Haters, Cynics and Party Poopers

Amy Vaughn

Writer & Blogger

How to Handle Critics and What You Can Learn About Yourself

What to do when someone tries to throw you off Kilter ?Will you stand up under the scrutiny or crumble like dry cornbread?

The answer lies in the strength of your self worth. 

My coach has been prepping me for months now (albeit, some of that time, I was oblivious to his coaching tactics) on becoming so strong, so resilient, so sure of who I am and what I stand for that, though some will try, no one can throw me off my game. At the very least, I will be quick to get back on my feet. 

I’m not thrilled to announce my first online hater “attack” since the start of my business, but I’m grateful I was better prepared for it. I won’t go into all the details because, well, I’ve got better things to do. That said, here’s my take away: (Because this experience is going to GIVE ME more than its attempt to take away from me). 

If we put ourselves “out there” in any capacity: online presence, in the workplace, or in our communities, we are naturally setting ourselves up for gaining both great supporters and the occasional asshole. Often it seems that the supporters and cheerleaders are in greater numbers, but the assholes are louder and more obnoxious. There is a pay off to putting yourself out there and not everyone is willing to accept those costs. That’s okay. I get it. It’s not pleasant to go toe to toe with a vile person online, at work, at church (yes, even in a church) or anywhere else people do life. But people are people and as long as we are around each other, there will always be those who like to make trouble. 

Here’s the thing: It’s all butterflies and rainbows when everyone loves your message and sings your praise. That is like Gold, y’all. But know this: there will come a time when someone doesn’t like something you said or did. They don’t like what you stand for or how much you have changed for the better. And when that time comes, will you be ready? Will you be able to stand under the pressure, endure the attacks on your character, your idea, on your business, your upgrade? When attacked, belittled and made to feel stupid or less than, will you be able to handle it head on, respectfully, without losing your cool and sinking to their level, or will you crumble under the stress? 

Let me tell ya, there was a time that I crumbled, y’all. My world got ROCKED. Before this time in my life, and not that long ago, my self worth was small…and fragile. I didn’t really understand how small it was. I lived from a place of scarcity and lack. And whoa, that is not a good place to live from. It’s a self esteem killer. 

Previously, I found myself wrapped up in what other people thought of me. I got my value from how valuable I could make myself to others. I was a minister in a church and I got my value from how needed I was, how much I could serve. As if that wasn’t setting me up for a crumble, I was also enmeshed with the trappings of perfectionism. And it made me miserable. In my striving to be the perfect mother, perfect wife, perfect daughter, friend, mentor, minister and so forth, I was scrambling tirelessly. Always pleasing others, but rarely myself. And ya know what? It was never enough. As long as people were happy with my performance, I was safe. I had value. But when someone was upset with something I did or said, or didn’t say or do, it was enough to throw me in a tailspin. Anger, resentment, anxiety, fear…in essence, I would crumble.

My world began to crumble about five years ago when people I trusted, friends and colleagues, turned their backs on my now-ex husband and me. My ex and I put ourselves “out there” in a leadership role, making needed (and frankly, better) changes. A handful of haters, cynics and party poopers didn’t like what we had to say, didn’t like our approach, didn’t like our vision. Even though they liked our “results”, they didn’t like our methodology. We had our cheering section of supporters, sure, but it was not strong enough against the critics. 

Back then, I came close to crumbling. Hell, I did crumble. I was a wreck, steeped in grief and sadness and loss. Resentment, fear and bitterness nearly swallowed me whole. We were rejected in a cruel way and it pierced me deeply. Because I cared so much about what others thought of me, I hadn’t thought enough of myself to be able to endure the rejections. My self worth could not handle the strain of the negativity. I swam in anger for a couple years, before I doggy paddled my way to help.

These days, a lot has changed. I’m no longer that woman striving for perfection and trying to appease others. No more am I trying to earn people’s praise by exhausting myself with performance. That shipped sailed. Thank God. Now, I’m more ready for whatever comes my way. That’s not to say I welcome the jerks, naysayers or the vile comments. I just mean that today, I am more sure of myself than at any other time in my life. I know who I am. I know what I stand for. And I am proud of that. I’m not perfect and I’m not striving for perfection anymore. It was a terrible master. 

The goal is always to grow our self worth in such a way that whatever comes our way, we are so sure of ourselves, our competency, what we stand for, to be able to endure whatever criticism (or worse) comes. 

I understand now, that when someone attacks, it usually (as in, always) has a whole lot more to do with their low self worth than it does what you said or did. When something you did or said triggers someone like that, it’s like poking a feral animal. Best to get out of the way. 

How does someone handle a difficult situation like this? That may be for another blog. 

For now, I can tell you, think before you respond. Be as calm as you can when you do respond. If you are unable to de-escalate the situation, call in for back up. The best thing you can do is not to let the naysayers put you on the defensive. That’s when they have the leverage and the control. Stooping to their level lowers your vibe and robs you of your power. They’ve won when they’ve pissed you off enough to get you off balance. Outsmart them by going on the offense. Always take more away from the experience than what they try to take from you. Then, push it out of your mind and sleep well.  

Want to know more? I’d love your thoughts, questions and feedback. Email me at amy@amykvaughn.com.

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