Blog Q&A: What should I do about haters?

What to do about hatersWe're back with another article in our Blog Q&A series, which you can see all of here if you need to catch up. Today's question comes from a Blog Life student:

"My blog exploded in readership when I started, and because of that paired with the content of the blog (vegan recipes), I received so much negativity from the beginning. Ever since, I haven't looked at any of the press we've gotten, and I rarely check comments. The worst part is, I've been stuck posting really 'safe' content that's boring to me only about once a week because I'm scared of going through all of the hate again. How do I get back to being positive and not letting negative people dictate what I want to say?"

This is such a great question, as I feel like it applies to SO many areas of life and not just blogging. If you've ever put something out there that you worked hard on (especially if you put it on the Internet), then you may have encountered some "hate" before, no matter whether you're a blogger, artist, writer, politician, mom, business owner, etc. This list could go on and on! Pretty much anyone who is doing something (as opposed to just watching—more on that in a second) is going to encounter some form of criticism or even hate during the course of their life. So what can we do about this?

Haters vs. Constructive Criticism

First I think it's SUPER important to understand the difference between negative feedback we should ignore and negative feedback that we should consider. I'm sure we could define "haters" all sorts of ways, but what I think of is spectators who are not interested in adding to a conversation or building anything. They would rather tear you down possibly to make themselves feel better about their inactivity. It's easy to criticize; it's much harder to create. So if you are creating anything—articles, projects, content, music, literature, anything really, then you are likely to stir up some hate as those spectators have to face that they are not creating while you are. As Aristotle said, "To avoid criticism say nothing, do nothing, be nothing." Does that sound like an exciting and fulfilling life to you? Yeah, me neither. 🙂

So if you encounter criticism that you can basically summarize as, "You are ugly. You are dumb. You should stop doing things. You disappoint me because you did something I personally don't enjoy. You suck." Or any combination of these, here's what you do—ignore. If needed, delete those emails, comments, or whatever. Don't even respond because it's a waste of your time. You are on a mission to make and the spectators in the cheap seats are just gonna slow you down. Press on, friend! I know I'm making this sound easy, but trust me, it's incredibly hard to do. We all struggle with this from time to time. 

But what about that criticism that we should consider? I would call this constructive criticism (from non-crazy people). This usually comes in the form of questions that they feel your project didn't address, or offerings of solutions to perceived problems or weaknesses in your project. Most of the time people are either A.) Actually interested but something about your project confuses them or doesn't work for them, or B.) They see how they think your project could be better and so they tell you. Even if this criticism has been worded in a way that stings a little, try to assume they mean well and do your best to evaluate the feedback. Useful, constructive criticism can make us SO much stronger—so don't live in a bubble and miss out on these opportunities! You may receive feedback that you don't agree with, or that doesn't fit your overall goals for the project, and that's OK too. But it doesn't hurt to evaluate it as it will help you see things from other perspectives. And if you are selling or monetizing your offerings, then it's especially important to care what your customers think, even if you can't cater to every single suggestion.

Don't live in a bubble, but do protect yourself.

If you need to take a break from reading comments on your site or something from time to time—do it! Just give yourself a week or a month and come back to it later so you don't miss any useful or kind feedback while you try to avoid some hate for while. Also, don't google yourself or go to areas of the Internet that you know are just filled with hate (like mean message boards or gossip sites). If you're gonna waste your time, waste it on something fun. 🙂

Protect yourself as best you can and ask for support from family and friends when you need it! We all feel down sometimes, we go through ruts, we feel completely uninteresting, unoriginal, useless. It happens to everyone, reach out to loved ones for support—we all need it!

Don't let negativity steal your creativity. 

Take a second to think of your favorite writer, musician, or artist. The person you are thinking of right now, I promise someone told them they sucked and they should quit. Aren't you glad they didn't! The world is full of beautiful and interesting things because people refuse to stop making, and I personally want to join in this movement in whatever way I get lucky enough to contribute. We can't let negativity stop us from doing this or scare us from trying. Sometimes it's hard, but you have to force yourself to go all in and do the thing, or write the post, that you are most passionate about. Do not let fear of negativity water down your brand/vision/goals! As Andy Warhol said, "Don't pay attention to what they write about, just measure it in inches." Ha!

And for anyone going through the hate right now, please hear this: YOU are valuable no matter how much people like or dislike your stuff. This is totally something my mom would have said to me in middle school when I would wear the weirdest, homemade clothes to school. But you know what—she was right. Don't let anyone else dictate your worth!

I could probably talk about this for WAY longer as I am a big believer in the power of creativity and positivity, the enemy of which is usually ourselves or haters. But I've already made you read over 1000 words, so how about I let you add to the conversation now. What do you think? Have you dealt with hate? Did you let it steal your creativity or did you do something else? Share your story or questions! xo. Emma

Credits // Author: Emma Chapman. Photography: Amber Ulmer. Image design: Mara Dockery. 

  • I LOVE this! Great advice.
    My initial reaction was ‘whaaaa? who could POSSIBLY hate ABM?!” You guys brighten up my days and I look forward to catching up on your latest posts every coffee break. Sure, I’m not totally in love with every single recipe or post or whatever but I love that you guys put so much effort and energy into everything you share and I’ve loved following your journey to a seriously successful blog.
    I’ve been a reader for 5+ years and I’ve got nothing but love for you guys.
    Keep at it! 😉

  • While positivity is good, authenticity is more important in my opinion. You wouldn’t have trollers if so many blogs moderate and post only positive-comments. I get a little frustrated with my comments section because it is positive comments. It seems a little phony and most of the time, there’s nothing I can gain from it so I think “Yeah, I’m proud of this thing I created…and you think it’s cool…so?” Admittedly, I am more fueled by competition, and being directed towards a real conversation not a phony “Great post!”

  • I have been very fortunate that I haven’t received many mean or unkind comments and always approve and keep those which are constructive or have something to say or promote a discussion. Yes I keep positive comments, but it is my space. I’m asking the opinion of ABM here if they feel similarly to myself. I think its also worth pointing out that receiving a positive comment is nothing to be ashamed of or something to be deleted.

    You wouldn’t come up to someone on the street, criticise their appearance and walk away – so why do it online? It makes no sense and offers no arena for a discussion of improvement or helpful suggestions to make your space better/sleeker/more relevant. I’m actually more concerned about the level of mean comments on other blogs I have seen of late, many of which are prompting bloggers to take extended breaks from the internet or start arguments in a part of a blog which to me should be a discursive space.

  • I was shocked when I found out hateful message boards existed. It’s the saddest corner of the internet. Thank you so much for rising above and continuing to create amazing content!

  • Love this. I’m so glad that you guys don’t give haters the time of day. Remember in Bambi when Thumper’s mom told him “if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all”? My mom would say that to us all the time too. If you can’t be encouraging, respectful, and kind, then don’t comment. The amount of vicious cruelty that goes on in the Internet under the guise of “honesty” is astonishing to me. Thank you guys for encouraging people to be kind to each other here and on your Instagram feeds!

  • #Truth. I don’t know why everyone feels the need to be horribly rude whenever possible just because they can! A little politeness and tact when saying anything goes a long way.

  • Bravo for another thoughtful post. This is why you are at the top of the game! 🙂 I wrote in years ago with what was (hopefully) polite constructive criticism and I never expected to get such a long and thoughtful response from Elsie. It totally turned me around on the site and I love you guys more than ever. I appreciate that you moderate the comments section, I rarely look but when I do have a question about something, 9 out of 10 times it’s already addressed in the comments. I’m so glad you keep it so positive because it is a much needed a break from constant bad news and ugly behaviour. Your site is so feel good and always on point. Thank you for doing an excellent job at what you do. It makes my day better 100% of the time.

  • This is such a great post. I’m working really hard to get past comments that are horribly phrased, and access the “constructive” part of it. It is so hard to get myself into a “no smoke without fire” mindset and really dig to figure out what I can learn from feedback, while at the same time trying to pick apart what someone else’s driver is in saying those things to me so I can figure out how many pinches (or spoonful’s)of salt to take that feedback with. When the goal is to grow, there will always be growing pains, but knowing what to listen to (and learn from) and what to let go of, is a solid starting point.

  • Thank you for your advice. I don’t blog or anything like that, but I have dealt with “haters” (useless and personal criticism) on the academic world, and I thought you’d like to know your advice applies. You are a very wise lady 🙂

  • Fabulous post! As T-Swift says, “haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate
    Baby, I’m just gonna shake, shake, shake, shake, shake
    I shake it off, I shake it off.”

    But seriously, loved it. So important to know when to ignore and when to open yourself up to constructive criticism.

  • Let us be the man in the arena:
    “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” -Theodore Roosevelt

  • Great post! I don’t like seeing nasty people in the comments. There’s always a nice way to give feedback if you try. Haters gonna hate!

  • First off, I completely and absolutely resonate with the question. It’s amazing how much even the fear of these reactions can keep me from wanting to put what I’m making out there in the first place. I feel like I spend a solid third of my mental time answering the imagined questions and protests my personal vampires could potentially whisper about the thing I haven’t even put forth yet. It’s staggering and a little embarrassing how much weight this has.

    Secondly, I think your advice was poignant and incredibly well considered. I’ve tried to read a fair amount of thoughts on this because I wrestle with it so much, and often even the best intentioned advice ends up sounding a bit trite and unrealistic. I really appreciated that you offered some tangible steps someone can take when they find themselves in the midst of it.

    For me, there have been two pieces of media which have profoundly influenced how I feel about making work and putting things into the universe, and have helped me understand and appreciate the incredible struggle it is to CREATE anything. The first is the AMAZING book by Steven Pressfield called The War Of Art. It’s a tiny (as in, you can read it in one sitting tiny) but brilliant book from a best-selling author collecting his scattered thoughts about the struggle to Create Something, and the active Resistance we face (from all sides, internal and external) in that process. It has absolutely affected my life more than any other book, and I’ve recommended it to probably hundreds of people at this point. When you feel stuck, or discouraged, or under attack, you can pick this little piece of wisdom up and in two hours have just the kick in the pants to move forward and make something wonderful.

    The other thing I go back to over and over again is a simple song called Die, Vampire, Die, written for the musical Title Of Show. It’s basically a 5 minute version of the same sort of perspective and pants-kicking, and is usually all I need to get a fresh reminder that simply by creating I am part of an amazing community of people who Get It, and I can push through. Here’s a link to the cast recording. I hope it gives you a jolt. (Small language warning.)

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9DDdM66_nSI

  • I’ve just recently found your website. I’m a little (ahem) older than your target market so yes, some of the fashion advice and such is not aimed at me, but the bright, happy vibe of the site and the gorgeous photos still inspire me. I’m a writer. I’ve had some negative reviews of my books, but a negative review is quite different than a “hate” review. The “hate” reviews reveal more about the miserable life of the reviewer than the subject matter of the books.

    Your advice is excellent, but I’d also add: Don’t respond. Many, MANY of the haters are trying to push your buttons. They actually feel a sense of accomplishment when they get a reaction. Don’t fall for that. Take the high road. Be gracious. Be respectful. Be the adult with a conscience.

  • We tend to delete non-constructive, mean comments most of the time. It depends on the comment, but if it feels like bullying then we usually delete bc we don’t support online bullying. If you want to bully you cannot use my platform that I built and maintain to do it, you’ll have to go somewhere else. But you certainly have the RIGHT to say anything you like, just not anywhere.

    We also don’t usually allow personal attacks or profanity, again it’s mainly due to the type of site we are aiming to create. I don’t really think there’s a black and white rule to this, it’s more about what you feel comfortable with as a publisher.

    I read the article Annie has linked here (thanks!) and I pretty much agree with the section on what you should delete. We delete things that just seem mean, off topic, or use profanity. We don’t usually delete something constructive or if someone is sharing a negative opinion but it’s on topic.

    -Emma

  • Thank you Jill, that truly means a lot. We really do try to get to constructive criticism as much as possible bc we DO care what readers think (like you) and we love writing ABM and want it to be the best it can be. We all can’t 100% agree how to get there, but a little constructive criticism doesn’t hurt. 🙂

    -Emma

  • D, thank you for sharing your experience from publishing books. I could not agree with you more regarding hateful reviews vs negative and what they truly reveal (which actually can have very little to do with the work in question). You rule. Thank you for reading.

    -Emma

  • Thanks so much for posting about this tough stuff. I am not ablogger, but I am an avid blog reader, and it makes me so sad that this is something that happens. I’m so glad you are willing to post about these issues and support newer bloggers!

  • I have never seen a successful person criticize those around them, the majority of highly successful people are diplomatic, professional and positive. The more people criticize you the more you should take that as a complement, they are obviously obsessed with your lives and your success. The general public do not view you as real people, you are like any celebrity, someone they use to compare their lives with. I am shocked people would criticize ABM. I would say, if you take it to heart, that would be unfortunate for the millions of people who love what you do. I would imagine that at this point you have pretty tough skin. i appreciate all of the ways that the AMB crew is creating and contributing everyday. I’d say great job on handling this, and not responding to it, that takes A LOT of strength.

  • As most of our mother’s have told us–“If you can’t say something nice…don’t say anything at all!” There’s enough negativity out there in the world that I hope as women we can just be each others best cheerleaders! Great post. Mary Wilding

  • Great post! i’ve recently been navigating around a few ‘copycats’, folks who legitimately ask me to my face “how did you do this” so they could copy what took me nearly 2 years to accomplish! omg. Anyway, if you haven’t yet, I’d love to hear you guys address what it’s like in this niche to be copied, and how you deal/nip that shit.

  • Such wise words, Emma!! Your post actually brought me to tears because it really hit a nerve. I’ve been working on starting an online business over the past 12 months or so and am still very cautious about putting too much of ‘me’ on my website because I am concerned about potential negativity I could be opening myself up to. I’ve seen several successful bloggers and online business people I admire receive really hateful comments and can only imagine how hurtful it must have been, and I don’t want to go through that. If I’m honest, I’m still recovering from a very toxic (past) work environment and the nastiness that was directed towards me there, and not sure if I’m ready to face that again. But you’re absolutely right that living a life shut away doing nothing and being nothing just to avoid haters is no way to live and means missing out on so many wonderfully positive experiences and opportunities, and it also hides the valuable contribution that each of us has to make in the world from those who might find it interesting or useful. Thank you for such a thoughtful post and for all the work that you and your team do every day to inspire us all. It is truly valued and appreciated!

  • Thanks Emma! I agree, anything that is bullying, unnecessarily mean or a bit personal doesn’t really have a place in comments sections although I must say these gossip sites are just awful – I was horrified when I heard about them. Thanks for the advice!

  • Great question, great response, great article! My blog isn’t nearly big enough or popular enough to get the negativity yet (I mostly just get comments from my mom and her friends, so I kind of feel like I’m getting that small child pat on the head 😉 ). But I do have this fear in my everyday – I don’t want to put myself out there because I’m afraid of the reception I’ll get. It’s with the things I create, the things I say, even my physical appearance.

    It’s something we have to fight though, because living in the shadows isn’t a way to live. And there’s no “next time” – you aren’t guaranteed any number of days, and there are no do-overs, so putting things off until you think you are better in any way is a waste of what little time we have.

    But I also like how you pointed out that it’s easier said than done!

    I’ve been working on this a lot (with the help of a therapist, full disclosure!) and lately I’ve been trying to keep these things in mind:
    1- People’s minds are usually not on you as much as you think they are
    2- People’s reactions usually have more to do with them and their unhappiness in life than anything you did.

    The 2nd one especially applies to the internet – those that tear down, fight, put down, and are just generally crummy online are usually doing so because of their own misfortune, discomfort, or as I believe is the case in blogging – jealousy.

    When I am confronted with hate – after the three or so days it takes me to calm down from it – I ask myself, “Gee, how horrible must their lives be to have to try and put some of that into my life?” Sometimes it helps!

    And I’m definitely going to look into this Blog Life thing so that someday I can have a hugely popular blog for people to hate on!!!!