How Do We Handle Haters?

Full disclosure: I may totally regret using the above screen grab. I swear I’m not using it so that you guys will go and rail against TheAliAbraham, whoever that is (tho hey, I’ve got no problem with that) but to make a point.

I saw this comment this morning. It was a response to an Instagram photo I posted yesterday that a friend took 15 years ago. Now obviously it’s awful to read something that nasty about yourself, whether you believe it’s true or not (to be clear, by the way, I’m 10 pounds lighter than I was then and don’t believe a word of what he wrote). Now, I’ve read plenty of mean things about me online and honestly it used to sting a lot more but after a while I started taking it as evidence that I was doing something right—that I was out there enough to trigger people.

Because really that’s all it is. I think we’re pretty safe in assuming that TheAliAbraham does not feel excellent about his/her (his, I think) life and, rather than exploring why this might be true, he has chosen to make comments on the social media of people he doesn’t know in the hope that he will make them feel as bad as he does. I get it; for most of my life, I was very angry and judgmental and often wanted the people around me to feel as terrible as I did. We live in a society that teaches us algebra and film studies, not how to process uncomfortable feelings or find contentment. What’s bizarre about the timing of this particular comment is that yesterday I read (and became obsessed with) Sara Benincasa’s “answer” to the stranger who asked her why she’d gained weight. I happened to be at the dentist yesterday when I saw a link to the piece on Twitter and I literally held my phone below the dentist’s drill so I could keep reading. I’ve never read a more brilliant take-down and celebration of accomplishments than this, as Sara brilliantly walks through all the amazing things she’s done over the past few years, marveling sardonically throughout that all these things happened despite her weight. Please read the entire piece – you’ll likely be tempted by this tidbit, which articulates how plenty feel far better than I ever could:

I gained all that weight because I was so busy working and growing as a person, a writer, an actor, a comedian, a friend, a daughter, a sister, a lover, an activist (hi Emily’s List and Humanity for Hillary and Los Angeles LGBT Center!), a thinker, and a cook (ironic, right?!?) that I didn’t have time to pursue what I really, really want to do: spend my precious spare moments making anonymous comments on the blogs of successful, beautiful, hardworking women in a failed attempt to undermine them in order to give me some sense of power as I marinate in my own inadequacy, stuck in the knowledge that no one will ever pay me to write my poorly-crafted thoughts down on paper, to be translated into book or film or television form, and that beyond money (which of course doesn’t lend my thoughts any inherent value) or any degree of fame (which is pointless and wholly unnecessary to a happy and fulfilling existence) no one will ever really want to hear what I have to say at all, because I am essentially worthless and of no value to the world at large. That’s what I really want to do.

Of course, hate spewing isn’t limited to social media. We’re all dealing with it to some degree regularly. I used to spew my own; I’ll never forget when I first started keeping a personal blog and wrote an entry about going to my first book party and mentioning that the author was unfriendly and weird. That author somehow saw the post and commented that he was genuinely sorry that this was how I’d experienced him but he’d been extremely nervous and uncomfortable during his first book party. I felt awful and vowed to never write anything unpleasant about a person online. Really, I wrote what I did because I felt snubbed by him and because it really didn’t occur to me that he was a person—crazy as that sounds. He was a guy who had a book out, something I didn’t have at the time and very much wanted, and I didn’t know how to process my jealousy, primarily because I wasn’t even conscious of it.

So here’s my point: if any of us ever feel like writing something negative about someone else, if we ever feel something negative about someone else, I think we’re best off trying to examine what it is in us that they trigger. There’s an expression popular in recovery circles that encompasses this idea well: If you’re pointing a finger at someone, there are three pointing back at you. Feeling bad occasionally is something we all must contend with and because we live in a world that constantly tells us that we’re not supposed to feel bad (please read Mark Manson’s latest for an amazing essay on this), we’re always subconsciously seeking other outlets.

Of course, in a far less earnest way, that’s the whole point of You’ve Got Issues, amIright?

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