We're back with another article in our Blog Q&A series, which you can see all of here if you need to catch up. Today's question comes from a Blog Life student:
"My blog exploded in readership when I started, and because of that paired with the content of the blog (vegan recipes), I received so much negativity from the beginning. Ever since, I haven't looked at any of the press we've gotten, and I rarely check comments. The worst part is, I've been stuck posting really 'safe' content that's boring to me only about once a week because I'm scared of going through all of the hate again. How do I get back to being positive and not letting negative people dictate what I want to say?"
This is such a great question, as I feel like it applies to SO many areas of life and not just blogging. If you've ever put something out there that you worked hard on (especially if you put it on the Internet), then you may have encountered some "hate" before, no matter whether you're a blogger, artist, writer, politician, mom, business owner, etc. This list could go on and on! Pretty much anyone who is doing something (as opposed to just watching—more on that in a second) is going to encounter some form of criticism or even hate during the course of their life. So what can we do about this?
Haters vs. Constructive Criticism
First I think it's SUPER important to understand the difference between negative feedback we should ignore and negative feedback that we should consider. I'm sure we could define "haters" all sorts of ways, but what I think of is spectators who are not interested in adding to a conversation or building anything. They would rather tear you down possibly to make themselves feel better about their inactivity. It's easy to criticize; it's much harder to create. So if you are creating anything—articles, projects, content, music, literature, anything really, then you are likely to stir up some hate as those spectators have to face that they are not creating while you are. As Aristotle said, "To avoid criticism say nothing, do nothing, be nothing." Does that sound like an exciting and fulfilling life to you? Yeah, me neither. 🙂
So if you encounter criticism that you can basically summarize as, "You are ugly. You are dumb. You should stop doing things. You disappoint me because you did something I personally don't enjoy. You suck." Or any combination of these, here's what you do—ignore. If needed, delete those emails, comments, or whatever. Don't even respond because it's a waste of your time. You are on a mission to make and the spectators in the cheap seats are just gonna slow you down. Press on, friend! I know I'm making this sound easy, but trust me, it's incredibly hard to do. We all struggle with this from time to time.
But what about that criticism that we should consider? I would call this constructive criticism (from non-crazy people). This usually comes in the form of questions that they feel your project didn't address, or offerings of solutions to perceived problems or weaknesses in your project. Most of the time people are either A.) Actually interested but something about your project confuses them or doesn't work for them, or B.) They see how they think your project could be better and so they tell you. Even if this criticism has been worded in a way that stings a little, try to assume they mean well and do your best to evaluate the feedback. Useful, constructive criticism can make us SO much stronger—so don't live in a bubble and miss out on these opportunities! You may receive feedback that you don't agree with, or that doesn't fit your overall goals for the project, and that's OK too. But it doesn't hurt to evaluate it as it will help you see things from other perspectives. And if you are selling or monetizing your offerings, then it's especially important to care what your customers think, even if you can't cater to every single suggestion.
Don't live in a bubble, but do protect yourself.
If you need to take a break from reading comments on your site or something from time to time—do it! Just give yourself a week or a month and come back to it later so you don't miss any useful or kind feedback while you try to avoid some hate for while. Also, don't google yourself or go to areas of the Internet that you know are just filled with hate (like mean message boards or gossip sites). If you're gonna waste your time, waste it on something fun. 🙂
Protect yourself as best you can and ask for support from family and friends when you need it! We all feel down sometimes, we go through ruts, we feel completely uninteresting, unoriginal, useless. It happens to everyone, reach out to loved ones for support—we all need it!
Don't let negativity steal your creativity.
Take a second to think of your favorite writer, musician, or artist. The person you are thinking of right now, I promise someone told them they sucked and they should quit. Aren't you glad they didn't! The world is full of beautiful and interesting things because people refuse to stop making, and I personally want to join in this movement in whatever way I get lucky enough to contribute. We can't let negativity stop us from doing this or scare us from trying. Sometimes it's hard, but you have to force yourself to go all in and do the thing, or write the post, that you are most passionate about. Do not let fear of negativity water down your brand/vision/goals! As Andy Warhol said, "Don't pay attention to what they write about, just measure it in inches." Ha!
And for anyone going through the hate right now, please hear this: YOU are valuable no matter how much people like or dislike your stuff. This is totally something my mom would have said to me in middle school when I would wear the weirdest, homemade clothes to school. But you know what—she was right. Don't let anyone else dictate your worth!
I could probably talk about this for WAY longer as I am a big believer in the power of creativity and positivity, the enemy of which is usually ourselves or haters. But I've already made you read over 1000 words, so how about I let you add to the conversation now. What do you think? Have you dealt with hate? Did you let it steal your creativity or did you do something else? Share your story or questions! xo. Emma
Credits // Author: Emma Chapman. Photography: Amber Ulmer. Image design: Mara Dockery.