Tuesday, April 24, 2012

How to deal with the Haters.

Copyright Monica L. Shulman

What is WITH people who just want to bring other people down?  In high school my guidance counselor told me that I should give up on applying to certain schools because I would "never get in" - talk about buzzkill (to put it mildly).  He looked right at me and told me "not to bother".  Years later when I was applying to law school the attorney father of a friend told me "not to waste the school's time" and  maybe I "wasn't meant to be a lawyer" when my LSAT scores were low.  Sadly, these are true stories.  Imagine what 17-year-old me must have looked like sitting across the desk from a teacher who was supposedly there to guide me.  Imagine what the 24-year-old version of myself must have been thinking when I was basically told to give up.  Think about what those words, the polar opposite of encouragement, could do to a person.

We all have them.  Those horrible voices talking at us rather than with us -- bringing us down, making us feel terrible, forcing second-guesses when they weren't there before and generally sucking the excitement out of your day and/or life.  Sometimes the source of all that negativity is another person and sometimes it is yourself (hello, worst enemy) but either way, it's no fun to be attacked by haters.

The best way to learn the hard lessons in life is by experience and I've been thinking about the toughest ones a lot lately.  Here are some ideas that have been helpful in keeping myself on track and not letting the haters get to me. 

1.  Start with yourself

You need to be your own cheerleader.  Are you your own worst enemy who tends to focus on all the reasons why you can't do something?  Stop repeating all the reasons why you think you can't.  You need to remind yourself, all the time, that if you want to be you're in control of everything in your life.  This isn't to say that you should be delusional (a lot of people are) about what you can achieve or what your talents are but if you're realistic about your goals, make plans and work hard, then who's to say that you can't have some level of success? 

2.  Ignore them

When I was 17 I wondered whether my guidance counselor was right.  I went home and told my parents that maybe I should just give up.  They looked at me like I was crazy.  Maybe I was.  A few months later when I got an acceptance letter to my first choice school I knew that not only was he wrong but he was negligent and ignorant (awesome combination).  For some reason he decided to pick on me and put me down.  If it wasn't for my parents and my favorite high school teacher he could have done some serious damage not just to my self-esteem but also to my entire future.  I won't even get into the "are you sure you should quit" questions I got when I left my job as an attorney except to say that every single time I told someone my plan it was immediately followed by a feigned concern over whether I was sure I knew what I was doing.  Suffice it to say I didn't let them get to me...too much...I am human after all.

3.  Use them

I know I just said to ignore them but sometimes my biggest source of motivation is listening to the haters and turning their words into the motivation I need to move forward.  Don't let people push you around.  Obviously what these two people said to me years ago haunted me but they've since become reminders of moments when I took control of my own future.  I saw that bully attorney at a networking event after I had graduated from law school and working at one of the top firms in New York.   I'm pretty sure I detected unhappy surprise on his face and I knew he remembered our conversation.  The "you were wrong" tone in my voice was probably a bit more passive aggressive than necessary but a small part of me was glad he felt embarrassed.

4. Accept that you might fail

This isn't to say that you should believe the haters.  It's a fact of the world that not everything works out the way you hoped.  I make myself feel better by reminding myself that at one point or another, the people who I admire, have been brought down by someone and had some kind of failure or rejection in their life.  Yet, somehow, they were able to peel themselves off the floor, ignore all the noise and move on to the next thing. 

5.  Surround yourself with people who can bring you up

It sounds cliche but some people are just jealous and angry and cannot see past themselves.  So when they look at someone who is a little vulnerable, trying to make their life better or trying to evaluate their dreams and hopes, they try to bring those people down.  The words and comments hurt (I'm human after all) but I have to remind myself that all that bitterness and contempt can't possibly be just about me.  I end up feeling sorry for them instead of believing their hateful words toward me.

Cut all the haters out of your life, even the ones who are masquerading as friends.  When I was in my 20s I had a friend who was so awful it seemed like there was a black cloud hanging over her.  She was cynical and bitter.  I tried to be positive but she thought I was overly optimistic and she always found a way to bring me (and everyone else) down.  She was such a gossip that I secretly wondered what she must say about me when I wasn't in the room.  Our friendship ended for a number of reasons but I can honestly say that not having her in my life is so uplifting.  A bad friend can be like a bad habit that needs to be broken.  It's never easy to end a friendship but when you're on the other side of it you realize that you're better off. 

What about you?  Do you have any tips for dealing with haters?  I'd love to hear.

Also, what to do if you want to change careers and 10 things to think about on the road to success.

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