Tell the Haters to Step Aside
“Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.”—Mark Twain
I’ve been helping a girlfriend launch her first podcast. She’s been a relationship writer/editor for years and is now finally ready to rock and roll and share her wisdom with the world. As we were brainstorming ideas, I told her excitedly “This is gonna be so great! Why didn’t you do this sooner?” She looked at me and said, “I’ve been scared.”
“I hope people don’t criticize me,” she continued. “You know how mean people can be online and on social media.”
Whether you’re considering launching a podcast or a business, the fear of criticism is a real thing—right up there with the fear of failure and the fear of the unknown—in preventing people from living out their dreams.
I relayed to her a story about the time I saw the author Dr. Brené Brown speak at an event. Brené shared with the group about how her whole life she wanted to fly high in terms of achievement in her field of Sociology, but just under the radar. She wanted to be successful for sure, but not SO successful where all eyes would be on her, judging her.
Well, guess what? When you’re good at something people notice.
After giving a regional Ted talk to about 200 people on her now-famous research on vulnerability, almost overnight, she became an Internet sensation. Her talk went viral and has since been viewed over 15 million times.
Brené was instantly thrust in the limelight, which unleashed loads of mean-spirited criticism. People wrote nasty things about her like, “Less research, more Botox.” And “Maybe you'll be worthy when you lose 20 pounds." She was devastated and spent many a day on the couch “numbing” herself with Downton Abbey re-runs. Luckily, she stumbled across this quote from Teddy Roosevelt which inspired her to tell her critics to go f*ck themselves and became the title of her next book, which became a #1 New York Times bestseller. She’s had like five NY Times bestsellers, btw!
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”
In my own TV career I have been told that I was too “fast-talking,” “not sophisticated enough,” that my hair looked like a “wig,” that I looked like a “drag queen” and my arms were “fat.” I’ve had people publicly comment that my ideas are either “over the top” or “obvious” and that I was “annoying” and “didn’t have a clue.”
People hate for different reasons and most of the time it has nothing to do with you. They could be jealous or projecting, or they could genuinely not like your work or ideas. But so what? The reality is you’re never gonna please everyone. And honestly you shouldn’t even aim to.
Much better to stand up and speak your truth, go after your dreams, and tell your truth. Maybe only five people will “get” you and “like” what you have to say. Much better to be heard, felt, understood and liked genuinely by five, than to dilute yourself and have 1,000 feel “meh” about you. Or worse, be so scared to speak you play it safe and do nothing.
Sure, no one will criticize you, but you’re also hiding yourself and talents from people who actually need what you have to say and offer. So I say flip the equation. Instead of being daunted by thinking of all the people who will criticize you, be fueled by all of those people who really need you and your art/service/project. Even if just one person is happier, more inspired and just better off because of you that’s pretty worthy isn’t it?
Let haters hate all they want. You, my dear, are a helper in this world. Now get to it, someone needs you!