“We can all do with some level of praise and criticism. The key is not to get carried away by either” – Ololade Ajekigbe
Before I click the publish button every Wednesday, I experience some trepidation. A range of thoughts run through my mind. What if people don’t like the article? What if a section of my readers find it offensive? What if they don’t get the message or simply find it bland, off-point, uninspiring…? Every single time, I consider these possibilities (it’s a potpourri of emotions every writer deals with, no matter how long they’ve been writing, by the way), but I put out the post anyway.
An overwhelming percentage of the time, my fears are unfounded. My readers appreciate the piece, and even when they don’t necessarily agree with my submission on a subject matter, or feel I could have done better in communicating the crux of my message, they are still kind with their criticisms.
I also get praised often. Sometimes, too often for my liking, even though a part of me basks in it because like everyone would agree, it does feel good to be appreciated. Nevertheless, I don’t know how to respond to effusive praise. I become embarrassed when a person goes on and on about how fantastic they think my work is or how they admire my consistency and commitment to my craft (again, that crippling self-doubt every creative person constantly battles).
I appreciate the praise, but at the same time, I worry about becoming complacent or believing I’m actually better than I really am, although I’d swear I wasn’t the type to get carried away by such things.
It’s the danger of lavish praise. The pitfall in acclaim. There’s always a tendency that the receiver revels in it so much that they start to develop an exaggerated opinion of themselves. It’s why we have social media celebrities and overlords whose only claim to fame is having a huge following on Facebook or Twitter. Individuals who have next to no substance and are uncouth and arrogant because people praise them all the time.
A good number of people have the propensity to become full of themselves when they are constantly showered with accolades. Sometimes, a lack of self-awareness ensures that we are totally oblivious to the reality that we have become big-headed. The change is gradual but steady, and slowly but surely we begin to think too highly of ourselves and how important we really are in the grand scheme of things.
Recently, Nigerian singer and songwriter, Mr Eazi, was heavily criticised over his assertion that many of his colleagues have been imitating his Ghanaian sound; a submission that is largely untrue because several artistes have infused the same sound in their music at one time or the other. Besides, music is fluid and musical influences come from different parts of the world.
It’s the second time the artiste has drawn the ire of Nigerians over his unguarded comments. Even if he was right in his submission, it’s cocky to constantly allude that everyone is trying to be like you. If we say that imitation is the biggest form of flattery, then one would expect that the one being copied would accept this indirect flattery with equanimity.
Mr Eazi has done well so far in his short career, but his proclivity for arrogance is glaring. And it’s not far-fetched to wonder if this display of his has nothing to do with his fast rise to fame. I am not a singer or musician, but I can imagine how easy it is for them to get high on the praise and appreciation from adoring fans. It’s a good position to be in – to literally feel so much love and adulation from people just by simply doing what one loves to do.
It’s a blessing to be appreciated for what one does. Every vocation has its peculiar challenges and for one to be recognized for good quality of work in spite of our limiting environment, even if only verbally is a privilege. There are millions of people who work hard at what they do every day, and simply don’t get the recognition they deserve. And so it’s inevitable that some people will get carried away by praise.
However, that’s why we must be self-aware, especially at those times when we appear to have the world at our feet. Over and over again, life has shown that we are most vulnerable when we have just recorded an appreciable level of success.
Football pundits always talk about a team being most vulnerable the next few minutes after getting a goal. The psychology behind it is easy – after a goal, they are on a high, adrenaline is coursing through their veins and in those few minutes of rapturous ecstasy, the “wounded” opposing team is able to capitalize on their vulnerability to strike.
In the same way, being submerged in the ocean of acclaim is detrimental to anyone. While we all love to be praised, there’s always the risk of getting addicted to it, such that we are unable to put in our best when we don’t get it. It’s a good reason to appreciate critics. No matter how much we feel they are haters who see no good in what we do, the reality is that they are there to keep us in check.
It’s a good reason to appreciate critics. No matter how much we feel they are haters who see no good in what we do, the reality is that they are there to keep us in check. Often times, whether we admit or not, we try to do our best because we know that there are critics out there, and we want them to have little to say in criticising our work.
Again, it’s all about being emotionally intelligent. Why would any right thinking person want to annoy the same people who love and support them? It simply doesn’t make sense.
And so, as we lap up all the praise and flattery of adoring fans, we must remember to keep it together and remain level-headed.