Being in a creative profession can be tough. We put ourselves into our work daily, and when people love it, well, we get a little high on that, don’t we? Not everyone is a fan, though. No matter how long you’ve been at it, or how strong you believe yourself to be, sometimes the criticisms of others can really sting. We can hold our heads up and pretend that we aren’t bothered, but that empty ice cream container tells no lies.
None of us can control how someone else treats us, but we can always control how we respond to that treatment. This is not a definitive guide to dealing with negative people, just some helpful suggestions.
Deal with it now. Not later, NOW.
Many times people are completely unaware that what they have said is hurtful. This is especially true of the Internet. Rotting and stewing don’t make things better. If something that someone has said really, truly bothers you then you need to address it right away. Letting it go only opens the door for more of the same because your inaction is showing people how you will allow yourself to be treated. There is much to be said for the merits of a civilized conversation, so take a few deep breaths, centre yourself, and ask them what they meant.
Don’t overlook the power of a good laugh, either. I find this is especially important when dealing with keyboard critics who feel brave behind their monitors. It’s easy to be hateful toward someone when you don’t have to confront them directly. If you want to watch something really funny, check out these celebrities responding to mean tweets on Jimmy Kimmel Live.
It’s not you. Really, it isn’t.
You can’t please everyone all the time. Being all things to all people is impossible and eventually there will be someone who just plain hates your work even though you may be the nicest, most talented artisan on the planet with the best cookies at their craft table. Or maybe they just plain don’t like your personality. No amount of bending over backwards and swaying like the reed in the wind is going to change their minds. It happens. I’m sure there are people out there that you don’t like and you don’t know exactly why you don’t like them, and any reasons you could think of probably sound really silly when you say them out loud. Likewise, you don’t like the work of every artisan when you come across it.
Sometimes our creative work triggers people in ways we never considered. Certain textures, colours, patterns, or shapes can trigger memories or emotional responses – but this is what art does. It provokes. Although I don’t believe I’ve ever seen anyone get emotional over my dishrag or sock patterns, I have displayed some artsier pieces of crochet that have provoked discussion. I consider those responses to my work to be just as valid, and perhaps more important than the kindly praise.
Living well is the best revenge
An eye for an eye only works in mythology and epic movies. Revenge, making sure that everyone knows “the truth” about something, or circulating gossip about your detractors only makes you as bad as them. Like stewing in your own juices when someone walks all over you, revenge is a way of telling the universe that you’d like continued heaping helpings of more of the same. When you start thinking in vengeful ways, you fall out of grace and you give power to those who want to see you fall. By giving toxic people power, you fall of your path and onto someone else’s.
So resist the urge to make passive aggressive Facebook statuses or to post snide Instagram memes. Go to the gym and work that sh*t off until you’re too tired to care. Repeat as often as necessary. Your ass will look great, your stress levels will be better for it, and really, most drama has a shelf life of about two weeks and then everyone moves on to something else.
Forgive and move on
Forgiveness does not mean forgetting, but it does mean putting something down and walking away from it. Many of us will cling to things that upset us because we expect closure. We sit back like pouty queens, waiting those who have upset us to come forward with apologies. 99.9% of the time it ain’t gonna happen. Either the guilty party is blithely unaware that they have done anything to offend you, or quite bluntly, they don’t care. Or maybe they do care, but they enjoy being attached to drama.
You should totally stop analyzing why you aren’t getting closure or getting the closure that you want. It will make you a bitter harpy in record time and you don’t want that. Put that sh*t down and walk away.
Life is only as complicated as you want to make it, so why spend your time trying to figure out someone else’s penchant for crapulence? Forgiving someone does not mean that you are saying it is ok for that b-ho in the crochet group to make smart remarks about your abilities as a designer or to continue treating you like a third class citizen on Tumblr. It does not mean that they won or that you won or that anybody lost. These are mindsets that you have to let go of. It is about you giving yourself permission to slough their words or actions off and to take back your happiness.
There is no such thing as bad publicity
Yup, you were just called an amateur. Your prices were publicly dissed or maybe you encountered something like I did recently: “You aren’t a designer. Calvin Klein is a designer. You just take old patterns, change a few things, and call it yours.” <– I don’t know where she got that from, especially since the person in question was referencing a baby blanket in an Eastern European craft magazine from the 1970s. Not only do I avoid making baby things as much as humanly possible, but I don’t speak Polish. Or Slovakian. Or whatever it was that she was talking about. Eh???? Clearly she needed to vent at someone and I was convenient.
But, I’m babbling.
Negative publicity can generate just as much traffic – sometimes more. If possible, own it and rock it. Try to turn it into something that can work for you. Resist the urge to hide and don’t go making “I’m taking a break posts” anywhere. You’re fine and this too shall pass. The best part is when people come to your site or store expecting hoo-haw and instead they get this really put together human being who’s just so darned nice and talented.
There is something to be said for moments of quiet reflection. Most of us give great advice to our friends and creative peers, and we could do with a little of taking our own medicine sometimes. Think about your situation as if this was someone across your table telling you this story. What would you say to them? We spend a lot of our day propping up other people and we often forget to be this kind to ourselves.
Meditation can be a way of opening up to change in all its forms and understanding that sometimes the worst sh*tstorms can be the most liberating events ever.