Dealing with Haters: Ignore People in the Cheap Seats

This year, I’ve been fortunate enough to have a number of articles published in the Times Educational Supplement (TES), based on the subject of student and teacher wellbeing. I love to write, as you can see, so to be paid for it, whilst offering honest advice is more than I could have ever hoped for.

Of course, there are downsides though. Because articles are out there in the public domain, I’m suddenly open and vulnerable to feedback, misunderstanding, criticism and the blatant shitty behaviour that some people feel that they can engage in online.

Now – don’t get me wrong – we’re not talking about death threats here. My readers are teachers, so nothing has been that bad. But there has definitely been comments that crossed the line; that once read, can’t be unread.

After a long chat with Mr. G, following a bout of anxiety and self-doubt caused by said comments, I made a decision that I would no longer read any social media comments regarding my articles. This does mean that I miss the lovely comments too, but it’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make. Why feed myself that crap?

Yesterday, I re-watched Brene Brown’s Netflix Special, ‘The Call to Courage,’ in which she talks about the online abuse she received after her incredible TED talk on Vulnerability went viral. She mentioned the quote from Teddy Roosevelt, which I’ve written about before here.

It’s so good, I’m going to HAVE to share it again here:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

For Brene, these words provided comfort at a time when she was in a ‘shit shame spiral’ – (her words!) It gave her comfort to know that these people lashing out online, were those in ‘the cheap seats’; people that would never dare to get into the arena themselves, but would rather sit and criticise those brave enough to do so. She was happy to ‘fail,’ knowing that she had indeed dared greatly.

And this gives me a great deal of comfort too, especially when dealing with online abuse.

Because whilst there’s always a place for genuine, constructive feedback, listening to or caring about these kind of critics is futile.

As Brene says: “If you are not also in the arena getting your ass kicked, then I am not interested in your feedback.”

So there!

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