As a writer and a journalist in the golden age of digital media, I’ve learned (often the hard way) that people have opinions. People have LOTS of opinions. Strong opinions. Loud opinions. Snarky opinions. And these people aren’t afraid to share those opinions — particularly behind the anonymity of the internet.
When something I write is posted online, feedback is instantaneous and often, brutal.
Even now, years later, the moment a new story hits the interwebs I get that familiar flush of anxiety. Because what will people SAY? And how will they say it? People’s creativity abounds when it comes to insults. (See below — an actual comment I received. Grammatically incorrect hilarity.)
Here are a few other choice comments I’ve received:
“Now please, the next time you get the insufferable idea of writing anything and sharing it with the public, remember this…better to remain silent and only be thought an idiot, than to open your mouth (or in your case put it in writing) and remove all doubt!!”
“This has to be one of the most self entitled pieces of garbage I have ever read.”
“To whoever wrote this: Fuck you.”
Writing is pretty personal, and exposing it to millions of people can be a bit like cracking your chest open so onlookers can poke your still-beating heart with a stick.
But here’s a life lesson that’s almost as important as that one about wearing clean underwear: naysayers are unavoidable. Hell, there were people who talked shit about Mother Teresa. This is a world that’s all about contrasts and differences, which is awesome, because it means we’ve all got lots of options. But it also means not everyone is gonna like you or agree with you or think you should even exist on this planet. NO MATTER WHO YOU ARE. Just ask anyone who’s famous. Or watch every episode of “Celebrities Read Mean Tweets.”
The point is, you’ll never please everybody. With 7+ billion people on the planet, trying to is a recipe for your own unhappiness. I’ve found that letting go of the opinions of others (and seeing them for what they are, opinions) has been a crucial key to my peace of mind. Trolls are everywhere. But I’ve mostly learned to leave those trolls under the bridge — where they belong.
And this isn’t all about the opinions of strangers. It can be even harder to live with the differing opinions of those you love. I see it every day — people who conduct their lives based on what their parents think or their boyfriend thinks or their peer groups thinks. That’s no way to be, y’all. Following your own internal compass is the only way to live a happy life, and that means smiling politely when your loved ones tell you what to do — then doing whatever you damn well please.
The key to freedom is having an inner sense of self-love and assurance that transcends the “good opinion of others” (in the words of Abraham Maslow). Because you know best when it comes to you. Trust me, you do.
So let those killjoys be. Their opinions aren’t your problem.