How to Handle Your HatersPeople who urge you to be realistic generally want you to accept their version of reality. ~Unknown
With my multiple streams of income drying up one by one and no light of opportunity on the horizon, I was quickly losing faith in my ability to create a sustainable life as a writer. The long stretches of nothing to do were cementing my career-driven depression, and I was beginning to feel completely disconnected from my purpose.
I was incredibly insecure about my lack of forward movement, so I attempted to avoid conversations that brought up the topic of careers.
Then one day, a family gathering prompted a conversation about a local retail store that was considered to be a great place to work. One well-meaning but somewhat brash family member turned to me and said, “Why don’t you at least try to get a job there?”
I felt as if someone had just pummeled me in the stomach.
It wasn’t the idea of working in that particular place that bothered me, it was the insinuation that I wasn’t trying to create a career for myself and that my choice in careers wasn’t a respectable one.
Understanding Something Monumental
In reality, that one statement sparked a mountain of timber that had been gathering as a result of my own insecurities and doubts about what I had been attempting to do. It was someone else voicing what my own inner demons had been shouting at me for weeks.
And that was utterly painful.
That one exchange, preceded by a long list of under-handed comments about my lifestyle choices, prompted a long, drawn-out, Cold-War type of feud that led me to understand something monumental:
It is futile to seek support from people whose own life experiences have tainted their idea of what is and isn’t possible. Not everyone is capable of shedding a positive light on what you are going through.
Here are six tips I now follow when it comes to handling harsh criticisms and seeking support from certain people in my life.
1. Be Strong and Confident in Who You Are
When I was younger, I was easily shaken by negative comments that were slung at me. I took other people’s opinions for fact, because I was not in tune with my own inner confidence.
As I learned to connect with myself and really appreciate who I was, I began to see what other people said or did was a reflection of themselves, not of me.
If we can’t change how people choose to approach us, we can certainly change how we react to them.
2. Consider Their Path
The family member that I had this interaction with has spent much of her life enveloped by fear — in fact, fear dictates the majority of her decisions and actions.
She is also fiercely protective of her family, so she will often make suggestions based on a fear that those she cares most about won’t be taken care of.
Knowing this, I can have a deeper understanding for why she would say something that I found so offensive — she has had a completely different life experience than I have, and her worries and concerns are not the same as my own.
3. Be Mindful of Who You Share Things With
Just like we each have our own strengths and weaknesses, some relationships are better to turn to for support and advice while others simply offer companionship.
If you know that someone isn’t capable of supporting you through an issue or talking to you about something you’re struggling with, it’s best to turn to someone else. Seek out those who will raise you up, not those who will tear you down.
4. Don’t Ask When You Know What You Want to Hear
I often find myself asking for opinions about decisions I need to make or thoughts I have simply because I want someone to validate what I think or what I’ve already decided.
The problem is that not everyone thinks or acts the way I do, therefore they won’t always agree with me — when this happens, I find myself getting frustrated and angry.
If you are firm in your stance, you don’t need anyone to validate it, and avoiding these conversations will ensure you don’t resort to being defensive when it’s entirely unnecessary.
5. Pay Attention to Your Reactions
I actually began to notice how our own experiences shape and change the way we react to what others share with us when I began to pay attention to what I was doing and saying.
If I was feeling particularly stuck in my life, a friend relaying to me their plans to travel and live in another county were followed by, “Well how is that all going to work? How can you really afford that?”
If I was struggling in my relationship, a friend sharing their excitement over a new relationship might elicit a response like, “But doesn’t it worry you that he doesn’t have X, Y or Z?” or “Aren’t you moving a little fast?”
I wasn’t consciously trying to rain on anyone’s parade. I was simply reacting from my own upsets — unless I stopped myself and changed the direction of the interaction. In turn, this realization helped put how others reacted to what I shared into perspective.
6. Try to React From A Neutral Place
I am quick to classify words and interactions in one of two categories: positive or negative. But the truth is everything is neutral until we decide to label it based on our previous experiences — either in life or with that particular person.
Often times this can be achieved by getting to the root of the person’s intention when they said or did something. The majority of the time people are not seeking a way to hurt us — we simply jump to that conclusion in an effort to protect ourselves.
It’s best to stop, think and then react appropriately.
While this particular family member has not changed and has since said other things that I could have found incredibly hurtful and offensive, I have chosen to think about and react to these instances in a very different way. That has certainly lessened the sting.
Even more importantly, I am now far more confident in who I am, what I believe and the path I have chosen to take.