A few years back, I wrote a story about the multi-billion dollar plastic surgery industry, which involved going undercover and inviting a few doctors to “make me more beautiful” so I could see how far each would go in encouraging a healthy young person to get work done. One of the doctors I visited had me stand, naked, before a full length mirror so he could tear my body apart—from asymmetrical boobs to inner knee fat and “banana rolls.”
On some level, I knew the Sharpie-happy man was being ridiculously aggressive in outlining my “problem” areas. That hunch was even confirmed by the gentlemanly Vanity Fair staffer charged with playing my fake boyfriend so he could accompany me into the exam room while wearing a wire. Later, my faux beaux expressed that he was on the verge of “punching the jerk in the face.” But being a relatively body confident person who recognized the doctor’s approach as outrageous wasn’t enough to stop me from feeling totally unsexy and demoralized for at least a month afterwards.
Similarly, when we read negative comments about ourselves and/or our work online, it doesn’t matter if what’s said is totally unjustified or just plain rude. It’s practically impossible not to let the negativity impact your psychological wellbeing, at least temporarily.
Feeling shitty once in a while is part of being human, but sometimes it seems as if being an Internet-using human means feeling shitty regularly.
Recently, I compiled a list of the most offensive things internet trolls have said about me and my work over the last few years behind that cozy veil of online anonymity, then filmed myself reading the highlights aloud. Today, I can watch my badass video and laugh, which is exactly what I hoped to achieve—to lighten the darkest, least helpful remarks by taking ownership of them.
But tackling that project wasn’t easy. Were it not for a supportive boyfriend who encouraged me to keep at it (mostly by screaming, “Otherwise, those motherfuckers win!”), I never would have been able to see the whole thing through. It was especially difficult to watch the raw footage and to digest take after take of hate. Dipping into a vat of vitriol is inevitably upsetting, even if the end result is an awesome, empowering video.
Perhaps the bigger problem is the nagging awareness that the invective isn’t likely to die down. In an inspiring speech at the Ms. Foundation Gala, Gabourey Sidibe said she now knows that whenever she attends an event, the haters are destined to pop up all over Twitter: There’s always a big chance if I wear purple, I will be compared to Barney. If I wear white, a frozen turkey. And if I wear red, that pitcher of Kool-Aid that says, “Oh, yeah!” Unfortunately, predictability only makes insults a little less difficult to swallow.
But luckily, the World Wide Web doesn’t just provide meanies with a platform for spewing hate. It also provides the rest of us with some innovative methods of making ourselves feel better instantaneously. Like everything else these days, the task of flipping your mood switch doesn’t have to be a DIY mission, ‘cause you can outsource that shit. Just look at the ridiculous, remarkably effective mood enhancers I sourced at the cost of five bucks per original creation!
1. If you don’t buy my book, someone will knock you out!
2. Someone wants to fuck me!
3. Someone wrote a song about me!