Episode #33: Dealing With Internet Critics and Bullying

Today, we’re talking about handling and dealing with negativity on the Internet. It’s an episode we’ve been working on for a while, and feels like a scary (but important) topic to cover. We share many stories in this episode that are vulnerable and some are sad, but we hope that what you take from this episode is a sense of empowerment. We truly believe the Internet IS slowly becoming a more kind place and we want to do anything we can to further that shift. We hope you do too!

You can stream the episode here on the blog or on iTunesSpotifyGoogle PlayTuneInPocket Casts, and Stitcher. You can find the podcast posts archive here.

Show Notes: 

-We don’t have many links in this week’s show notes because a lot of this episode is personal stories, things we’ve learned and advice. We hope you enjoy it!

-Lol. We don’t even know how many years we’ve been blogging … throughout the episode we say “13 or 14.” Eh, either way, it’s a long time!

-We are trying not to curse in this episode because we’re doing a test (we had some issues with past episodes being mislabeled and with listeners being blocked from listening). Anyway, starting last week and for the next few, we are conducting a not-very-scientific experiment and not using curse words. In this episode, it’s actually kind of noticeable at certain points that we’re searching for alternative words to use—hahaha, so please enjoy that. Also, we’d love to hear whether or not you care if our episodes contain explicit language.

-I love how we always shout out Brene Brown, but also Will Smith. 😀

From the bottom of our hearts, thank you for listening. Thank you for being a part of our community. We love you!

Elsie + Emma

    • this was my reaction too! “thank god elsie is a normal person: 😀

  • I love your podcast! And I would appreciate less cussing because then I can listen to it when the kids are awake – not just naptime 🙂

  • Looking forward to listening, but wanted to say the the swearing doesn’t affect me at all. Do it or don’t do it, I’m still going to be listening! 🙂

  • No cussing. I listen to podcasts while I do
    dishes and my kids are home. As you know, everyone’s kids are home. L

  • Literally at the half way mark on episode and you girls are breaking my heart. Had to pause to jump on here. Elsie, do you think if you hadn’t been bullied you would have still gotten the surgery? My sister had similar experiences and also got the same surgery. It did make her feel a lot more confident and I hope it had the same result for you. Emma, you are sooo business savvy; I wish I could talk finances with you. You are super talented. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
    And I love the cussing! You girls are real. I prefer that.

    • Hi!
      Re the surgery- I don’t know. I feel like I will never know because that would be an alternate universe, you know? I definitely did the surgery 100% for myself, but at the same time I’ll never know if I would have been self conscious if I hadn’t been scrutinized online. Either way- I am glad I did it for me, but I hope I clearly communicated that no woman should ever be treated that way. I am hoping that in my daughter’s generation commenting about people’s bodies will be less of a thing. It’s still SO SUPER common- it’s crazy.

      • Hi Elsie – thank you so much for talking about your surgery. It’s been something I’ve wanted to do for more than a decade (I’m 28 – I grew big boobs overnight when I was 14). I also had a lot of people commenting on my appearance and making judgements about me. One of the most hurtful comments I received multiple times was that I didn’t look professional and couldn’t be taken seriously because of my large breasts. I’m committed to having the reduction because it’s the right thing for me – but I do wonder whether I’d feel the same if I hadn’t received so many comments over the years. I also worry about what I would tell my daughter if she also gets big boobs when she’s older. I don’t want her to feel like she has to change herself like I did. Very confusing issue – thank you so much for talking about it, and I would love to hear more about your experience in the future if it’s something you feel like you can talk about more. Sending lots of love xxx

  • I listen to podcasts for the people who are giving them. Personally, I’d prefer that you use whatever language you use in your normal life and I like your podcast because of feeling like the listener is actually hanging out with you guys… something cheeky everyone now and again is FUN. And whatever explicit language has been used in past episodes is SO MILD & INFREQUENT. Your podcast isn’t a children’s show so you shouldn’t be censored and shouldn’t force yourselves to conform to some impossibly high standards of someone else’s household to try and please everyone. This should really be a non-issue given our societal norms. All that said, I will listen either way. 🙂

    • Yes, this! I feel the exact same as Amber. Authentic voices always win in my book!

    • Please, keep it as close and real as it has been until now. You don’t even cuss that much! If you have to censor yourselves, even in such a tiny thing, I’m afraid it wouldn’t feel as real and perfect as it is right now.
      I love how this podcast has made me feel likeI’m hanging out with friends. Thanks for letting us know you better.

      • Thank you so much for saying that. We will no matter what, I promise. We just want to make sure no one is being “blocked” from listening. That’s all! :))

  • I appreciate that you both talk on the podcast like you talk to each other in real life. It feels much more candid. Can you still swear but maybe beep it out? Then you won’t be forced to search for other words that ruin the cadence of your conversation!

  • Hi Elsie and Emma!Please stay real and yourself!I absolutley love your podcast(and blog….reading it since 2008!!)…don’t mind the cussing(it isn’t even a lot) at all…and kids will learn it at school anyway…from other kids!haha…maybe its an european thing,but who cares if you cuss??i don’t…as long as you keep it authentic…you both are awesome and strong and a good role model no matter what…love from Austria!

  • Augh! Re the cursing we were afraid it would be a 50/50 split on people’s opinions. We’ll continue testing to see if it makes a difference in our listens or not. :)) Thank you everyone for your feedback!

  • Emma & Elsie,

    Thank you for your openness, honesty, and vulnerability. This was such a touching episode. My hope is that your courage and compassion are contagious. 💛

  • I don’t swear so I’m always happy to be able to listen/watch/read things without swearing. But it’s also not stopped me from listening. I’ve watched movies and read books with swearing, and have friends who swear around me. Also, I really enjoyed today’s podcast! Emma, I felt really sad that anyone would ever say you don’t have a career in your own right. I’ve followed you two for a little over a decade now, and I would never have imagined that you’d have something like that said to you. I think you guys are really gracious to rude people online (remembering particularly when Elsie dyed Nova’s hair. Oh. my. word. the comments had me riled!), and it’s inspired me several times to see that.

  • Emma–

    I totally empathize with you feeling insecure about being talented and creative when compared to others. I just wanted to say, I’ve followed for over ten years and I love what EVERYONE brings to the table. You and Elsie are different and I love that we get to see how different you all are in your creative expressions. I do agree with what Elsie said, we are getting to know you even better with the podcast. I’ve noticed I’m very similar to you (Emma) in terms of being introverted and private. I love the little glimpses into your world. Just wanted to give a little love.

    • this episode was heartbreaking to me especially the person who said something hateful about adoption! that’s insane! i love how real you guys are and thank you for sharing. can’t imagine what makes people want to say such hateful things online – insecurity and jealousy i guess. i don’t notice the cussing either way, so do you.

  • I listen to your podcast because I enjoy and appreciate the authenticity that the two of you convey. So although I’m not a big “cusser” myself I’d prefer that you keep it real. If that’s how you communicate then stay true to that. It’s who you are and it would seem sort of fake or contrived if you censored yourself for the sake of some who are listening. I’m a firm believer that if you’re not enjoying the podcasts you listen to then it’s simple, don’t listen. My kids are grown and out of the house but if they were young I would obviously choose my listening time accordingly or put an earbud in. Looking forward to this episode!

    • Elsie and Emma,
      This was such a tender and vulnerable podcast. I just wanted to hug both of you through the speakers. So brave to share this to help others! I’m drawn to both of you.

      Emma, I’m drawn to you because so much of what you say, I deeply connect with and I’m always laughing at your little quips. I’m also an avid reader and nailbiter!

      Elsie, I’m drawn to you because of your creativity and sense of fun! I wanted to be more like you growing up, but I also was the middle child between two dynamic siblings, so I’ve always struggled with wanting to be brighter than I am.

      You both have affirmed that being who you are is best! Love listening to “my girls” so much!!💗

  • Okay so like a total stalker I have to admit that I notice both of your hands all the time in blog photos – and I think your hands are hella cute! I totally wish my hands looked like yours!
    Thank you for sharing such a difficult and personal topic. You are making the world a better place and helping to educate us!

  • Personally I’ve got a great big ole potty mouth and I love a good swear and tbh I hadn’t really noticed you cussing anyway. Its no big deal to me either way but I tend to agree with the other commenters that podcasts are about authenticity so I think you should just speak as you normally would curses and all.

  • As an English Prof. I can relate to a lot of what you say here. I get hurtful comments pretty much every semester and some can take a long time to get over. It’s amazing how easy it is to forget about all the really positive feedback and focus on that tiny percentage of negativity.

  • Thank you guys so much for this episode! I always look forward to hearing you two talk about anything, but this came at a particularly perfect moment when I was experiencing a huge amount of social media stress over some comments that I found hurtful and triggering. I definitely snowballed, and appreciated especially you talking you about how to not keep thinking about the negative things. You guys have been bringing me so much positivity and creativity for SO long! I remember first finding you when it was more of a “fashion blog”, and I wasn’t even into fashion, I just liked you! Keep up the amazing work and inspiring positive and kind lifestyles you both lead. You are BOTH amazing, hands and all.

  • Thanks for being so open and honest. I’ve been a casual reader of the blog for a long time (maybe 7-10 years?), but I wasn’t aware of your scrapbook line or your first book. Anyways, I would love to hear about your whole journey– how things went with that scrapbook line, what lessons were learned, how that fed into your other projects, etc. etc. etc. I love the podcast.

    • Dear Emma and ELSIE, thanks for this episode, it was eye opening. It made me dad and I feel like I am very naive of what is going on in the internet, for I seldom read comments. Sorry for the hate! Dies the love and admiration you get ever evens that out?

      I remember your scrapbooking Days and loved them. (Was very inspired by you, having a similar age😉)I, too, would be very interested in the whole story (college/full-time scrapbooking/end of that era)
      And the christian background story would be very interesting as well.

      But… just as you feel comfortable.

      Sending love your way

  • Omg this episode hit SO close to home. As a woman in a male-dominated industry (web development), I got tons of hateful emails and comments back when I was doing a lot of public speaking at events and more in the limelight. It’s one of the reasons I stopped doing so and stepped back from doing events and public writing.

    • I personally love the swearing! It’s minimal if anything but it is authentic and makes the whole conversation feel much more real. And I have two young children! I think people who are bothered by it can find something else to listen to, you don’t owe it to them to speak a certain way or change your authentic conversation for their household. If they really want to listen they can find a way. I’ll listen either way! I look forward to every Monday for your podcast! 💛

  • Yeah I really don’t care on the swearing. I find it kind of funny and relatable, sometimes.

  • I appreciate less swearing cuz I often listen to podcasts with my kids around. They understand some words aren’t for them yet, but it’s still nice to not have to go into it again. 🙂

  • I have come to really love your podcast. I was introduced to through the Young House Love podcast and you are developing a relationship with your listeners that is real just like they have. But at times I have turned your podcast off bc I felt like offensive words were used when there was no purpose for them other than maybe a “shock value”. I realize I’m not part of mainstream America that finds that kind of language “real” and so appreciates the art of putting out an entertaining and informative product without resorting to language that is offensive to many. Since you asked I figured I would throw in my two-cents worth. 😊

  • Loved the vulnerability in this….I know some of these comments you’d rather have just forgotten couldn’t have been easy to share. I could relate just a tad in that I teach and am nearing time for student evals. Just like social media posts, the students feel a sense of anonymity, which seems to empower some of them to say hurtful and sometimes ridiculously personal things. Still, it’s only two or so people who have access to these comments…but it is STILL mortifying. Can’t imagine having people troll you in such a public way. And you’re right…the negative comments just weigh more in our minds and hearts for whatever reason. I’ll just never understand why people want to tear down others or what they think that accomplishes. I appreciate your work and am loving the podcast. My favorite thing in all of them is, from time to time, when Elsie says, “Oh, sister….” Hoping my girls grow up to have that same affection for each other and enjoy each other the way you two so obviously do. For every negative Nelly out there, know that for most of us, you are a bright spot in the week!

  • Since you’re asking, I would appreciate being able to count on clean language.

  • I just wanted to say that I love your podcast. Emma and Elsie, you BOTH rock so hard! Please, keep them coming with or without cussing. Also, two questions! Could you tell us more about Elsie buying presents for herself? Veeeery interested. And I would love that you talked about your blog/IG collaborators/coworkers. How did they start working for/with you? Great fan here ^_^

  • THANK YOU both for being so vulnerable and open in this episode (and really in all your episodes)! This episode was such an amazing listen. <3
    (For whatever it's worth, I don't care either way on the swearing. I vote, do whatever feels most natural to you.)

  • This is a lovely episode and should be required listening for anyone engaging with strangers on the internet! I wanted to reach through my phone and give you each a big hug. I’ve been a blog reader long enough to follow your business journey (and personal journeys) and it was heartbreaking to hear that some of your happy moments were tainted by internet meanies. Speaking about it candidly is going to help so many up-and-coming creative professionals, I am sure.
    Sorry to add to the 50/50 split, but I also curse like a sailor so I am pro-cussing 😉

    • Thank you very much for kicking out the cussing! I really appreciate it!

  • Loved this episode! ABM is my new favorite podcast, and I listen to A LOT of podcasts at the moment, lol. And I personally don’t care about cursing, but understand and would not be upset by it if y’all wanted to make episodes more kid/filter friendly.

  • Oooffff, Elsie that physically hurt to hear your story about the dress – I am really sorry that happened to you.
    Thank you both for this episode, I really admire you for putting your vulnerabilities out there, it takes real courage to do that. I hate that the internet can be so dark and a scary place for lots of women (and men too), and I’m totally with you that “take down culture” is waaaay out of hand, and kinda missing the point! But I also see people like yourselves doing your best to make it a kinder, safer environment, especially through podcasts like this, and it gives me faith that together we’ll get there. This was really well thought through and voiced.
    As you asked, the swears don’t bother me.
    All the best to both of you

  • Emma- My heart broke when hearing your story regarding being the middle child bookended by artistically talented siblings. You are not them and that is what makes you shine! You offer so much to the joint podcast for me. Stellar book recommendations, deep connection to your family and coworkers, extremely thought out contributions…you aren’t a surface person, you are much deeper! Embrace that with pride. What you contribute is the substance of the collaboration. We need more people like you in this world. Virtual hug!

  • Your podcast made me think of one of my favorite sayings—Honesty without tact is cruelty. I love the way you conveyed that you can always be kind. <3

    • Kindness matters! Less cursing is wonderful and I admire you for being willing to show respect to those who are uncomfortable with it. While it is good to be confident about who you are and we all appreciate when someone is ‘real’, it is also true that we reveal a lot about ourselves by the way we speak. And it is just a simple truth that clean language fosters respect.

  • Emma, I’m a nail biter too and never noticed your nails. I have no interest in trying to stop, especially while working from home during these crazy times. Don’t let the haters get us down! 🙂

    • Oh, and I like cursing. I don’t 100% understand why anyone cares about it at all.

  • I loved this episode. I could hear the emotion in your voices when you were telling the bullying stories, and my heart went out to you. It made me feel really good that you’ve both been able to digest these bad things in a healthy way. I worry about bullying because I have a young daughter, but stories like these make me hopeful that she’ll be able to survive anything that comes her way. You guys are the best!

  • Thank you for this truly honest and vulnerable episode guys, I appreciate it a lot 🙂
    Echoing Maria’s request, please can we hear more about Elsie buying gifts for herself?
    I am pro-swearing, I prefer things candid and definitely don’t feel you are over the top about it.

    Love from London x

  • I absolutely loved this episode. Thanks for being so vulnerable and for teaching us some of the lessons you’ve had to learn along the way. My heart is really saddened by the hurtful things that people have said to you. I appreciate how you can rise above it and create healthy boundaries between constructive criticism vs bullying.

    As for the cussing, I vote no. I love listening to your podcast but with little ones at home, I find it hard to make time to listen while they’re awake. I appreciate your willingness to hear our feedback on that too! Thanks for all the time and dedication you both put into this podcast 🙂

  • Hi,
    I really love listening to your podcast! I only allow myself to listen when I exercise, so it motivates me to get moving. Thank you!
    I was wondering, though, if you might consider not using the word “grandma” as an adjective to refer to old fashioned, outdated decor or style? I’m lucky enough to be a grandma (although technically I’m called Mimi), and I work really hard to keep our home and my wardrobe updated, modern and fresh. 🙂 Not all of us grandmas are the same, after all, haha.
    Thanks for a great podcast!
    (The swearing doesn’t bother me at all. I teach high school. Trust me, I’ve heard so much worse.)

  • I have to say, as most people already lamented, this episode broke my heart. 🙁
    Geez people can be so hateful, but you seem to have learned how to take it in stride and that’s amazing.
    I love all your episodes, this is one of the only podcasts that I get super excited to listen to. When I was driving to and from work, before COVID, I would always get excited for my drive home on Mondays because I would listen to your new episode!
    Now I use the episodes to motivate me to clean. Whatever works right?! 😉
    Keep up the good work ladies! Keep inspiring us!

  • Well, I just loved this podcast. Thank you. I think you are both geniuses in the way that you comprehend the world, express yourselves and impart your learned wisdom. I often recommend your podcast or insta stories to my daughter, my niece and my young friends. I love the way that you speak to us and to each other. You should be very proud of yourselves. I am.

  • Great episode, y’all. 😊
    Ps. Don’t stop cursing. I am 100% pro swearing.

  • This was a lovely podcast, I’m sure you didn’t talk about the ones that hurt you most. But who’d want to relive the worst part of your life. Do you want my two cents worth, I don’t mind swearing. I think you just go for it, should you drop the F bomb one day!

  • I loved this episode and cannot imagine how these events felt in real life. You two are both so brave and I can identify with pieces of both your stories. You two both play such different roles in your business and if everyone doesn’t realize those and appreciate the differences then you should know that I for sure do! You are both beautiful in your physical appearance and I am so sorry that people would make comments that make you doubt that. It has happened in real life to most of us and it is a shame how much each of us let that into our lives and carry that as our own truth.

    Emma-short nails are just fine…easier to clean up after a big project/messy recipe. And if they are bitten or clipped is your business. Many of us struggle with our nails and it is probably such a low priority on our lists that people should keep our nails off their lists too!

    Elsie-keep these lessons in mind as you raise your beautiful girls. They have all the role models, but these hard comments will eventually seep into their hearts and you are their best line of defence.

  • Loved your openness on episode #33.
    And I also love to buy my own gifts!! I haven’t know of anyone that did that as well! Yay!

  • This has been my favorite episode. Thanks for getting vulnerable with us on a really important topic. I don’t know if I could handle all that 😬 You are both awesome and it’s really nice to get to know your unique personalities more through the podcast. ❤️

  • One of the best, most vulnerable episodes yet. thank you for sharing. also agree that the explicit rating is fine 🙂

  • Thank you for this episode, talking about these things must be so hard, so thank you for being so brave! Elsie, my heart just broke for you describing your story about the dress and the mean comments. Why do some people think that is ok? I think most of us have insecurities about our breasts (whether we think they are too small, too big, changed after a baby etc) (or other parts of our bodies), I know I do. It is so horrible to have these kind of mean comments said in such a public forum. Please know that you both are beautiful inside and out in my eyes. Emma, I have struggled with biting my nails by whole life and go back and forth with it as you do. I honestly never noticed your nails in any of the photos and never thought they looked bad. Anyway, just wanted you to know I relate to the nail biting and how hard a habit is to break. Much love to you both and I love your podcast.

  • Thank you so much for letting us listen to this conversation! I just had something very disheartening in my inbox at work on Friday, and on Monday I’ll have to deal with it one way or another. Somehow listening to you talking about how to deal with negative comments gave me some courage for this particular situation. Thank you again!

  • This episode was one of my favorites. I know it takes a lot to be vulnerable and share the stories and Insecurities y’all felt/feel and I applaud you both for still sharing!!!
    Emma I can really relate to a lot of what you shared! While I’m not a middle child (only kid here) I am a 9 and in my current work situation can feel very similar! I work with my mother in law and sister in law who are artists, bakers, and just amazing with big ideas and a lot of times I feel like I don’t stack up. My job is a lot of behind the scenes- photos, social media, financials, etc so sometimes I feel like my work and me get overlooked.
    However, I love what you add to a beautiful mess!! I feel like you and Elsie make a perfect pair!! Both of you keep being yourself (cursing or no cursing) and keep rocking!❤️

  • Oh Elsie, I met you during the days that scrapbooking put you on the map. I cherish our time working together as you became such a role model for me. And here I am years later running my own company and listening to you doing your thing very successfully as well! I’m so sorry for the way the industry treated you; I didn’t know it was so horrible for you at the time, but I thank you so much for sharing it. I’m so proud of your success and the diversity of success that you have accomplished. Love you lady! Keep doing your thing!

  • Thank you so much for this episode, it was so raw and truthful. I haven’t commented before but just wanted to say how you are both such amazing role models (I’m just a bit younger than you both and live in England).. I’m a lawyer by day but have always wanted to spend more time being creative – you are both so inspiring having created such a cool creative business. One thing I wanted to ask is how you feel perfectionism and wanting to achieve helps/doesn’t help in your business?

    Btw, Emma I’m a nail biter too and know exactly what you mean about the engagement! My mum hinted the day before that maybe I should paint my nails as we were going out for dinner and I thought she was being so annoying haha and obviously the next day when he proposed I was so happy I had, even though they were so short and I did a pretty crap job 😂 I really have ups and downs though just like you – esp during anxious periods!

    Thanks again and love your podcast 🙂

  • Long time blog reader over the years. I prefer no cursing – I just started listening to the podcasts. It makes it easier to keep the environment friendly for little ears as well as older ones. (I may just be old-fashioned.)

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