Since I started writing a month ago, I got a few of my first mean comments. I deleted them but caught myself feeling a little incredulous. Like what year is this? Is everything okay? Did I misinterpret the comment?
I’m not interested in learning how to deal with haters. I’ve got that down: disregard them at worst, send them love at best.
What interests me is their experience. What compels someone to directly insult another person? It’s a little odd isn’t it?
I’m writing this article as someone who is on the same team as the hater. I get it. I’ve hated before. I still feel occasional impulses to react to irritating statuses about politics. People can be ignorant assholes and it’s tempting to put them down for it.
I want to write an article that might resonate with future posters of hater comments. If that happens once, I’ll post a naked selfie. Just kidding I’ll be stoked though.
I want to expose the Hater Trap
Hating doesn’t work. I know this from experience. You probably know it deep down too. And everything from ancient wisdom to modern psychology confirms this. It’s taken me days to sift through all the good anecdotes and insights on this topic— it’s endless. Hating generates more for you to hate. Destructive, belittling comments hurt you more than they hurt the person you send them to.
“Blame has no positive effect at all, nor does trying to persuade using reason and argument. That is my experience. No blame, no reasoning, no argument. Just understanding. If you understand, and you can show that you understand, you can love, and the situation will change.” — Thich Nhat Hanh
Hating is seductive and it seems to feel good, but it’s like shopping or eating to feel better: It’s fleeting and superficial and leaves you poorer, chubbier and sadder in the end. It’s a trap; a downward spiral. We’ve all been there. Let’s shine a little light on it, expose it for the useless mess it is, and move tf on.
Here’s what I’ve learned about beating the Hater Trap:
1. Nobody loses worse than the hater
It feels bad to belittle someone else. I’ve done it and I can remember the feeling. When the righteousness wears off you’re left feeling jaded or protective or paranoid or defensive.
I found this article called “Don’t Feed The Haters: The Confessions Of A Former Troll” by Paul Jun.
Here’s something he said in retrospect about a ruthless attack from his hater days:
“What really gave me pause is not the attack itself, but my mindset behind it. Why did I possess a desire to hurt rather than help? I thought about how easy it has become to demonstrate our frustrations, insecurities, and fears online by taking it out on strangers and felt ashamed that I got caught up in that feeling.”
When someone says something insulting or demeaning, they’re the ones suffering. Always. Nobody loses worse than the hater.
2. This has nothing to do with the person I’m hating on, and everything to do with me.
I asked my good friend, Luisa Smoot, if she had any wisdom for me around the topic of hating and haters. She’s been one of my role models in this area since I’ve known her. She’s resilient and real and wholehearted. Here’s what she said:
“[Getting hated on] is not something you have control over so how do you respond? It makes me think back to the second agreement in The Four Agreements: Don’t take anything personally. The things people say about you actually say nothing about you and everything about them.”
As more people become openhearted and self-aware like Luisa, it will become increasingly obvious that hating is nothing more than the hater revealing some unresolved self-doubt.
When I was a little kid I remember overhearing a conversation between my uncle and my mom about respect: My uncle said, “What about a murderer or a child molester. Do they deserve respect?”
“Of course,” she said, “treating people with respect has nothing to do with them. It has everything to do with me.”
3. Catching yourself hating is an opportunity for growth
Hating is all about the person hating. Catching yourself in the middle of a nasty comment is an opportunity for self reflection. We don’t often get such clear calls-to-action. Take advantage of them.
Ayla Sarnoff recently said this to me: “Never waste a good trigger.” Nice.
When something upsets you, it’s an opportunity for you to grow. If something someone said pissed you off, that means it’s loaded. Triggers are catalysts full of opportunity. When I get triggered, I redirect my focus ASAP to thoughts like “What does this teach me about what I do want?”
Imagine yourself a year from now reflecting on this moment, proud of how you took something annoying or enraging and used it to self-correct and transform yourself in some way. What would you have done? What comes to mind?
4. Your attention is like a vote: The more you pay attention to something, the more of it you get.
“Where attention goes energy flows” — James Redfield
My buddy Christian O’Rourke told me about this parable of two wolves:
An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.
“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.”
He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.
The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”
The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”
When you’re inclined to say something insulting or demeaning, know that your skepticism and doubt are overpowering your curiosity or optimism. To act from that state of mind is to feed the evil wolf.
Don’t invest energy in what you don’t like. That’s directly investing in more of that for yourself.
“Choose the positive. You have choice, you are master of your attitude, choose the positive, the constructive. Optimism is a faith that leads to success.” — Bruce Lee
5. To change things, focus on the future you want—not the problematic circumstances of the moment.
“You never change things by fighting the existing reality.
To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.” — Buckminster Fuller
One of my favorite comedians, Kyle Cease, did a dorky video called “Haters Cause The Things They Hate.” It’s worth a watch.
Don’t waste another moment hating. Find ways to move your attention toward what you do like; toward opportunity and possibility and the future.
“The most valuable skill or talent that you could ever develop is that of directing your thoughts toward what you want — to be adept at quickly evaluating all situations and then quickly coming to the conclusion of what you most want — and then giving your undivided attention to that. There is a tremendous skill in deliberately directing your own thoughts that will yield results that cannot be compared with results that mere action can provide.” — Abraham Hicks
6. It feels better to assume people are doing their best
In Brené Brown’s book, Rising Strong, she wrote about being totally disgusted with someone. Just overwhelmingly irritated. Her therapist asked: “Do you believe that everyone is fundamentally just trying to do their best?” Brené was stuck. Later in the book she asked her husband that same question:
“Steve said, ‘I don’t know. I really don’t. All I know is that my life is better when I assume that people are doing their best. It keeps me out of judgment and lets me focus on what is, and not what should or could be.’ His answer felt like truth to me. Not an easy truth, but truth.”
A wonderful friend of mine, BC Serna, wrote this on Instagram a while back and I loved it:
“We’ve all probably heard the term “Devil’s Advocate” — someone who tells you everything that can go wrong with your idea or choice, which of course has its place and value. But I’m curious about how we can get more Angel’s Advocates involved in our world and lives. An Angel’s Advocate is someone who tells you everything marvelous and amazing that can go right with your idea or decision; someone to pour gas on that fire in your heart and passion.
Become bold with your audacious and passionate support for your friends and family that want to do something against the cultural norm or not the most logical decision. We have enough people around our culture putting out our passionate fires and ideas telling us all the possibly bad outcomes. Let’s begin to dream with one another and be someone’s Angel’s Advocate, for the fire is there for a reason.
And there is no such thing as failure when you try at something you love. You fail when you don’t try at anything at all.”