Criticism and hate are bullies.
There’s nothing productive about negativity and nastiness. The venom it spews comes from people who are unsettled within, and live in an unhealthy mindset. These people might claim to categorize their cruel intentions as honesty. But the true reflections of ‘honesty’ come from acts of integrity, honor, morality, virtue, goodness, and sincerity. I’ve always tried, or at the very least wanted, to be a good person. My record isn’t clean. But over the years, I’ve been on a quest to better myself; to feed my soul with good; to learn from my shortcomings; to be solid with the woman in the mirror. The daily practice of gratitude has completely changed my space. I’ve learned, through practice, that if you live in a place of gratitude, negativity cannot exist. It’s true! Think of a time when you were so happy and filled with thankfulness, it was impossible to have a negative thought in that moment. Every fiber of your being was consumed with joy. And while it’s unlikely and unrealistic to walk around singing “Joy To The World” every day, you will notice a shift in your lens on life if you take time each day to be grateful. I write this to also remind you that people who use their words and actions in a hateful, spiteful, or cruel way are not living in a place of happiness or gratitude. And it shouldn’t be your problem. It’s their issue. But in the world we live in, negativity is always looking for a feeding ground. Negativity breeds with its own kind, they commiserate together; but from time to time, it searches for its counterpart and tries to steal happiness from others.
Most of my professional life has been spent in the public eye. That alone is a magnet for criticism and hate. Whether you have a career as a coach, a teacher, a politician, an artist, a chef, a physician, or you’re a parent — the bullies always find channels to voice their negativity — letters, emails, voicemails, gossip, and social media. But in my experience, never, and I’ll repeat never, do the bullies show their faces. Cowards never do. In the pre-Facebook days, people with a negative tongue could stay hidden behind their written words. What were they going to do? Show up at my home or workplace to say that they hated my dress or the sound of my voice? As social media grew into the most influential platform, @coolgirl609 or @ihatelife4evr were able to use fake pictures and phony avatars to conceal their identities while spreading vile thoughts at will — never having to take real ownership of their real identity. I want to say this — I think social media is great! It gives people an opportunity to connect with family and old friends; it allows people to grow their businesses in ways they can’t with old-school, traditional marketing; it allows fans to connect with their idols; and it feeds us information that appeals to our interests. With everything in life, there are drawbacks. Bullies on a playground can now be bullies on a keyboard. But not every critic uses their finger to induce negativity. Some of our harshest critics come from people we know, people who’s opinion matter to us. The trick is, how do we process the negativity — from any source — in ways that aren’t harmful to our psyche?
When we’re attacked, one of two responses is typical: we protect ourselves, or we fight back. I’m not a parent, so I can’t speak to the occasional playground brawl (though my advice would probably be to “kick ‘em where it counts,” which may speak to why I’m not a parent). But when it comes to adult critics, I can tell you that my approach was an evolution over the years.
In the beginning, I would try to win the critics over with friendly responses in an effort to reason with their softer side (assuming they had one). I was kind and sweet, and still held some naïveté about the curmudgeons in life. This approach was never beneficial for me, as I’d ultimately internalize and grind on words that were hurtful toward me. But over time, I outgrew that approach and accepted that not everyone in the world was going to like me. I then moved on to the ignoring phase — giving no response, pressing mute or delete. And poof! The critic’s words disappeared in the act of their own writing. That was always the smartest approach. But my fighter instinct often wanted to defend myself against critics. My mother always told me that I was smart with my words, and she knew that I had a sharp tongue if I allowed it to come out. She was right. I’ve always known that. We all have a beast within, and there are times when I choose to use that natural instinct. But here’s the problem with acknowledging bullies who hide behind their words — they crave attention that they never receive — once you give them an ounce of attention they become like a starving feral cat who keeps coming around to feed on the scraps you’ve given them. To all my animal lovers out there, I know we’d take a feral cat over a nasty human any day of the week — and I’m allergic to cats!
Taylor Swift was right when she sang, “People throw rocks at things that shine.” So back to the initial question — How do we process negativity and protect our positive psyche?
Here are some thoughts that help me: I love to watch insightful interviews. And I try to absorb at least one book per month. I stumbled upon an interview that Oprah did on SuperSoul Sunday with Michael Singer, the author of The Untethered Soul. Singer’s insight on ‘How to Free Yourself of Negative Thoughts’ is worth watching: How To Free Yourself of Negative Thoughts.
If a spiritual solution isn’t the language you speak, maybe a more direct, raw-mouthed approach is your jam. While I wish Gary Vaynerchuk was my own secret advisor, his 3.2 millions followers on Instagram, 5x New York Times Bestselling books, and global media brand has made him a favorite among entrepreneurs. And personally, I can’t like his message enough times in this video. It’s awesomely honest! Gary Vaynerchuk: For All The Haters.
Wherever your sandbox is located, be careful who you invite to play. You may have differing opinions. Some may prefer the swings over the slides. But joy and laughter should always be heard in a happy place. I’ll say it again — Criticism and hate are bullies. When they come out to play, kick them off your playground.
#LiveYourPlaylist: Today’s Inspirational Playlist