to read it, but it didn’t matter a whit that he didn’t remember me. The result was the same. 🙂 Thanks for reading, Steve.


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