There’s Honest and Then There’s Hurtful

Last night I had a really amazing time sitting in at a friend’s event down in San Diego. I went away from it feeling content with the progress I’ve been making as I practice and work hard each day as part of my Project 365. Many of my efforts are starting to show in my playing and that’s incredibly gratifying.

This morning I woke up re-energized, motivated and with a plan of action on how to tackle my practice time today in order to prepare for the next performance (which is on Thursday). I was feeling inspired and ready to seize the day.

But then I checked Facebook and I saw this:


*cue sound of screeching tires*

One of the hardest things about being a public figure (and especially an artist), regardless of how “public” that may be, is opening yourself up to criticism. When you put yourself out there, you give others the opportunity to say things like “she sucks.” But you also create the opportunity to connect with others through your art and that makes it all worth it.

But it still hurts.

This isn’t the first time I’ve received that kind of attention, and it probably won’t be the last. I’d hope that one time I’d develop thicker skin and comments like that would just blow past me, but they don’t. It hurts every single time.

I am an artist, a composer, a musician, but I’m also a person. A human being. I have real feelings and those feelings can get hurt just like anyone else.

Don’t get me wrong. I love criticism. Well, constructive criticism. It keeps me on my feet and helps me remain aware of areas I can improve upon, what I do that people like (or don’t like), and it guides me in the right direction. And yes, sometimes that hurts to receive, but the blow is lessened with the suggestion of how to improve.

Here are some pieces of criticism that I’ve found helpful:

  • “You play really great, but it doesn’t look like you’re having fun. You need to smile more!” Point taken. I agree. I sometimes look like a deer in the headlights on stage. I don’t always know what to do with my hands. What do I do with my hands?! Smile more. Move more. Don’t stare at the microphone when you play. I can do that or try to.
  • “You need to work on your time.” Alright, where’s my metronome?
  • “I just don’t like the way she holds her sax.” I’m not quite sure how could hold my sax any differently, unless it’s the photos where I’m not playing, but it gives me something to think about either way.

And then of course, there was this Amazon review which initially freaked me out but also inspired me to focus on the saxophone for my next album.


But the difference is in the fact that each of the above criticisms gave me something to think about. They told me why they didn’t like my playing or why they didn’t like my photos.

“She sucks” does nothing but hurt. It doesn’t give me anywhere to go. I’m also pretty sure that this person was not at the performance last night. I also have a sneaking suspicion that this wasn’t the first occasion he’s taken the time to write a comment in that spirit on my Facebook page. I seem to remember seeing his photo before.

Everyone has the right to their own opinion, yes. I’m sure he’s not the only one who thinks I suck. That’s okay. I’m also positive that’s not going to be the last time I hear/see something along those lines.

So then what’s the point?

I wish there was one. I wish I could inspire people to be more positive and uplifting (or to keep their thoughts to themselves when they don’t have anything positive or uplifting to say). We’d all live in a better world for it.

I know, however, that this post probably won’t make that kind of impact. It’s not as eloquent as Le Clown‘s post based on a similar experience and most people probably won’t even get through this entire entry. I accept that.

But, if you are one of the few who gets to the end, I’d like to ask something of you.

Tonight when you get home from school or work or where ever, take your loved ones aside – your wife, husband, mother, father, sister, brother, son, daughter – and tell them that you appreciate them. Tell them something you admire about them. Something that you appreciate them doing. Something that you know they’ve been working hard on. We all need a little bit more positivity in our lives.

And then, if you’re up to it, I’ve written two other posts on something similar – one here and one on Teen Jazz…

No One Can Be a Better You (on Teen Jazz)

My Previous Post on Trolling


23 thoughts on “There’s Honest and Then There’s Hurtful

  1. All artists get that type of review. I’ve had a few “it’s poorly written” about my book and while it hurts, the thing that bugs me most is they don’t say how they determined it. If I’ve really screwed up, I’d like to know to improve.

    *sigh* You just can’t please everyone.

    Either way, excellent post and all the best to you.

    • Thank you Elene,

      I appreciate you taking the time to visit.

      That type of review definitely comes with the territory and it can be quite frustrating. Especially when there’s no explanation.

      Either way – with or without a reason – it can be painful. I’m sorry you’ve had similar comments.



  2. Shannon,
    You are a wonderful human being, a lovely musician, and someone with a huge heart. There will always be detractors. Coltrane was attacked many times, while he was alive. So was Glenn Gould. And we’re talking about masters here… I know it hurts, and it’s hard to pass by, but not everyone is eloquent enough to write what they really feel, and unfortunately, sometimes with social media, people don’t have more in them than a quickly typed she sucks, which basically sucks. I think you’re wonderful.
    Le Clown

    • Le Clown,

      Your fine compliment more than balanced me out and gave me the strength I need to protect myself against any other detractor(s) that may come my way. I appreciate your endless honesty, support and friendship.

      Many, many thanks,


      • I want to echo Le Clown’s comment with which I entirely agree. This horrid comment on your Facebook tells me nothing about you and everything about the person who wrote it. Constructive criticism is always hard but also should be inspiring – as you write – but attacks like that display nothing but a cruel and malicious heart (possibly a rather immature one too I suspect) and that means their voice is instantly worthless. Best wishes for you Shannon from one musician to another 🙂 x

      • Thanks Ken. I really appreciate it! If only all criticism were constructive, but I suppose that’s wishful thinking.

        All the best of luck to you and your music.

  3. That’s one thing about the internet. Because they are behind a screen people think they can sit there and judge and just be plain mean. That person probably watched to many reality TV shows where judges just crush other people and fancied himself the new Simon Cowell. Personally I’ve enjoyed everything of yours I’ve listened to. Don’t let one bad comment get you down. 🙂

    • The Internet has definitely created an environment where people feel comfortable saying things they’d never say to someone in person. It’s unfortunate.

      And thank you! I’m so glad you’ve enjoyed my music!

  4. My husband recently experienced something similar with the album he is/was working on. Someone heard 5 seconds of the instrument-only track (he hasn’t done vocals yet) and called it muzak. She wouldn’t tell him why though. It hurt him immensely, and he actually hasn’t worked on the album since. If people thought before making comments like that, I think the world would be a slightly better place. They don’t though, especially when they have a computer to hide behind. There will always be people who enjoy putting down others and those who make snap judgements. I love getting constructive criticism, even if it sometimes hurts my ego, but remarks that have nothing to add are pointless and hurtful.

    • Wow, I’m so sorry your husband went through that. I know just how that feels. I hope he finds the inspiration to begin working on the album soon. And I totally agree with your point on constructive criticism.

  5. Hi Shannon, A thoughtful post. I agree that if people have a criticism, it’s much more helpful if they can be specific about what needs improvement. The same goes with compliments. It’s nice to know WHY they like your work. In discussions with other artists, we don’t let each other just say, ‘I love his work or I hate her work’. We have to explain why for the opinion to have any meaning. Even so, prior to any criticism, we all should take a deep breath and ask ourselves ‘does this really need to be said?’ All the best, love your work ethic! Laurel

  6. Hmmm, maybe that person meant “she blows” instead of “sucks” which would be good for a sax player, right?

    If not, I’d take a different approach: someone who expresses themselves so eloquently is surely not anyone you need trouble yourself over. I only value the opinions of people I respect and this person doesn’t seem able to form a critical thought so don’t waste another second thinking about them.

    (Plus, I see your FB is French! How many languages does Mr./Ms. “Sucks” speak? How many instruments do they play? How many artistic skills do they excel at? Totally. not. worth. your. time.) h

  7. I wish I had read this yesterday. I won’t bore you with the details, but you’re absolutely right. We should spend more time telling people what we appreciate than what we dislike, and when we do the latter, it should never be done maliciously. You just said it so much better than I ever could.

    • You just said it perfectly – we should absolutely spend more time telling people what we appreciate rather than what we dislike. Especially with those closest to us. It’s easy to nit-pick (sp?) those we love because we want them to be the best they can be and want the best for them, but sometimes we forget to encourage and appreciate the things that mean the most.

      But even for those we don’t know as well, we should compliment more.

  8. “When you put yourself out there, you give others the opportunity to say things like “she sucks.” But you also create the opportunity to connect with others through your art and that makes it all worth it.” Very true 🙂

    I always make art for myself first. The very first person I want to satisfy and bring joy to is myself. And as long as there’s at least one or two who find my art beautiful,I go on.. It’s enough to keep me going. Continue to live your passions. The very act of choosing the field of arts (when this world values science a lot more) is a very courageous thing to do.You are amazing 🙂

  9. Pingback: Favorite blog posts, May 2013 | Bret Pimentel, woodwinds

  10. Very good Blog with very valid points,
    Constructive Criticism is valid and can be helpful but harping criticism is never useful.


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