Writing on Air

Writing on Air by Jim Paredes

Archive for December 2nd, 2018

Surviving compliments 0

Posted on December 02, 2018 by jimparedes

HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE – Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) – December 2, 2018 – 12:00am

I am often surprised when people tell me that they read my Humming in my Universe column in the Philippine STAR every week. I am for two reasons: I don’t know many people who still read the newspapers and I am amazed that a lot of them apparently still do; the second reason is every week after submitting my article, I often question whether I wrote something that a lot of people would be interested to read. Apparently, more than a few are.

I have met random people who come up to me at airports, airplanes, churches, meetings, shopping centers, etc, who tell me they read my column.

I like it. And I am honored that they do. But most of the time, my verbal reactions to what they say are awkward.

I have always had a problem with compliments, praise or and accolades. You would think that after decades of being a public figure, I would be completely at ease with them. The truth is, I am not.

About 35 years ago, I remember feeling quite embarrassed when a fan came out to me gushing about a song I made. She expressed profusely how much she loved it and what it meant to her personally. Deep down I felt embarrassed because I thought I was unworthy of the praise.

I have always admired people who were better than I am. I never looked at my own musical works then as really outstanding. When we as APO started having hits with songs I made, my initial reactions as to why the songs became popular were dismissive. I would find reasons except the possibility that they were good songs. I figured that they were hits because of some fluke explanation. Perhaps it was pure chamba. Or I could have been just lucky. Or it had more to do with timing than the virtues of the song.

And because I knew my songs intimately, and remember the recording process, I knew their so-called imperfections and flaws. It wasn’t enough that people liked them for me to completely accept them as good songs because I knew what was “wrong” with them. I could not easily take pride in them. I was my biggest punishing critic.

Don’t get me wrong. I put a lot of work in doing those songs, I did take them very seriously. But I guess I just used to criticize myself way too much.

It is funny now when I think of what used to go on in my mind when strangers complimented me on my work. Half of the time, I would be questioning (and mostly negating) the good things I was hearing. Listening to praise made me uncomfortable. I was always waiting for the criticism part. I even often wondered if the person talking to me was just trying to win my good side and would suddenly change the topic and sell me something after. Tupperware? Insurance? A condo? I know it sounds silly now but I underrated myself too much.

Things began to change when I started taking up Zen meditation. It was also the time I was going through my mid-life crises. Meditation can save you. I know it saved me. Something actually happens when you spend time merely watching the world and yourself without judging. You begin to accept things as they are. In my case, I actually began to understand what it meant to be a creative person. I understood and began to accept the gift of creativity that God gave me. It was a spiritually profound awakening.

I felt that being a creative meant that I was God-like because God was the ultimate creator. From God came everything. And like the Creator, I could create something out of nothing. My talent came from God Herself and I honor Her by using them.

I remember how deeply all this made an impact on me. I began to see myself without all my negative spin. Yes, I was not perfect but I was also certainly not as imperfect and lacking in talent as I used to believe. I was the offspring of the Original Creator and like Him, my work comes to bear good fruits.

Even when I would go to Mass then, I would consciously reword the prayer, “Lord I am not worthy…”before communion. I would instead say, “Lord I am worthy to receive you. Please remind me always that I am your son who carries your creative power and goodness in my DNA.” I was not being arrogant. I was humbly realizing my true identity.

Those were the days of my big awakening, as I like to call it. In a span of six years, I was able to write four books. I felt prolific. I had lots of things to tell and share. I was always inspired.

During those times, I somehow got better at accepting compliments because I had a great degree of acceptance of who I was, warts and all. I forgave myself more easily when I did wrong. I could move on easier. I was happy with myself, as myself.

I still have a lot of self-deprecation when I respond to compliments partly out of habit, and partly because I still cannot take credit for them fully. When someone tells me that they have all of APO’s albums, and that they’ve been listening to them for a long time, I may say something like, “I hope you are not permanently damaged because of this.” They laugh. And so do I. But I now follow it up with sincere thanks.

When people say they like my writing, aside from thank you, I say mostly nothing. I like listening to every comment they make about what they have read. It gives me insight. After they have said their piece, I mostly change the topic. I have listened to more praise than I can handle without feeling embarrassed.

Mason Cooley, an American aphorist perhaps felt the same way when he said, “We are prepared for insults but compliments leave us baffled.” I can mostly agree.

But at the same time, why is it that a single bad review out of dozens of good ones can make us upset? Maybe it is because we all harbor that secret doubt that The Artist’s Way author Julia Cameron talks about. It is the feeling that one is never good enough. I know a true artist tries to be as authentic as possible. Did that single bad review just expose him as a fraud? One can get pretty paranoid.

It is both a bad and a good thing that this feeling exists. It is bad because it can be very discouraging to do anything when you can’t believe in yourself. It is also good because the only way to overcome self doubt is to do what you are suppose to do as an artist. You strive for more authenticity by overcoming scrupulosity, or the indulgence in too much self-doubt and obsessive self-examination. Be kinder to yourself.

So if we ever meet and you compliment me for whatever reason, please know where I am coming from. I may act weird and uncomfortable.

But my gratitude is real.

Read more at https://www.philstar.com/lifestyle/sunday-life/2018/12/02/1873322/surviving-compliments#UpC8pAyBxW0d4xOE.99

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