Occasionally it happens. I come face to face, or screen to screen, with one of them. Haters. I’m not talking about challengers. Anyone who’s down to get in the ring and have a mutually beneficial, respectful, and critical discussion about creative work is welcome in my corner, whether we agree or not. That shit is my JAM. But giving into haters means making withdrawals from my own bank. And let me tell you something, I HATE spending my money.
You can imagine how I feel about wasting my emotional currency on trolls.
Have I accepted that there are people who roll their eyes at what I do? Sure. Relentless learning and sharing in the name of self-improvement and personal discovery isn’t for everyone. Some people are cool with coasting. But will I spend any fragment of time past this blog post worrying about what they think? Nope. Do their perceptions of my work ethic play any role in forming my reality? Abso. lutely. not.
One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned so far is that I don’t have to prove anything to anyone. My work does that for me. The people who reach out with touching stories of epic human relation do that for me. The organizations and conferences that ask me to be a voice for their creative communities do that for me. The agency I love walking into every day does that for me. The fact that I could turn a part time passion into a full-time job does that for me. Permission not to prove anyone wrong is perhaps the most magnificent gift I’ve ever given myself, and it didn’t cost a damn dime. In fact, every new client, every new campaign, every new project, every new post, every new paycheck contributes to my literal and proverbial bank.
The truth is, people will make up whatever stories they want to about you that best fit their narrative. If they’re feeling unfulfilled in their work, your work will become stupid and meaningless. If they’re feeling unsuccessful, your work will become a waste of time. If they’re feeling like they’ve fallen behind, the reason you’re ahead will become a matter of luck not talent. That’s a reflection of their insecurities and inconsistencies, not yours.
You ARE talented. That’s why you’re succeeding. They might be talented, too! But the reason they’re feeling unsuccessful enough to donate any amount of their time toward dragging you down has nothing to do with talent and everything to do with attitude. I’m not saying luck and privilege haven’t played a part in your success, or mine for that matter. I’m just saying the way we treat others says more about us than it does about the other person’s accomplishments. Your success doesn’t detract from mine. It makes me want to work harder. Work smarter. I want to match you. Hell, I want to surpass you. But it’s because hard work inspires hard work, not because I think your work is worthless.
So whether you find yourself being the hater (stop that!) or being hated on (it happens!), know that the more energy you waste worrying about what other people are thinking, the less energy you’re able to dedicate to the things that help you get ahead.
This isn’t for the haters. It’s for you.
You, holding back.
You, holding it in.
You, refusing to start
You, afraid to finish.
If you do that, they win.
They win because you let them.
If you’re sitting at your computer afraid to put something out in the world, this is for you. If you feel the pressure of disapproval weighting heavy on your shoulders, this is for you. If you’ve seen or heard passing judgements from your pathetically bored critics, this is for you. If the pang of doubt has bulled you into stomping out your own fire before others have a chance to, this is for you.
Don’t waste your time proving these people wrong. Your work will do that for you. Lean heavy on your success and let the work you produce speak for itself. Nothing and nobody else speaks for you. Keep on keeping on at the thing that makes you feel alive. Don’t stop until your inner voice of confidence is so loud it keeps you up at night. Remind yourself, daily, that this isn’t for them. There will be voices of doubt out there, but there will also be the voices that say, “You got this!” Let those be the ONLY voices you listen to.
I hope your own voice is one of them.