I’ve been putting off writing a blog post for several weeks now. One reason is that I’ve been having trouble finding the right balance between the sensitive, empathetic side of me and my rational, critical nature. That balance is necessary in order to connect to a theme and, at the same time, say things about it that could help people learn.

I come from a lineage of critical women. Both my mother and my grandmother could be hypercritical, and I grew up with the belief I couldn’t do anything right. (I describe this struggle in my autobiographical book, Passage of the Stork.) But, as much as I tried to avoid the same behavior, the ability to pinpoint mistakes or faults and try to correct them is deeply ingrained in my nature.

And, in a world where we are inundated with people on media (social or not) screaming whatever they consider to be the truth, the ability to be discerning is invaluable. Time and time again, I find myself needing to point out that the ‘important warning’ a Facebook connection is passing on is, in fact, a known hoax. Not to mention the nonsense posted by climate change deniers and other political and spiritual fanatics (on both sides of the truth!).

Discernment is also necessary when we view our own achievements. If I – seduced by words of praise – become too satisfied with the quality of my photographs, I will never learn to discern which are ‘passable,’ which are ‘good,’ and which are ‘outstanding.’ If I want to evoke awe and love of Nature with my photography, I need to share outstanding photos, not simply good ones.

So, criticism of self can be a good practice, as long as it is held in balance by love and acceptance of oneself. I prefer to use the term discernment in this case, simply because it does not have the association with being hypercritical and destructive.

This is a plea to stay open and empathetic to those people around us who experience life differently, have different views, or are at a different stage in their development. But never lose the ability to discern between their truths and your own. As the poet, David Whyte wrote,

“Hold to your own truth
at the center of the image
you were born with.”

Excerpt from All the True Vows by David Whyte.


  1. Excellent!

  2. Mary-Lou Gillette

    Dear Maddi,
    I so love to read your blogs. This one particularly, as it touches a theme that is close to my own thoughts. I often struggle with deciding when to speak out and when to keep silent. Your last paragraph and the quote by David Whyte are words to live by. Thank you.

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