I listen to a lot of motivational videos while I’m training in the gym. It always gets me in the right frame of mind and improves my ability to power through. Something I’ve noticed though is that they talk a lot about all their doubters and the people that they’re going to prove wrong. Listen to any celebrity talk about their “haters” and you’d think there is this imaginary army of people trying to bring them down, spending all their time seething with every moment of success they have.
It’s been in my mind for quite a long time now that this whole narrative around haters is incredibly flawed, and a bad way to look at the world. First of all, how sure are you that there are even haters out there? People not wanting to read your work or who are simply indifferent to what you’re putting out there aren’t haters, they just aren’t your audience. That’s ok, because it’s your job as a creator to produce something that people like. If they don’t, that’s not on them — they don’t owe you their time or attention.
Secondly, everything I have seen over the last couple of years of people talking about their haters suggests that it’s somewhat of an asinine term, used to group everyone that doesn’t worship the ground they walk on and the content they produce. Got a small critique of a piece of your work? Just a hater. They don’t like you because of what you stand for? Hater. They didn’t think your latest piece of content was as good as what you’ve been doing? Hater. The worst part of it is, they may be offering valid feedback that you can use to improve your next piece of work. If you just consider anything remotely negative as hate, then you’re not exactly giving yourself a chance to grow, are you?
The reality is, you’re just someone that wants yes people all around you. Let me tell you, those types of people aren't your audience or friends, they're sycophants. And the thing about sycophants is, they only hang around so long as you're successful. As soon as you aren't, they vanish.
Take a look at the female remake of Ghostbusters and Terminator: Dark Fate for prime examples. Captain Marvel is another, as is the sequel trilogy of Star Wars. There has been immense criticism of them, because they stink and are overloaded with an agenda instead of trying to tell a great story. That’s kind of the job of a movie, right? Did the studios or those involved listen to the criticism and reflect on their work? Of course they didn’t! They doubled down and further alienated their audience by saying that if you didn’t like it, you’re a misogynist. Great way to keep your audience happy there.
This is exactly why the term hater needs to be retired by any smart creative person — it’s too much of a catch all term that insulates you from any valid feedback because you’d rather people just sing your praises. That’s a recipe for a very quick trip to obscurity, because an audience can rapidly sense when you have a holier than thou, my work is awesome and you’re just haters attitude.
Look, no one is saying that there aren’t people out there who dislike what you do or who you are just because they’re being mean, or haters as it were. I just question how many of them are actually out there for anyone who isn’t gigantically famous. Do you really think there are even a handful of people out there that genuinely hate your work or you, just because, without any reason whatsoever? I highly doubt it. That’s just arrogance talking and a desire to feel more important than you are.
But I want to get to the real reason why you shouldn’t be trying to prove your haters wrong. Apart from the fact that they probably don’t exist to the extent you think they do, that is. Sure, “proving the haters wrong” can be a great way to stay motivated, to keep driving towards success. Resentment and a desire to prove people wrong is an incredibly powerful force that will sustain you for a long time, but it won't work forever. What happens when you have a failure or the hard times come (and they will)? From experience I can tell you, those times are when you want people on your side. You need to have a cheer squad in your life that will prop you up when you fall down, who will tell you to keep going because what you’re doing is worthwhile.
I’ve had that super driven mindset for a long time now and let me tell you, striving when you have people that are on your side and believe in you is a whole lot more powerful than trying to prove some invisible, non-existent army of people wrong. Positivity is always greater than negativity. When you do achieve what you want to achieve, what is going to make it great is all your supporters congratulating you, and you being able to thank them for believing in you.
Accomplishing something and turning to your haters and saying “screw you, told you I could do it” might sound really cool, but it’s going to prove a hollow victory because despite your achievement, you’re still stewing in bitterness and thinking of people that don’t deserve your time. In fact, you’re giving them the victory, because all that time you’re thinking of them, they’re not thinking of you anywhere near as much as you believe. They probably wouldn’t even recognise that you’re addressing them when talking of your haters.
That's why it's so utterly sad to see Michael Jordan since he retired. In his hall of fame speech, instead of being magnanimous, he used the opportunity to attack people he felt had slighted him decades ago. That these people had real estate in Jordan's mind that entire time is incredibly toxic, and makes one wonder about Jordan's mental health.
So let all these thoughts of haters go. Don’t pay any further attention to them — whether they’re real or imaginary, because an achievement deserves to stand on its own, not in opposition to someone else.