Image Credit: Colby Brown
Last week was hell! I have to make a very big career decision right now, I have to go to the hospital next week, and to top it off, I opened my email to find a note from a friend showing a piece of content that was featured all over the internet that mocked me and criticised me.
Just when I thought I couldn’t handle any more stress, more stress came knocking at my door.
A piece of content was created around me and my work. It was highly unfavorable, or so I thought initially. My first reaction was anger and hurt. I knew the internet could be a harsh environment, but this was bigger than anything I’d gone through before.
A comment is one thing but a piece of content from a well-known person of influence is far more challenging to get my head around.
When I’m heavily criticised what do I do?
I don’t stand still. First of all, I sleep on it.
The moment I saw the content that had my name in it I was upset, angry, tired and frustrated.
I knew this was the worst mood for making rational decisions. I went to sleep as soon as I could although I didn’t sleep well.
I woke up the next day and tracked down the content creator who’d spoken about my work. They answered my phone call and I started out by asking about where they were from. I told them where I was from and a bit about me.
I dropped the question politely like this: “Hey I saw this post about me. I’d love to hear more about it from your perspective.”
Then I shut up and stopped talking.
Allow the silence to take over if need be — just shut up and wait for a response.
He explained to me what happened and a bit about the post.
It turned out I was wrong.
The post named me but it didn’t actually state a final viewpoint on my work. That was left up to the reader which I’d stupidly misunderstood in my rage and anger.
We then kept chatting and I got to see that this was a very kind, nice and humble man. My irrational thoughts that told me he was an asshole were wrong — surprise, surprise!
He came from a place I wanted to visit, he had similar influences as me and even had a trip organized in the future to come to Australia.
“I did the only thing that felt right in that moment: I told him he could stay at my place and I meant it”
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I then explained to him a bit about why I do what I do and the fact that it’s not about celebrity status, proving other people wrong, followers or my ego: It’s about helping people.
I told him the stories of suicidal readers who’d reached out to me and how I helped them.
I shared my current thinking which is that doing the right thing is always the right thing.
By the end, we’d both gone from adversaries to understanding each other. I’d like to think there was a genuine connection and we thought very much the same — maybe I’m getting ahead of myself to go that far — nonetheless, it felt good.
I hung up the phone and vowed to keep in touch with him and I will.
It’s always best to talk it through.
The worst thing you can do in this situation is fire off emails, get your influencer friends together, start hostile hip hop wars, send legal letters, complain like a sook and think you’re the king of the hill.
“All of us are human. We all do dumb sh*t and we all make mistakes — even so-called self-help bloggers like me (I cringe at that title by the way)”
The best thing to do is talk it out over the phone and let your critic go first. Don’t interrupt them and don’t turn it into an argument fuelled by your ego and the need to be right. Listen.
People will support you in these moments.
What surprised me is that when this content speaking out against my work was released, friends I’d met through the internet (not in person) began reaching out to help. I felt so lost and these friends helped me.
One of them had gone through the exact same situation and I quickly saw that my problem was not unique. All of our problems are the same few flavors. He gave me great advice and I followed it. I thought to myself “If he can come out of it alive and with his dignity still intact then so can I.”
Always lead with kindness and show compassion.
That’s the superpower you need to deal with hurtful content that may be created about you online.
Show compassion to the person that speaks out against you and try to see things from their perspective. Lead with kindness and watch your tone of voice.
It’s easy to get pissed off. It’s much harder to remain silent or calm.
You’re going to be criticised, mocked and encounter haters if you want to be successful.
This was the advice I gave to my friend who in the same week had the video he shot in his car, ripped to pieces by haters online.
Instead of focusing on the points he was trying to get across in the video, his LinkedIn connections hurled abuse at him for driving while filming and for wearing sunglasses.
I told him that to be successful (especially online or as a blogger) you have to embrace criticism, haters and trolls. Funnily enough, the same applied to my mini-nightmare that I’d gone through that same week. I told him this:
“Never stop being you for any reason no matter how much people don’t like it.”
I also had to swallow this same advice when my moment in the spotlight of criticism came.
Everyone will not like everything you do. The need to build followers and have people like your work on social media has become this out of control dopamine drug that we all chase to the ends of the Earth whether we admit it or not.
Everyone is not supposed to hail you and worship you like a god. You’re not invincible, you will fall and you will be mocked. The question is will you get back up again and keep going? In my case, that’s exactly what I’m going to do.
That’s because success cannot be achieved through perfection.