What I Learned About Myself From A “Hater”

I learned four things about myself this past week. I’m 54 and thought I knew myself pretty well but self-awareness is a lifelong journey, I guess. I learned these things because I received an email from a “hater” who was angry with me. When I was still agonizing over the hater’s words three days later, I decided there must be a lesson in there somewhere, one that I was obviously not getting.

Abbey was our MC at Disney World

Abbey was our MC at Disney World

The first time I read the email, I was slightly amused. It was difficult to read because it was poorly written, full of grammatical mistakes and malapropisms. It was hard to take the words seriously because they didn’t make much sense. But the second time through, I zeroed in on the names I was being called…petty, manipulative, toxic. Ouch.

My first instinct was to feel embarrassed and angry…no one likes to be called names. I knew that these words were coming from someone who was disgruntled with me. I said to myself, “You can’t win them all” and “Everyone isn’t going to like you.” But even though people say nice things to me all the time, those insults kept resonating in my brain. I wondered why it mattered so much to me that one person said unflattering things about me.

I fretted and worried over those words. Am I petty, manipulative and toxic? Clearly, the hater thinks I am but do other people think of me that way? If I know for a fact that there are ten people who like and respect me, why do I care that there’s one who doesn’t? Why is it so easy to believe the haters and so hard to believe those who praise us? Am I the only person who gives too much credence to the words of haters and not enough credence to the words of supporters?

On their way to the stage!

On their way to the stage!

Whenever I receive negative feedback, I try to objectively decide if it has validity. If I decide the negatives are valid, then I decide whether they are something I can, or am willing, to change. And then I try to make appropriate changes to address them. Since I didn’t believe these insults are valid, I thought there was nothing I needed to change or correct. And yet, I couldn’t shake off those words. Then I had a “lightbulb” moment.

I realized that my reaction to the hater’s words prove that I’m not petty, toxic and manipulative (if I was any of those three things, I wouldn’t care what anyone said about me). But my reaction did highlight four other unflattering things: I always want to be right; I always want to have the last word; I am way too good at striking back with a vengeance when someone makes me mad or hurts me; and I can’t tolerate being rejected.

Project UP at the Downtown Disney Ampitheatre

Project UP at the Downtown Disney Ampitheatre

For three days, I had my finger poised over the “reply” button. I’m proud to say that I didn’t ever push it but boy, did I want to! I wanted to refute every single accusation and set the record straight so I could prove that I was right. I wanted to hit back, way below the belt. I played out imaginary conversations in my head, thinking of all the ways I could use my exceptional verbal skills to emotionally slash the hater. I was itching to have the final say.

I was indignant at the rejection…how dare they think these unkind things about me? Don’t they know that our local newspaper says I’m one of the 10 Most Influential People in town? Don’t they know that I am supposed to be universally revered, just because I’m me? Don’t they remember all the nice things I did for them, all the times I overlooked their mistakes and helped them out of messes? How dare that hater…did they not read the rulebook that says “Everyone must like Debra, all the time, no matter what?”

I can’t believe I just admitted thinking all of that. It is pretty scary inside my head sometimes.

I was so caught up in imagining retaliation that I didn’t acknowledge the lovely thank you note I got from someone and I didn’t reply to the beautiful Facebook comments on the pictures of JSAP’s triumphant performance at Disney World. I can’t get those three days back, but I can go forward with the intention of never repeating these mistakes if I can help it.

Anna's face says it all!

Anna’s face says it all!

When I need inspiration, all I have to do is look around me at the example the 503 children and adults with special needs in JSAP show me every day. They don’t waste time plotting revenge. They don’t hit below the belt. When they are wrong, they admit it. When they are rejected – which happens to them every single day – they turn to their friends and family for reassurance of their value and let the haters roll off their backs.

So, the next time I encounter a hater, I am going to try to remember these things:

I am not entitled to have everyone like me.

I’d rather be content than be right.

It will not make me feel better to have the last word because getting in one more round of hurt only prolongs a dispute, it never resolves one.

It doesn’t matter how old I am or how well I think I know myself…I will always have lessons to learn. I’d love to be able to say, “I’ve got this…I’ve learned it all” someday but I’m a work in progress. And I’ve got life’s best teachers to help me!

P.S. I realize that writing this post could be construed as a great way to get in the last word. My intention is to share what I learned about myself after reflecting on my reaction.

P.P.S. I’m also not fishing for compliments but I’d to love hear about a time when you’ve been in a similar situation and what you learned from it.

Project UP and Goofy at their Master Class

Project UP and Goofy at their Master Class



5 thoughts on “What I Learned About Myself From A “Hater”

  1. No one wants to be rejected. However there is a difference between being rejected or disliked with civility, and someone spewing hateful words at us. A kind person who strives to be a good person, would make a constructive comment…tell you that you made a mistake or overlooked something, and then explain their dissatisfaction, or simply state they were not pleased with a situation, and move on. Choosing to spew hateful words or bad-mouth someone puts that person into the same categories they ranted about…their reaction makes them petty and toxic…someone who chooses wounding over decent behavior.

    My childhood was an unfortunate series of agonizing and costly circumstances. Boundaries were destroyed and so, even at the age of 55, I struggle with and am still unsure of boundaries from time to time. I have crossed the line, and have been called out for it which I gratefully receive (if it is presented in a decent way) because it helps me learn and apply those lessons learned to situations as they continue to arise. All of us are constantly learning, growing, transitioning, transforming who we are…and how we are in the world. How others react to our mistakes says more about them than it says about us.

    A meaningful reaction is one that tries to improve understanding. Calling someone names, cursing, or talking maliciously about others makes those people very small. So the question isn’t how someone reacts, because we have no control over that. No, instead we have to ask if we value comments made by a particular person. If someone I care for, admire, respect shoots me down, I will assess how I AM really acting and what I could do to change. If someone I don’t value or respect does the same, it’s easy to let it go, walk away, or disregard and dismiss.

    You have to make a conscious effort to let some people and comments go. They are not worth your time. In the long run negative, hurtful persons will have to face their own candor and decide if they will continue on a path that is harmful, or change their course and learn how to love, forgive, and bless others, even when it’s not convenient or easy to do so.

  2. You wrote So Eloquently, words of comfort to those unable to speak, carrying that same pain. Maybe a Session for the Caregivers?? Our babies forgive & get excited about their next “dance”. Sharing, especially with the younger, under 50?, this nugget of Wisdom, would Save many bleeding hearts, sleepless nights. You Are A Blessing. Who of us could could Ask for more, Father God. Amen.

  3. I am 58 and female. I have recently moved back to Huntsville area after being away for 30+ years. Attended a Merrimack performance(JSAP group in the summer) kind of by accident and considered it one of the best “accidents” of my life. Got to see the Thurs 2014 Xmas program- loved it! Enough of background,for now. What I wanted to tell you is I had a very similar experience as you at my new job last week. My responses(in my head) were so similar to yours I had to comment. I also came to these 4 revelations about myself. The last word thing is probably my hardest obstacle. I want people to understand where I am coming from and I have always felt communication is so important. I was preparing a written response to explain myself when I read your blog. Kismet? All I know is I Thank you, I empathize with you more than simple words can convey. The tears I have experienced in the course of my life due to haters and my desire to “make the world a better place” are innumerable. I cannot/will not change the person I am to my core BUT I am working on MY responses which is the only thing I can control. It isn’t easy but I have learned that my gift of flexibility (doing what you do, you must have this gift also) helps. My heart and soul were truly beat down last week- disturbingly so. Within 24hrs I was back on track. I know I am a special person and I know I am good at what I do. If others choose to judge me based on their narrow perceptions it is their loss. And-your comment “It will not make me feel better to have the last word because getting in one more round of hurt only prolongs a dispute, it never resolves one.” was an aha moment for me. – Love, Denise PS Once I become more financially secure I will become a volunteer in your program. Looking forward to it!

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