Most of us deal with negative criticism at some point in our lives. Sometimes, we rally and triumph. At other times, we absorb the aspersions and internalize them for good. They become our inner dialogue and we bash ourselves as readily as our critics do.
As an author, I receive negative criticisms all the time. It’s part of the package. I learned early on not everyone will be a fan of my stories and that’s okay. We can’t all like the same things. I’m fortunate in that I have a large number of readers who enjoy my work and I try not to obsess over the ones who don’t.
However, like most people, I felt the sting of criticism at a young age, before writing was part of my career. In fact, there is one particular moment that defined how I saw myself and that taught me I need to be careful who I choose to believe. This instance is one that made it into one of my books. In my recent paranormal release Night Lover, heroine Renata is a talented soprano, but she must deal with a conductor boss who hasn’t given her any credit.
The man says to her: “In life, Renata, there are those who are born to play starring roles. There are those with walk-on parts. And then there are those who occupy the background. You are one of those background singers. Leave the showy stuff to those who understand it.”
Of course, Renata overcomes adversity and goes on to have a brilliant career. She must make the decision to disregard her conductor’s mean-spirited comments.
These words were basically said to me once, a long time ago. Always involved in the arts, I used to take part in community theater productions. I performed in all sorts of shows and in various roles. For one production, I rehearsed very hard before auditioning for one of the lead roles. I didn’t get the lead. Rather, the producer hired his wife for the role. This man later pulled me aside and said, “Rosanna, in theater and in life, there are those who are born to play starring roles. There are those who play secondary characters. And then there are those who are only good enough for the chorus. Background players, like you.”
I was crushed. This man was older and more experienced than I was. Instead of taking an opportunity to coach me, he tore me down. I was miserable during that whole production and never worked with his ensemble again.
I could have abandoned music and singing. I certainly considered it. When someone tells you you’re worthless, it’s hard not to absorb the insult. However, I decided I wouldn’t allow one petty man’s words to shape my life.
Still in university, I auditioned for the University of Toronto’s acclaimed Faculty of Music. It isn’t easy to get in, but I got into the singing program. After finishing my B.A., I completed a three-year diploma in Vocal Performance. Right out of university, I got a singing job with the Elmer Iseler Singers, one of Toronto’s most renowned classical choral ensembles. I got the chance to sing at famed venues here in Toronto: Roy Thomson Hall, Massey Hall, and performed with groups such as the Canadian Brass.
I fulfilled my dream of becoming a classical soprano. After a time, I decided to move onto new challenges, but I did exactly what I wanted. And now, with writing romance, I’ve realized another dream and have used some of my experiences in my plots.
Every so often, I still hear that community theater producer’s voice in my ear, telling me I’m not good enough. That I don’t have talent. But then I remember how much I’ve accomplished.
I now know the truth: that man probably tried to make me feel insignificant because he recognized something in me that he didn’t possess. He was likely more insecure about his talents than I should have been about mine. Sadly, there are those in life who will always strive to drag us down instead of encouraging us.
We owe it to ourselves to look past the criticisms and aim high. We need to educate ourselves and decide the best tactic for realizing our dreams. When we say no to negativity, it’s amazing how the road clears. Sometimes the worst obstacles are the ones we set for ourselves.