Recently I’ve received some really nasty comments and emails from people who I would say are not part of our community. Hi, my name is Carrie, and today on Artist Strong I want to talk about how we can all deal with the negativity that can come our way by sharing our work and posting on social media.
The first thing I want to tell you is that you have to accept that if you share your work online and promote your work, or even seek feedback from others in an online community, that you’re going to face negative feedback.
Some of it’s not just negative feedback. Some of it is online trolling. There are people out there who just want to bully you. Unfortunately, they’re so unhappy in their own lives, they want to attack others as a way to exert control over their own life and maybe even feel a little bit better about themselves.
That’s really scary, and yet I don’t want that to stop you from creating or sharing. For every person that you might deal with like that, there are going to be 10 or 20 or even 100 people who might see your work, grow and learn, and take a risk themselves because you’ve shared it. Try to keep that in mind when you accept this reality that at some point you’re going to face a troll. You’re also going to have to figure out how you want to handle it.
I have an example for you of a troll that I recently dealt with. This person signed up for one of my free challenges. I immediately started receiving emails that called me a five-letter word starting with the letter B because she was receiving too many emails from me. I had to decide how was I going to deal with that. What was my next step?
That’s the second piece of advice I have for you today, is that I want you to create a game plan to deal with people like this before they even show up in your online art life, or anywhere in your life. You want to have a go-to response. I am a highly sensitive person. There’s a whole post about that which I’ll link here, if you’re not sure what that is or haven’t heard it before.
Essentially, it means I’m pretty empathetic and I can really feel other people’s emotions. I do respond pretty poorly when I get an email like that. It really stings, even though I know they don’t know me and they clearly don’t believe in my mission with Artist Strong. For some reason, they just don’t get it. That’s okay, but I need to then figure out how I’m going to respond and deal with it. That’s easier to do when you’re not feeling emotional, especially right when you do surprisingly receive an email like that.
One of the things I want you all to think about is: do you respond to comments like this? Most people will tell you that if it’s a troll, then it’s not constructive feedback in any way. Constructive feedback can also hurt, but that’s the stuff that you file away and you save when you feel less sensitive, that you can look at and go, “Okay, how is this going to better my art and my work?” That’s the focus of constructive feedback.
There are some people who just want to be a bully. Responding is not going to serve you. The example that I have shared today I responded to this person apologizing for too many emails, and essentially saying I’m happy to unsubscribe them and wish them best wishes. Unfortunately, they did respond again and I believe their words were, “Nobody likes you.” Clearly my decision to respond may have not been the best choice.
I don’t want you to encourage dialog, because people who are trolls only want to get a reaction out of you. That’s part of how they gain that feeling of power. It’s bullying taken online; it’s a way to exert power and feel influential in other people’s lives. You don’t need to reward them with any response. In fact, if you feel driven to respond, it might be better to write it all out in a journal and rip it into little pieces or burn it after you’ve written so that you can get it out of your system. Don’t give this person, this bully, the reaction and response they’re hoping for.
My third piece of this puzzle today is that you can’t control how people respond to you. You can only control how you respond to their behavior.
Do you want them to have power over you? For example, I told you in this case that I’m sharing today that this person immediately decided to respond and tell me that, “Nobody likes you.” Well, there’s nothing to say in response to this. I could let it ruin my whole day or I could be daydreaming about retorts or responding back to this person, or I could delete, block the sender, and move on with my life. Because I sincerely believe in the work that I’m doing, and I know it matters. I know it helps others. That can act as fuel to keep me going.
What happened is because of all this, I was inspired to write this whole post out within a half an hour of this whole event. Now I have a resource of value to give to you to help you deal with this when this happens to you. Unfortunately, most people I know who share and do their work online face people like this.
I won’t lie to you either. Even though you know this is coming, and even if you create and have a clear system of how to cope with people like this, it’s still going to sting. It’s still going to hurt. Because when we share our art, it’s not just … I don’t know, sometimes it feels like it’s sharing a part of who we are. That’s one reason any kind of bite like that can sting: it feels like some kind of personal rejection of us. You don’t deserve to feel that way. Having a strategy will help you cope.
In hindsight, I will say I should have never responded to that person. I had a feeling from the get-go they were probably more of a troll than someone offering constructive feedback, but I thought I’d still try to kill them with kindness, so to speak, and offer some support, and acknowledge their feelings. But it didn’t work to my favor. In fact, it drew things out for me. Have a clear strategy. Decide what is your boundary line, what feels comfortable for you to respond to, and what you don’t want to respond to. Ask yourself: what else you need to continue to do your work and feel honored?
That could mean taking a really nice hot bubble bath after a stinky email from someone. Or it might mean going for a walk or going to try something new like cross-country ski, which I did the other week. Understand that this is fuel. This doesn’t have to be something that holds you back or stops you. This is fuel to keep going.
Every time I get an email like this now, I’m thinking, “How else can I serve this community? What else can I do that offers even more value to the people who show up here and give every day?” That’s what I want for you. I want you to feel that fuel, that fire, and think, “You know what? I know that my art is worth sharing with the world, and I’m going to make that time and effort to do so.”
I want to read something that I wrote in my journal about this instead of trying to paraphrase it. “You take a brave, courageous risk in sharing your work and your story with others. Be sure you find a way to honor your feelings when you face each and every hater, and then resist by continuing to do the good work that you do. Resist and continue to make your art. That’s the most important thing today.”
Be Creatively Courageous: How do you cope with or deal with haters or online trolls, and what’s a constructive way that you could help yourself move through dealing with something like that? If you haven’t yet dealt with it, what’s a strategy you could put in place right now to help yourself so that, when that day comes, you’re a little bit more prepared? I’d love for you to talk about it in the comments below this video.
Please share this video. I know that people in all kinds of creative industries online and anyone really working and sharing of themselves online could use a reminder that their work is important and valuable. Share this video with someone who needs that extra pep talk. I am honored to have you here, guys. Thanks for watching, and I’ll see you next week. Bye.
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