Too often we rely on the praise and positive feedback of others.
We build ourselves up compliment by compliment, like stacking bricks, all the while still unsure of ourselves, lacking the inner confidence we’ve asserted exists simply because others have said we are great. If everyone thinks I’m talented and smart, then surely, I must be.
What then, of the naysayers? What happens when your hate mail outweighs your fan mail?
Too many times throughout my career, I’ve felt the sting of personal attack, and the pain of public humiliation.
I’ve been referred to as an idiot, a child, inexperienced and unprofessional. Oh, and an elderly woman once called me a “harlot” in a hand-written piece of hate mail.
I’ve been doubted, ignored and laughed at. I’ve been threatened, scolded, had too many middle fingers in my face to keep track of and told countless times that I “look far too young to be any good” at my job.
Once, over the course of several months, I received a slew of hate mail from different sources, all using some version of the word “shame.” For instance: you should be ashamed of yourself; shame on you; you’ve brought shame; etc.
Each time a new piece arrived, I could feel my self esteem crumbling.
Overworked, underpaid, sleep deprived, consumed with overwhelming anxiety and stressed out beyond belief, I genuinely considered suicide at one point.
I sat in my editor’s office one afternoon, tear-stained face in my hands, wailing about how I just couldn’t take the incredibly harsh, and seemingly-undeserved criticism anymore. It felt like everyone had something to complain about, and their fingers were always pointed at me.
I wish I could remember his exact words in that moment, but it was something to the effect of that old adage, “Opinions are like ass holes. Everyone has one.”
What I do remember is how much relief his reassurance brought me.
He reminded me that sometimes, pissing people off means that you’re doing your job correctly, especially in journalism. And he insisted that while it’s never easy, you have no choice but to find the humor in it all, because it’s never worth losing your life over.
So I wiped my face, and decided that I wasn’t going to let the voices of other people determine how I felt about myself. I found an old bulletin board tucked away in a closet, nailed it to the wall in my office and tacked up every single piece of hate mail I’d ever received.
Appropriately, I dubbed it “The Wall of Shame.”
And I never again internalized the words within a negative letter, email, card or online comment. I simply pinned it up amongst its peers, and moved on.
I realized that day that when you strip away all the chatter from outside sources, you’re left with nothing but your own voice. What that voice sounds like is entirely up to you.
Because at the end of the day, it is no one’s job to like you, except you.
We place so much emphasis on making new friends and cultivating relationships, that we often forget how critical self love is.
And when the going gets tough, if you aren’t a champion for yourself, how can you expect anyone else to be?
It’s crucial to remind yourself that not everyone is going to like you, and that is perfectly OK; what really matters is that you like yourself.