I remember the first negative comment I ever got on my newly formed website, Nerd Fitness. This random dude decided to go off on me with a comment full of hatred and factual inaccuracies. Naïve and hurt, I decided it was my responsibility to help teach this anonymous Internet person that he was wrong. I spent three hours crafting a response with citations and sources explaining my side and sent it to him. He came back with, “You actually read what I wrote? I was just having a bad day and needed to vent. Whatever.” I had spent three hours of my existence trying to win over a guy who had no desire to be won over. And since my site has grown, so too has the target on my back. Now the attacks are even more brutal, personal, and frequent. But I ignore them and move on with my life!
Spending any time thinking about haters is a waste of energy, as that’s time that could be spent helping more people or working to improve yourself. Life is too damn short to give any power to these non-contributing zeros, so I do the real-life equivalent of “block” when it’s somebody who isn’t part of my life. But what can you do if a hater happens to be one of your friends or loved ones? If you are trying to do something positive or healthy with your life, it can be quite difficult when you are surrounded by friends who are not interested in improving their own lives but have no problem telling you how to live yours. You’re so excited to tell them about your New Year’s resolutions, new deadlift record or to invite them on a cave expedition, but all they want to do is game or drink and make fun of you for being healthy and skipping Taco Tuesday.
These comments serve a singular purpose—to make haters, even if they are friends of yours, feel better about themselves. It’s not that these people truly want to put you down or see you fail, but these remarks take way less effort (and are much less scary) than if they actually tried to change themselves. They might be afraid of trying to change their lives and failing, or maybe they have already tried and failed, and see your success as validation of that failure. We all have these negative people in our lives, and it can truly be depressing.
Many people will hate on the success and positive change of those around them because those things make them feel worse about themselves. Just remember, it’s not about you, but about them. And you don’t have to accept it.
Here is your four-step plan for dealing with haters:
1. Understand that judgment is inevitable.
We all get judged every minute of every day, no matter what we do (or don’t). I’ve officially adopted the stance that if I’m going to get judged for something, being judged for being healthy, nerding out about interesting topics, and going on adventures is a pretty damn good thing! This required a mental shift for me to realize that it’s a badge of honor to be considered “the weird one.”
2. Consider the source.
Constructive criticism can be an important part of growth and change, but it’s also very important to consider the source of the criticism. If you are getting criticized for your new lifestyle by somebody who is out of shape, unhappy, overweight, and generally miserable, it’s probably not worth your time and effort to worry about it! I often just smile and nod (while being proud on the inside), or just say, “Ha ha, I know, I’m weird, right?”
3. Get them on board.
Many accidental haters (usually family members) don’t realize the damage their comments/remarks are doing to your efforts to improve yourself. Part of the Hero’s Journey can often be about outsmarting or enlisting/ changing the guardian of the threshold to the Hero’s Cause. Consider this part of your test! Explain to them that you’re trying to change and that you want their support and help. Tell them you’re trying to win a contest at work, or that you have a personal challenge you’re trying to complete, and that you want to see if you can actually follow through with it. These otherwise well-meaning detractors can become your biggest supporters if you ask for their help—everybody wants to feel like they’re making a difference, right? And who knows, you might inspire them with your actions.
4. Consider how you spend your most valuable asset: time.
As I’ve heard consistently and truly believe, you become the average of the five people you associate most with. If you are spending your time with “Negative Nancies” and haters who are not taking steps to better their lives, it probably feels like you are running through quicksand while trying to build momentum. Instead of surrounding yourself with people who are dragging you down, why not surround yourself with people who elevate and pull you up?
There that’s it. 4 steps to responding to haters in every aspect of your life. Keep them in mind as you work towards your newly created New Year resolutions, and anytime you encounter haters in your life.