For my wonderful friend Hannah [Mahmoud, not Baker].
The wrong people do not matter, but they will, almost certainly, mind. They will say that you are too much. But when you trim yourself around the edges for them, they will say that you are too little. You talk too much; you do not talk enough. You are so, so annoying! And yet, you are so, so dull. Your colours are too vibrant – blinding – and yet, somehow, in their paradox-creating eyes, you are black and white, black and white. Always, “no”, never “yes”. Critics, these bored and often envious souls, create moulds for you, which they swear they will approve of you if you adhere to them. But their moulds are illusory; a disappearing act; hypocritical little jumpers. As soon as you harken towards them, eager to appease and please, they are gone. New markers of approval are pitched in their places; you rush towards them like a dog. You’re weird; you’re too talkative; you’re crazy; you’re too religious; you’re such a nerd. Listen a bit more carefully to these criticisms, to these fingers pointed like guns, to these minds that think more about you and your life than they really ought to: they criticise in you what they dislike of themselves. Projection, this is called. You’re such a nerd: they are unhappy that you scored way higher than them in that test. You’re so annoying: they worry that they have no personality in juxtaposition to yours. You’re so weird: they worry that, whilst you stick out a little, they simply merge into the background, consumed by the bubbling slimy monster of normalcy.
The right people, on the other hand, will always twist things a little to make you feel good about yourself; to paint you in a positive light. Their minds do this reflexively; their hearts expand to make space for you. You’re not weird: you’re wonderful. You do not talk too much: talk some more, please, so that I may listen in fascination and admiration to your silky words! And wow, how attractive you look when your hair is a mess and you look like an exhausted alcoholic! How do you make it all look so beautiful?! How are you so beautiful, so adorable, so delightful to be around, and to befriend? Your soul, my friend, is truly something to behold. Of course the critics will rush towards you, like flies toward fruit.
Listening to the critics – actually taking all their bullet-like words into account – will drive you insane. They – those haters – are a confusing, insecure, (relatively) insignificant bunch. Their chosen role, so it would seem, is to locate all your colours, and to perceptively turn them all into something ugly. It makes them feel better, to make you feel worse. But the right ones will never see ugly in you: they will only find beauty where there is clearly much beauty to be found, and they will find only beauty even when they must force themselves to look a little harder.