Thick skin isn’t something that grows overnight. Unfortunately, it takes time and is created by interacting with people who do you wrong, people who spew negativity, nasty emails, and sometimes people who simply lack self-awareness.
If you do something big, if you hustle, if you make your dreams come true, certain people will absolutely hate you for it. Whether it’s out of jealousy, poor manners or pure boredom, there will always be negative people who want to rain on your parade.
I will never forget one of the first events I put together for my company, Asheville Folk. I was nervous and unsure of what the turnout would be. By the time it began, there were no seats left — people were sitting on the floor. The venue was packed with over 100 entrepreneurs and artists in their late 20’s and early 30’s. We had four talented speakers with different career paths, sharing their journey to success and inspiring the audience to dream big. I was on cloud nine. Afterward, there was a line of people ready to talk with me, to thank me for the event and share how it encouraged them. I was caught off guard when a business owner in her mid-forties, to my face, called me a “millennial whipper-snapper” and let me know I needed to get someone up there who understands, as she must have, what it actually takes to run a real business.
I wish I could tell you I responded by reminding her that millennials are not only the largest group of buyers in the U.S., but they have been deemed critical to the success of businesses. I wish I had smiled and smugly told her that it would do her some good to rub shoulders with these millennials — and, you’re welcome for gathering over 100 of them in one room for you. But I simply stood there in absolute shock. I stared at her and almost found myself apologizing. I explained one of the speakers was a 45-year-old man. I hated the words as they came out of my mouth — why did I feel the need to defend myself? I decided that next time, I would kindly and calmly say, “If you keep looking down on people, they will never look up to you.” Don’t you hate how the best responses come to you in the bathtub after two glasses of wine, three hours too late?
The universe has a funny way of making sure you get your chance. After realizing I had grown the largest Instagram account in the city, collaborated with some of the biggest names in town, partnered with multiple contributors, organized sold out workshops and gatherings, that same lady wanted to hire me to run her social media. I won’t say it didn’t feel good. It was the business version of an ex-boyfriend who treated you poorly but somehow still thought highly enough of himself to think you’d want him back. Don’t worry, this whipper snapper declined.
As a result, I want to share a couple things I have learned about growing thick skin and not letting negative thoughts dominate your world:
1. Don’t Cater to Haters
I once catered to haters thinking that I would be able to convert them into my biggest fans. That if only they got to know me, they would probably like me. I realized I was spending so much energy trying to convince negative people of my worth that I was neglecting the people who truly mattered. I already had a sea of people who believed in me and in what I was doing, people who wanted to help. All of that time I spent thinking of what to say to them is now spent thinking of how to create something for those who actually appreciate what I do. And that is a much more enjoyable way to live. Haters will always be there. But you don’t have to be there for them.
2. Care About People, Not What People Think
When you care too much about what people think, you give their opinion way too much power. Not everyone trying to give you their two cents actually deserves that role in your life. Ever heard the saying, “Only take advice from someone you are willing to trade places with?” I try to apply that idea in these situations. I only let the people whose life and work I admire speak into my life. Not everyone who hurts your feelings is a hater. Sometimes well-meaning friends and family feel the freedom to give their input in areas they know little about. In these cases, it’s okay to ignore the advice, but don’t ignore the person. However, if they truly hurt you, let them know. One awkward conversation with someone you care about can avoid years of bitterness, or worse, an unnecessary fallout in an important relationship.
3. Do Your Thing
The only way to ensure you won’t have haters is to do nothing, make nothing and be nothing. Even then you will have at least one hater, yourself.
When you put yourself out there and go for your dreams and goals, you are putting a bulls-eye on your back for people to speak positively and negatively about you. You should be open, teachable and willing to learn. But you don’t have to allow anyone’s opinion to dictate your actions or attitude. Trust yourself. Listen to your gut. Do what you were created to do and never feel pressured to partner with or even be friends with those who drain you or speak negatively of you.
When people are unhappy with themselves, they want you to be unhappy too. But you don’t have to be affected by them. No one can stop you from becoming a success. Don’t be intimidated by others and don’t be afraid of negative opinions. Words and opinions can hurt you but they can’t stop you. Respond to immaturity with kindness and let the negativity of others remind you to remain in your stream of positivity. Don’t let it kill your vibe. Because in the end, you are the one putting yourself out there. You are the one working hard. You are the one chasing your dreams. You are the one who showed up to actually create something while many others are only showing up to hate.
By Christina Forêt Heaston