Sticks and stones break bones, but words? They cut deep.
We all know a hell of a lot about internet “trolls” by now. We’ve all been avid social media users for a gooood minute. We’ve all dealt with a nasty comment or two …or three hundred, right?
We’re big girls, boys and everything in between. We can take it. We can dismiss a “keyboard warrior” who rains on your day with some nasty shit that they’d never in a million years have the balls to say to your face. We can recognize the private accounts with no clearly visible profile picture that get a kick out of shitting on other people so they don’t have to face whatever pain, sadness or insecurities they face in their own real lives offline and have compassion.
“Ignore it”, they say. “Fuck them. Who cares?”
But if we’re honest – like, really honest – um, we do.
We all know better and yet, we all care what other people think of us and no matter how minor or outrageous those negative words are, they sting. Sometimes they cut deeper than others. Naturally, those little words have a powerful ability to cause a wee bit of a spiral.
I’m generally quite good at brushing off overtly asshole comments. I’m my own worst critic and relatively self aware, so when someone spews unwarranted hate my way, I’m pretty good at identifying whether it’s a them problem and/or me problem. Overtly asshole comments are simply senseless bullying. I do not have the time or capacity to engage with bullies.
The trouble comes when I identify with the stones being cast my way.
When you know there’s even an inkling of truth within a negative comment that highlights a “you problem”. Whether it’s something you’ve been called out for or been insecure about in the past… never mind stinging, that shit burns.
This kind of negative comment pre-dates social media. It’s the one that wakes the beast of your own self-critical mind. The negative feedback that actually may have some merit. The kind that pokes at your insecurities, your fears, your self-doubts. The negative words that just may carry with them some truth… at least, in your own worst critic’s mind.
I’ve had this come up a few times recently. I’m putting more of myself out there than ever on my social media platforms. With that comes a lot of love and support, hand in hand with some serious vulnerability for negative feedback. What I’m sharing across my platforms is raw and true, so when people have something negative to say, it’s impossible not to take it personally. It IS personal and admittedly, it can send me into a bit of a spiral.
I’m not going to stop sharing my truth.
I’m not going to stop making a living doing what I love and creating content.
And I can evolve and grow, but ultimately, I’ll never not be me.
So, how can I lessen the sting for myself when people don’t like what I’m putting out there? Especially when it’s basically all just parts of me?
By looking in the mirror and asking myself two questions and, here’s the kicker, letting “other people” answer me back in that reflection.
First, I ask what truth does the comment hold?
Then, I answer, not necessarily as myself, but as a close friend or family member. If someone called me ugly and I was insecure about the way I looked, I would likely let mean self-talk do the answering. But, if I was a friend or wife or mother of someone who a stranger on the internet called ugly, what would I say?
If there was, in fact, validity in the comment and it’s something I can or want to improve upon, then I ask myself:
What can be done about it?
Again, I answer not necessarily as myself, but as a compassionate employer. If someone says I did this or that poorly with a video or podcast episode or whatever, I would probably run myself ragged trying to improve everything overnight, because I work myself to the bone and am my absolute harshest of critics. Geez, I’m one nasty boss to myself! But, if an employee of mine had some room for improvement, how would I deliver that answer? I wouldn’t be harsh and tell them they are shit at their job and should work around the clock or simply quit, because they’ll never succeed. I’d be encouraging, highlight their strengths and work with them patiently to improve on the areas needed because ultimately, I know that’s the most effective way to get the best results.
Next time someone says something that gets under your skin, pause before the spiral unravels the wonderful you that you are and try being your own best friend and favorite boss, first.
You’ll see that it’s not the end of the world after all, is it? In fact, it’s probably not worth spending much time dwelling on at all. It’s just life. No one’s perfect. Not us. Not the person passing judgement or negative feedback your way. And no one should expect anyone to be. You can’t expect them to keep their negative comments to themselves. They can’t expect you to show up in a way that perfectly suits them. And most importantly, you cannot expect perfection of yourself so take the negative feedback in stride. Do not let it slow you down. Do not let it diverge you off your path. And most certainly, do not let it stop you in your tracks.
Take ’em with you or leave ’em behind, but whatever you do, just keep on moving forward!
Shenae Grimes-Beech is an actor and YouTuber with a highly engaged community of like-minded women who are here to stand up for what they believe in and lean into discomfort, especially when it means doing the right thing.