Pursuing Life's Daring Adventure

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Putting It All Out There (and Surviving the Criticism)

Twenty years ago this summer, I walked a Paris runway for the first time in Elite’s Look of the Year in France, my first real exposure to the world of modeling.

Somehow, at fifteen years old and standing five-foot-nine-and-one-half inches tall, I had been selected from a Midwestern small town to compete with fifty girls from other nations for a handful of modeling contracts with famed Elite Model Management. It was a fast lesson on the glamour of not only makeup and the catwalk, but also of working in the midst of famed designers like Azzedine Alaia, famed models like Linda Evangelista, and famed Elite head John Casablancas.
Certainly, in Paris, the scene was something like television’s popular shows—Gossip Girl or America’s Top Model. Mind-numbing, really, but for me, the 1989 Look of the Year also made for great experiences and fond memories. In the end, I was thrilled to win one of Elite’s contracts, and spent much of the following years pursuing that end in addition to balancing my education.
In the twenty years that have passed, I have tapped into those experiences I learned so early and so well—the times when people have offered their (kind and unkind) opinions of things I hold dear. Modeling, as with writing, is full of rejections. Models face the constant scrutiny of body parts, contours, and shapes, against the elusive “Look.” Writers stand against often only a yes or a no, all based on a subjective feel or sound or voice, as with many arts.

There is no easy formula for dealing with criticism … How can we hear a critic’s inevitable loud opinion, for instance in modeling, that one week our legs are too short or too fat or too twiggy, and then go on? How can we show something we are proud of, only to hear someone smash it to the ground with words?
Criticism comes, whether we want it or not—everyone is entitled to their opinions. Our only choices are 1) to dig our heels down into our comfort zones and never take a risk, or 2) to take a bold step out of our comfort zones and choose how to handle what will inevitably come our way—someone’s opinion that is different than our own.

To live, to really live, is to take the risk—to live in faith that though life may not come smoothly, our lives are rooted in purpose, deeply, to who we are, lived from the heart. When we can really live, we don’t cling to validation for success, but find significance in the knowledge that our lives are authentic, real, and lived in love, from the heart.

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