I’m not a celebrity, but publicly sharing pieces of my life in articles on the Internet makes me a bit like a reality TV personality…except, with a much smaller audience, less influence, less money, no book deal, and no free trips to Hawaii to tape an episode about a vow renewal with my husband.
(But who’s counting?)
Just like reality TV stars, I’ve put details of my life on public display for loved ones, strangers, and haters to judge. I understand that this judgment comes with the territory, and people certainly have a right to their opinion. But this doesn’t excuse the hurtful things people do in response to their negative opinions.
Which brings us to haters. Look, I get it. It’s addicting and weirdly pleasurable to hate on people (especially celebrities) who annoy us. We poke fun at their flaws in order humanize them, and I’m certainly not innocent of this doing this myself. But I’ve always wondered why people go out of their way to share their negative opinion of you, whether to your face or in the comment section of your blog.
You may not be a blogger with haters, but you may relate to the challenge of people coming out of the woodwork to point out– or even celebrate– your flaws and inadequacies.
Perhaps your haters can’t stand your personality, or are judgmental of your lifestyle. Maybe they minimize your accomplishments and talents, or simply never have anything positive or encouraging to say.
Whatever the case may be, I’ve learned from my short time as an online writer that there’s a 4-step process for dealing with haters in a wise and thoughtful way:
1. Determine if he or she is a hater vs. someone who simply disagrees.
Just because someone hates your opinions, your contributions, or your choices, doesn’t mean they’re a hater. Haters go out of their way to express their distaste for you. They do things like point out all your flaws, “hate read” your blog, and endlessly gossip about you. As I’ve said before: The difference between dislike vs. hatred is that the former involves apathy while the latter involves your time and effort.
2. Consider legitimate points and toss out the rest.
One time I offered free counseling to military families and service people. Dozens of military folks on Reddit.com responded positively to my offer, but one person posted a long, sarcastic, condescending comment under my offer, when he could have given me encouraging, respectful, constructive feedback instead. Fortunately, this guy later e-mailed me privately to apologize for his behavior, and shared several good ideas. I was very appreciative by the end, and impressed with how honorable he was, despite his false start.
All this to say that, while this guy wasn’t exactly a hater by definition, I learned that not everything your opponents say should be dismissed; if your ego is strong enough to look past their bad attitude, you might find something of value. However, most haters won’t send you an apologetic e-mail with respectful feedback, so it’s up to you to consider any legitimate points they make. In short, don’t throw the baby out with the douchebaggery. (Sorry, “bath water” simply doesn’t quite convey how mean haters can be.)
3. Don’t respond to the hate.
Here’s the thing about haters: There’s nothing you can say or do that will make them dislike you less. If you reply respectfully, they’ll assume you’re fake. If you defend yourself, they’ll interpret anything you say as confirmation how they already perceive you. Remember, they’re looking for reasons why you’re inferior to them. That’s why they troll your blog, or ask questions about your life– any data they collect about you is used as ammunition. So just don’t give them any. Only respond (briefly, I might add), to acknowledge a valid concern or smart point.
4. Give haters less power by accepting them for what they are: outliers– nothing more, nothing less.
Haters are outliers– they’re on the extreme end of how the world perceives your personality and actions. In the same way, your biggest fans — loved ones who feel you can do no wrong– are outliers too. So don’t let a criticism poison your heart, just like you shouldn’t let praise go to your head.
So for example, here’s what one perfect stranger wrote under a post about my parents’ ability to find contentment despite financial hardship:
“None of you know a damn thing about what it is like for most people so just please shut up and don’t speak.”
Here’s another one that showed up under my Psychology Today article about my failed American Idol audition:
“You did not get “rejected”… you just didn’t get accepted for something that you personally wanted to do that no one else cares about.”
This is in stark contrast to a lovely e-mail I received from a different reader:
“Your blog basically saved my life. Thank you for your infinite wisdom, compassion and hilariousness!
“I…read your own hardships and accomplishments and it helped to open my eyes and see how thankful I was in my own situation, It was refreshing to see a real and honest blog about anxiety and not something written straight out of a medical handbook.”
E-mails like that last one keep me going. But I’m not about to let it go to my head, either– I’m not God’s gift to the Internet. It’s more like God’s gift to me is this website and the friends I’ve made because of it.
All this to say that you, like all of us (yes, even if you’re a hater) are probably what 7 out of 10 people think of you– a mix of fabulous and flawed, but nonetheless, important and worthy of living a happy, healthy life. Nothing more, nothing less. Haters don’t carry much weight unless you let them.