Putting yourself out there is hard. It can be brutal. You could be the most talented, entertaining, sweetest soul on Earth and still be confronted with negative comments. No one is immune. Whether it's a video posted, an article published, a piece of art created, even a single idea shared, anything can warrant a negative response in this day and age of strong opinions and anonymous digital presence.
I used to think it would be an easy enough task ignoring all the negativity that comes along with public sharing. We see the comments and judgment of others on a daily basis. It's easy to assume as long as they have a sufficient level of self-esteem they'll be able to see the comments for what they are, to rise above it. But it's always different when the shoe's on the other foot.
When I received my first negative feedback I became obsessed. On one level I knew it was completely ridiculous to let one comment from one stranger have such an impact. I study the ego and how one should not personally take offense, as it's the ego that's offended and the ego that does the offending. But it still hurts. I'm still human. After all we are given egos for a reason and although I see mine for what it is it doesn't make it suddenly vanish or become incapacitated.
That being said I still don't want to live my life and base my emotional and mental well being on the passing comments of others, bad or good. That's not to say I don't respect and value the sometimes completely valid or correct opinions of others. I only wish I were better at distancing myself from the situation.
Throughout my own process of dealing with these feeling I've discovered 5 ways in particular that have helped me mindfully deal with any negativity comments that come my way. My hope is that they're of help to you the next time you're in this situation.
1. Keep a running list of all positive comments. Literally anything that makes you feel good pull it out and write it down. Even if it's a comment buried in a paragraph of criticism. The idea is to create a go-to list of real, positive phrases that you can revert back to when you're feeling attacked or put down. The trick is to copy the comments word for word. You want them to feel as real as possible and when you take note of the specific words used by other people they strike more of a cord than if they were interpretations of what was said.
2. Easier said than done, but ignore all mean-spirited feedback or feedback given in response to a misinterpretation. If something literally has no relevance to what you put out then ignore. Obviously they didn't take the time to listen, read or watch what you had to say and therefore have no real place in commenting. Cruel or personal attacks can be especially difficult to stomach but remember anything of this nature is only a reflection on the critic, not you. If someone is rude or negative then give them your prayers and sympathy, they need it more than you do.
3. With as much detachment as possible look for any truth behind critiques and criticism (even if given in a less than pleasant way). Help can come in all forms. It doesn't always come sugar coated and being able to step back and scoop up the bits of insight can be invaluable. Don't copy the critique word for word as you do the positive comments (you don't want those ingrained in your memory). Put them in your own words. Jot down what can be learned and positively applied to your future work. But remember even if it's a kindly given critique it doesn't mean you have to accept and make use of it. You have the final say in what you do.
4. If you're brave enough to dig deeper, personally and privately reach out to your critic. This may sound intimidating but there's a world of potential knowledge to be had by taking this route. Now you don't want to contact anyone who's simply badmouthing you or with nothing worthy to add (most likely they're crazy) but if it's someone who seems like they have genuinely helpful thoughts or concerns then there's no harm getting in touch. Simply send them a private message (if their account is linked to a contact) saying you're looking to improve your work and would be appreciative if they would expand on their thoughts or had any advise. Even if their critique was harsh never attack or defend yourself when reaching out. This isn't about nitpicking personal beliefs; it's about discovering where improvements can be made and viewing your work from a different perspective. Be respectful and thankful for any feedback. You don't have to accept the feedback and make use of it but it's a prime opportunity for potential learning and growth.
5. Hit that negative comment back out there. In her book Big Magic Elizabeth Gilbert writes about playing a game of cosmic tennis with her rejection letters. Each time she received one she would respond by sending out another query that same afternoon. This was her way of telling the universe she's not accepting a no. In the same spirit, I suggest doing this with negative comments. Every time a negative comment comes your way hit back by writing a positive comment on someone else's work. Go to a blog, social media, anyplace public and share some genuine positivity. You accomplish two things by doing this. One, you're letting the universe know that you won't accept negativity as your way of being. And two, you will raise your self-esteem because being kind does that to a person. This one practice has probably been the most effective in making me feel better.