On Sunday, I had a mimosa, read the New York Times, and played with my dogs. It was a lovely afternoon. I was happy. Walking through the kitchen, I picked up my phone and scrolled through my emails.
One in particular caught my eye. It began like this, “You are a complete idiot!” And it ended something like this, “You should never have children! Go get a fish!” It seems that this person hated a tongue-in-cheek article I wrote entitled, “Why Puppies Are Better Than Babies.”
For five minutes I felt as though someone had punched me in the stomach. Who was this person? Why would they take the time to write me such a hateful email? I needed another mimosa, light on the OJ, heavy on the Champagne.
Haven’t we all been hurt by haters at some point? They don’t like our haircut. They think our business skills stink. And they’re the first ones to point out why the best idea we’ve ever had, is absolutely, hands down, stupid. Their words can cut against our grain and stop us in our tracks.
After some thought and two mimosas (okay, maybe two and a half), here’s what I know about haters.
Haters don’t know our story. The hater who judged my parenting skills and my ability to love children and animals doesn’t know that after my mom died when I was twenty-four, I adopted my nine year brother and raised him as my own. She doesn’t know that I’ve dedicated my life since then to making sure he’s grown into a responsible, kind, and loving person.
She doesn’t know that because I haven’t given birth to children of my own, my brother and my dogs are my children. She doesn’t know that loving my children (with and without fur) is why my two feet hit the bedroom floor every morning.
Haters don’t get that we’d risk looking like a fool to follow our dreams. After reading the hater’s email, I thought about a quote from one of my favorite books, The Invitation. It goes like this:
To live a life of wonder and fulfilled potential, you must be willing to look like a fool. Anyone who’s risked living such a life knows this. Whether you’re a painter, a writer, an ice cream maker, or an astronaut, you have to be willing to put yourself out there. To make mistakes. To look like a fool. Or, to have people think you look like a fool.
Being truly alive requires nothing less.
So to the hater who spewed negativity all over my inbox and called me an idiot because they didn’t like something I wrote on my blog, I say this: You may have hated my article, and that’s your prerogative. But fools follow their dreams. Idiots don’t. Let’s get the terminology correct, I may be a fool, but I am no idiot.
Haters wear a full suit of armor to attack a hot fudge sundae. I’m paraphrasing a quote about critics by the writer, Kurt Vonnegut, but isn’t it the truth? As artists and entrepreneurs and dream chasers, we give the ooey, gooey good stuff from the deepest parts of our being. We’re vulnerable, much like vanilla ice cream melting under rich, hot fudge. We sit out in the open waiting for someone to enjoy our goodness; and then the haters show up ready for battle, looking to take hostages.
Haters, you can take off your armor. We’re not waging a war. We come in peace, bearing gifts for the world.
Haters think they’ll stop you. Listen up brave, creative ones, you must forge ahead regardless of the haters on the side lines. Haters may throw things at you and try to darken your spirit, but you must resist. There’s work to be done. Pick up your pen, your paintbrush, your scalpel, or your measuring cup. Whatever your creative weapon of choice is, pick it up and get busy.
The next time a hater slings their muck your way, smile, pour some champagne, and toast yourself. You are a brave, vulnerable spirit on your own journey. Your willingness to look like a fool is your ticket to a real life, one full of vigor and meaning. One without limitations. One where hate doesn’t exist.
So, cheers, my foolish friends. Cheers.