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 iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, TuneIn, Pocket Casts, and Stitcher. You can find the podcast posts archive here.
-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
Miss an episode? Get caught up!
- Episode #32: (MINI) All Things Faux Plants
- Episode #31: Outdoor Spaces
- Episode #30: (MINI) Our Bucket Lists
Episode 33 Transcript
Elsie: You’re listening to the A Beautiful Mess podcast. Today, we’re talking about how we survive internet critics and bullying as two women who have made a living as public figures on the internet now for more than a decade. We’ve experienced the full spectrum of respectful critiques, mean spirited bullying and everything in between. It’s not a fun subject, but it’s an important one. So today we’re going to dive in. I guess.
Emma: Yeah, I guess so. We’ve been talking about this episode for a while, but we keep putting it off because we’re like…
Emma: I don’t want to talk about it.
Elsie: Yeah, it’s a it’s very nerve wracking. There is a huge difference between constructive criticism and bullying, and we are not using those terms interchangeably ever. There’s absolutely a way to disagree with someone, even publicly, that is still respectful and kind. We would never label a critical comment as bullying just because it hurts our feelings. Maybe actually we would have when we very, very first started blogging. But we’ve learned.
Emma: Yes. Probably from a critique. (laughs)
Elsie: How many years has it been, 13 or 14? Yeah.
Elsie: So learning it to fully, publicly apologize quickly for something that you’ve done wrong is one of the best things we ever learned from blogging. It’s super easy to be defensive, but that’s not what this episode is about. So we’re just going to kind of separate those two things right now. Constructive critique is good. We’ll go more into that later in the episode. Bullying is really bad and we’ll talk about that a bunch, too. So, OK, should we start out by reading the quote that Zoe posted on Instagram?
Elsie: OK. I thought this quote was so good, I immediately screenshot it and saved it for just such an occasion. (laugh) OK. So the quote says, just a reminder, there’s not two of you: internet you and real you. There’s just one real you. Which means if you’re not kind on the Internet, you’re not kind…Mmmmm awkward silence!
Emma: I was just letting it sink in for everyone. Yeah. No, I love the I think too. Like, I don’t know. Sometimes I feel like people do that in other settings too, like, oh I’m a nice person when I’m at church, but when I’m at another place I’m not as n—, you know what I mean. Like there are just so many times people want to be like I can be however I want except for when I’m really trying. And it’s like, no, you gotta really try all the time. In real life, in every setting, on the Internet, when you’re at work, when you’re a wife, when you’re a mom…all of the time, you’ve got to lead with kindness, love and empathy, you know.
Emma: And it’s exhausting. And we get it. But, you know, it’s still a part of the human experience that we feel is valuable. Yeah. And I’m sure you do, too.
Elsie: And I totally know that it is a thing that people have fake, you know, accounts or accounts where they’re sort of themself or they’re sort of not or accounts where they’re protecting their identity, blah, blah, blah. But the point of what we’re saying is you have to still being nice or, you know, the real you is being, you know a… I don’t know what the word is we’re allowed to say now. Not, hmmm.
Emma: Wait were you gonna say B-I-T-C-H?
Elsie: No, I was gonna say A-S-S-H-O-L-E.
Emma: We’re trying to cuss less, guys. We’ve gotten some notes from. I don’t know, iTunes. I guess.
Elsie: We’re having a clean episode right now. Okay.
Emma: We’re trying. Okay. It’s rough. As you know, we curse like sailors as my grandma would say, but we’re trying. OK.
Elsie: OK, so let’s move forward. So if you’re going to be online, I have three things. This is just going to happen. And it might, you know, if you’re a public figure, like we are a blogger, whatever, you’re trying to create a career online. But also if you’re just a regular person sharing regular things, this will probably also happen to you. So, OK. You’re going to be misread. This one is frustrating. It happens all the time. I personally never see it coming after 13 or 14 years, whatever it is of blogging, I still get super misread on things where I’m trying to say one thing and it comes out as a completely different thing, or people read it that way and perceive it that way. Sometimes more than one person, sometimes lots of people. It’s so frustrating, but it happens and it’s something to accept. The next one is you’re going to make mistakes. So like I said a minute ago, learning to publicly apologize fully and quickly is one of the best things we learned from blogging. I actually feel like I’ve become a much better, more mature apologizer.
Emma: Yeah. I also think the flip side of that is allowing people the ability to apologize and to grow and change.
Elsie: Right, right.
Emma: I do feel like, sometimes people just don’t let…you know kind of what it’s like, the whole what do people call it, call-out culture or whatever.
Emma: Sometimes people do not let others make mistakes. They’re like, if you’re somehow in the public eye, however much it is, for us it’s pretty small, But still, you’re not allowed to make a mistake. And if you do, that mistake is gonna be with you for the rest of your life, no matter if you say sorry or if you’re like, wow, I was wrong. And I’ve learned and I’m changing. No one, like, lets you do that. And that’s that’s pretty frustrating. So I think that’s a thing for everyone to kind of let each other do is like when someone apologizes, let their words mean something.
Elsie: I completely agree with that. Yeah, everyone makes mistakes. Everyone in the public eye, you know, still makes mistakes but pays for them in a different way. So I think that yeah, really hearing someone’s apology is a great thing to practice as well. And then the other one is at some point, you are probably going to be accused of something that isn’t true or someone will say a fact about you. That’s just not true. And they’ll say it as if it is true and people will believe them or you’ll be shamed for something that is maybe true, maybe not true. But it’s just mean. And those are some of the lowest points I can remember in my career are from things like that. And it just really sucks. But it is going to happen. It’s important to separate all these things, being misread, making big mistakes, sometimes huge ones, and then, you know, people just saying mean awful things about you. Separate these all in a different categories, treat them differently. This is an important part of being, I guess, being online. So in this next part, we’re going to talk about some stories of how rude comments affected our lives. And they are…they’re honestly like pretty vulnerable and hard to tell. Do you wanna go first or do you want me to go first?
Emma: I can go first.
Emma: Ok. So I have to like, I guess, they’re stories, but they’re also kind of like recurring themes. Like these are the two pieces of mean bullying things, I don’t know that people say to me or have over the years that have really kind of hurt a lot. All right. So the first one is essentially I’ve gotten lots of comments over the years that I’m just riding on the coattails of my sister, Elsie. And that’s the only reason I have any success or anything. That’s why I have a career, is because my sister Elsie is very talented and very famous and very cool. And I just, you know, right on her coattails. And for the record, I do think my sister Elsie is very talented and very cool. Also, I have lots of talents and, you know, I have built things, too. And sometimes it’s not always as visible as my sister. And so it does feel frustrating to me. And I think the reason why whenever I see a comment about this type of thing, it really does get to me is partly because as a child. So I’m a middle child, Elsie my older sister and I have a younger brother, Doren. And if you don’t know, obviously Elsie super talented. You guys can see her work on A Beautiful Mess. My brother Doren is also super talented. He started as a graphic designer. He does animation now and they’re — growing up with two really talented siblings who could, like, draw and do cool things, and like, I don’t know. They’re just very artistic and very talented. I always felt kind of just like the least talented sibling.
Elsie: (gasps) Emma! Oh no.
Emma: And yeah. And so it’s really frustrating to go like kind of like have to learn, you know, that that’s like this childhood thing. And that was the thing that I put on myself. And I need to grow out of that so that I can become my own person.
Emma: And then kind of do that and then have the world tell it to me again. It’s like kind of just like another like, oh, you’re opening up my childhood wound here, guys. This is really…
Elsie: Yeah I think a lot of the times the worst mean comments, the ones that hurt the worst are the ones where you somehow feel like it’s a little bit true. But just for the record, it’s not true at all. I wouldn’t even have a career if I wasn’t partners with Emma. And she’s so talented and so brilliant. I think that a lot of people have really gotten to know you more through the podcast as well.
Emma: Yeah, and I. I think you would have a career without me.
Elsie: No, it would. It wouldn’t be anything.
Emma: But what point is more just like, I do think sometimes my…the things I’m good at in our business are not as visible. And I do get to write for the blog and there are a number of things I do that people see. But there’s a whole part of my job that no one ever sees and no one ever will, maybe if you work for us, maybe if you’re on our team then you know a little bit more. But really, like most of the time, people won’t know. And that’s fine. I actually prefer that. I like doing those things. I’m proud of what I have done with my life. But it’s frustrating to kind of have people dismiss you and kind of belittle your accomplishments. That’s a painful thing. And since the thing that I kind of told myself as a kid, it’s like extra painful for me. So anyway, so that was my first one and I said I had two. So let’s do another painful thing. Okay. (laughs) So I have always struggled with biting my nails. And I could probably, and this is not a big deal. Like, I’m not going to try to you know, this is just my own life, my own story. And I recognize that it’s not a big thing, but it is for me. So, and unfortunately, you’re listening my podcast right now, so I’m going to tell you about it. So ever since I was a kid, I have been a nail biter and I could probably do a whole podcast on why and how I oscillate between “I should be able to do that if I feel like it. But also, I don’t love how it looks. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.” Like, there’s kind of a lot there to unpack. But let’s just suffice it to say, I bite my nails. I wish that I didn’t. I sometimes go through long phases where I don’t and then usually something that cause a lot of anxiety in my life. I fall back into that bad habit, which is my own problem. I’m not blaming, you know, whatever anxious thing got me there. So unfortunately for me, I have my hands in photos a lot for our work. I do a lot of recipe development. I show crafts on the Internet. That’s part of my job. So I end up showing my hands a lot in photos, even though I don’t really love them, even when I do have have longer nails. I still don’t really love my fingers, but it’s frustrating because…
Elsie: I don’t think anyone likes their fingers. Now that you mention it.
Emma: I bet you Laura does. She’s like a hand model. She has the most beautiful hands and beautiful nails.
Elsie: Just Laura, though, not the rest of us.
Emma: But, you know, one thing I’ve learned is don’t compare yourself to Laura because she — that’s a high standard. Too talented, too beautiful. OK. Anyway, back to me. (laughs). So, I over the years, like, not always, but a lot of the times that I show any kind of work, any kind of recipe that I’ve worked on maybe for like a month or more and I’m really proud of it or some project I’ve created. And I’m really happy with how it turned out. That’s why I’m putting it on the blog. If it wasn’t done yet, I wouldn’t. And some of the comments I get, instead of seeing the work that I’ve done and the effort I put into it, I just get “wow your nails look terrible. Oh, you if you didn’t bite your nails, they’d look so much better,” you know, just things that I’m like, I have heard this since I was 12 years old. I really don’t like, I really don’t need strangers commenting on my body. Thank you. And I remember back when I got engaged, I didn’t even want to announce it because I knew I would have to show my ring and my ring is on my finger and my finger and I didn’t know I was going to get engaged. You know, my husband surprised me, like a lot of engagements. And it was a wonderful surprise, obviously, but I didn’t, like, have months to prepare, not biting my nails like I did for my wedding day because I was like, I’m going to have nails in these photos because I don’t want to hear about this the rest of my life. So I had these very bitten nails and I was engaged and I just didn’t really want to share about it on the Internet because I just didn’t want all the comments about how ugly my fingers looked. It was just a very, like, self-conscious thing. So that’s the other one that I just, like, get kind of sick of people commenting on my body in that way. It’s like I know I bite my nails. That’s my problem. I really don’t need to hear about it. I’m aware of it. I see my hands every single day. You don’t have to tell me how ugly you think it looks.
Emma: Yeah. That got dark. Okay.
Elsie: Well, no, but that’s that’s the part of the podcast we’re in because I’m about to take an even darker. These are. These are embarrassing. Not embarrassing. But I don’t know, it just feels bad to talk about this stuff. But I think it’s real stuff that everyone’s going to have to deal with this in some way, you know, in your own way. Different, but same. Ok. So I have two examples as well. Things that have just like hurt hurt hurt. So the first one is earlier in my career. This doesn’t happen much anymore. I’m 37 now, am I 37 or 38? I think I’m thirty seven.
Emma: Uh oh, you’re at that age where you don’t even know anymore.
Elsie: And it doesn’t matter. (laughs) Ok, but this is when I was like 21 and so. I went from quitting college. I have a long story that isn’t for today. I got married super young. I quit college. I was kind of trying to start a business. I was working at Hobby Lobby and I decided that I wanted to have a career in scrapbooking, which is so random now that I look back. But I remember sitting in the parking lot of a Blockbuster video (laughs) this is how long ago it was, and telling my friend that I was going to make this career because I could see that other people were doing it. And I didn’t see any reason why I couldn’t do it, too. And I could tell she thought that it was kind of a bad idea. But, you know, I spent a lot of time making scrapbook pages, posting them. And this certain message board online that’s not there anymore. And all of a sudden, I got a lot of success for that age. I got a book deal, a product line. And at that time, I had just started my blog and I went from working at Hobby Lobby to having products that were sold in Hobby Lobby within like a year or two. So it was a crazy life change, like a very Cinderella story .
Emma: It’s the American Dream. Scrapbook American Dream.
Elsie: It really, really was. So during that time in my life, I was I was not very mature and I was just learning to be online at all. So I would take every mean comment I got, which was a lot, to heart. And a lot of the comments I got early in those days were shaming my intelligence and lack of education, which are two things that I used to feel very insecure about. You know, in the early days of blogging, I didn’t even, I mean, I didn’t even proofread my own posts, much less have, you know, have a proofreader to help us with our blog. So I was just, you know, spelling words wrong. Just, you know, writing like you would write a quick text to a friend. That was what my blog was in those days. And so people called me stupid a lot. I don’t even like to use the word stupid. I consider it a bad word. And we don’t use it in our home because of our children. But people said that a lot. People said, you know, that my career would be ending quickly. And I was constantly called out and bullied for not graduating college. And now that I look back on that, I just think no one. Like what? What a horrible way to treat a young girl who’s just had her first, you know, first experience with success. You know, like what an unsupportive, horrible way to act. And now I can see, you know, now that I’m much older and I still didn’t graduate college and we have had a lot more success, diverse success, different, you know, types of businesses and apps and all that. I can see now that it’s — I had nothing to be ashamed of. You know, maybe I have average intelligence and I’m not a genius, but it worked for me. And, you know, our career turned into something really beautiful over time. So I don’t know, I guess that I just look back and I feel really sad that that even happened. And also, I just know that it’s going to happen to anyone who has like a quick run at success, kind of unexpectedly. And the first, like, round of mean comments when you first experience success is so much worse than anything you’ll ever go through after that, because it’s so shocking. You know, you’re used to just talking to your friends and your family members and, you know, like no one talks to you that way in real life. So the first one’s always hurt the worst. I’m proud that in hindsight, I can see that those things weren’t true. But I also feel very defensive when I see basically any woman being put down for her achievements or her intelligence or her success or anyone, you know, calling someone undeserving. I don’t care who it is. That’s just not a way to act. Okay. And my second one..ahh this one’s even worse!
Emma: I know. I was like oh, maybe she’s not telling this one.
Elsie: Oh, God.
Emma: But I guess you are.
Elsie: Well I feel like I want to tell it because I want people to know how dark that it can be, but also that it’s OK, you know, because, like, I love my job, I have a great career. And I mean, we’re even further putting ourselves out there with this podcast now, like, it’s obviously worth it to put yourselves out there. So anyway. OK. Second story. So this one happened. Somewhat in the early days of our blogging, I think I was still in my 20s, but we had been blogging for a while and were kind of in the part of our career now where it was official, like we’re bloggers, this is our job. This is what we do. And we had done this little sort of dress contest where, so in the early days of our blog, we did a little bit of fashion blogging, which is really funny to say now, because we still love fashion. But I would never, ever call my blog a fashion blog. Anyway. So we were participating in this contest with one of the brands we worked with where they would send you a dress and they sent it to several different bloggers. And then we took pictures in the dress and then they posted the pictures on their website. And then people would vote for which dress they wanted to produce as a real dress. So the ones we had received were like prototypes and people were picking which one would be the real one. And it was one of the coolest brands at the time called Dear Creatures. It’s…rest in peace, not a brand anymore. And yeah, it was very special because it was it was one of my favorite brands.
Emma: I remember you had a lot of pieces from them. You loved that brand.
Elsie: Yes. Yes, a lot. It was so special. So anyway, did our pictures, sent them in, and then we were, you know, like “Vote for my dress!” You know, before going on the website voting. And there was for some reason, open comments on each of them. And so I was just reading the comments I remember sitting in the Starbucks parking lot and it was like a lot of comments and almost every single one, maybe in my memory, I’m overblowing it, but how I remember it is, almost every single comment was talking about how bad the dress looked with my breasts. And it was just like over and over and over, are her breasts really that big? Maybe the dress just isn’t flattering on her, you know, just. And then, you know, people calling me fat and just lots and lots and lots of comments that were really, really hurtful about my breasts. And it was something that I maybe felt a little I mean, I think everyone feels a little bit insecure about their body, like in life. You know, here and there, like we’re affected by that. But this one is crazy because I will never know how I would have felt about myself if I hadn’t been through — this was not an isolated incident — this was kind of the worst time. I was sitting in my car bawling when Jeremy got back to the car with our Starbucks drinks, I guess (laughs) just really in, you know, a sad place. Anyway, I ended up getting a breast reduction surgery a few years later. Once we decided to adopt, you know, my friends were like, wait till you’re done having kids, you know, all that stuff. And I ended up doing the surgery and it was something that I was glad I did. And it’s a separate topic, but I still kind of look back on it and wonder, like, how would I have felt about my body if I had never, you know, been like critiqued on that level, like semi, I guess, publicly on the Internet, because it’s just not a normal way. It’s not a normal thing to have to read all of that about yourself. So anyway, you know, it really affected me and it kind of hurts.
Emma: Yeah, it’s just yeah. I don’t know why people feel the need to comment so much on other people’s bodies. And if they think they’re the right size or the wrong size or you know.
Elsie: You know what’s sad is that my dress ended up winning the contest and I like, never wore it again.
Emma: Yeah. No I like, yeah, I couldn’t wear it again either. I get it. That makes sense.
Elsie: Anyway, so yeah. That I would call, that wasn’t, I wouldn’t even call that bullying. It was because the people weren’t writing it for me to see it. They were really just talking about me in an unfiltered way. And then I, you know, obviously saw it. So yeah, there’s so many gray areas, I think that trying to define what is bullying and what isn’t is very tricky. And sometimes it’s not even worth it because does it even matter like in that case?
Emma: Mm hmm.
Elsie: It is what it is. OK. So, oh, our next section is examples of critique versus bullying. So we’ll give you some examples. OK. So critique, respectfully worded. Maybe it’s harsh, but it’s still helpful and it still leaves you thinking. Bullying is name calling, hurtful comments about your appearance, intelligence, mental health, diminishing accomplishments, presenting assumptions as lies or facts. Especially if it’s happening in a pattern.
Emma: Yep! Pretty much. I feel like. Oh, so you had written down on the critique part. If you guys don’t follow, Will Smith on Instagram, you should.
Elsie: He’s so wonderful.
Emma: Also he has all these. Yeah. He has all these story highlights that are kind of like life lessons that he’s just, I don’t know, sharing randomly. And one of them was kind of about critiques and self critiques, too. And he had this thing where he was just saying, like, you really have to think through. Is it right? Is it true? And, you know, it’s not just is it true. It’s also like, is this right? Is this useful? Is this something I should take in so that I can become better, you know? Because that’s like the heart of a critique. Is it something that could help you improve? So telling someone their body is ugly is not in any way going to help them improve. Telling someone they’re stupid is not going to help them improve. Right? But if someone is incorrect about something or someone gets something wrong or maybe they’re thinking about it in the wrong way, there may be an opportunity for them to improve. And so offering up some respectful and empathetic critique could be useful. Yes, I totally agree. But also, I just want to mention Will Smith, because he’s awesome.
Elsie: We love Will Smith. Yeah.
Emma: What was the next part I wanted to talk about?
Elsie: So we wanted to talk about leaving critical comments that are still helpful and respectful. So on our blog, A Beautiful Mess, we have gotten thousands of comments that were critical, but also helpful and respectful. And there are so many, I mean, I promise you, anyone who’s been blogging for a long time will confirm this. You learn so much from blogging. And you’re not right about everything. It’s not even just that you’re not right. Like, sometimes there’s things that we say that we just shouldn’t have said. We didn’t know. We learned something new that we needed to learn. But there’s other times when we just lack perspective and having readers all around the world is something that’s really helped us gain perspective. So, yeah, it’s something that I love and is very helpful. And I — we truly, truly do welcome critical feedback. But, you know, it has to not cross a line of name calling and mean stuff for then it you know, then you got to get blocked, you know. So I was gonna give an example of like a feedback interaction that I had a little while ago with a shop that I shopped from. Do you think that’s a good example?
Emma: Yeah. I mean, are you going to say the shop’s name?
Elsie: Oh, no, no.
Emma: OK. Yeah, go for it.
Elsie: All right. So this was a little bit before we moved and I. OK. So I will just out myself on this. I buy my own presents for Christmas, Valentines Day, etc. If you want to hear more about that in a future episode, it’s a subject I’m pretty passionate about and I love that I buy my own presents and my husband loves it too. We both love it, anyway. It’s all good. So I was shopping for my self for Valentine’s Day. That’s how the story begins. And I ordered these beautiful ceramics from this small independent shop. And a couple weeks later, it was Valentine’s Day and they hadn’t arrived. So I was checking on their Web site. And kind of just trying to check in and see like, was it supposed to or was it not? Oh well, if not, you know, I don’t always read all the fine print and I read on their Web site, their sort of like Q&A page or FAQ page was…it was kind of rude, like it kind of stopped me in my tracks and it said, like, please, please, please don’t email us two days after you make an order and ask us when we’re shipping it. You know, it takes this much time, blah, blah, blah, you know, and they clearly had had a lot of people frustrated with the time lines and their pages sounded super defensive. So I thought about it for a little bit. And I was like, I think I should send them an email and just nicely explain to them how it made me feel, because I think this could help them. And I would want someone to tell me and trust me, through the years people have told us things like that we were doing wrong. And it did help us. So I thought about it. I actually felt sick to my stomach before I sent the email, which I think is really good. I think you should never lose your sense of…like you should never think that conflict is fun. Like Internet conflict shouldn’t be something that brings you joy. It should make you a little bit sick. Right. So I sent an email to the shop and said, you know, I thought your page was a little bit rude. It made me feel like this. I think maybe you should do a little bit of rephrasing. And they wrote me right back right away and said, well, what sentences did you think were rude? And so I sort of copied and pasted the sentences, sent them over. And I was like, oh, my gosh, are we going to have like an Internet fight? Because I’m not I’m never in the mood for one of those. The back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. Never in the mood. I dread it. It’s something I try to avoid. And later on the day she wrote back and said we changed it. We’re so sorry. Thank you for telling us. We wrote that during our really busy holiday season. And now I can see that it wasn’t the best way to know, talk to people. And I felt so happy about it. And then this morning, the same shop sent me a D.M., just a nice D.M. on Instagram. And I was like, wow, I think we’re friends now. So anyway, I feel like that’s a good example of like a time when I wanted to say something critical, but I still was able to do it in a respectful, helpful way. And it didn’t you know, there was no hard feelings. You know, turned out great.
Emma: Yeah. I think your story is like. Like that’s the only thing I wrote down that, like I wanted to say in the section was just like I think honesty can exist alongside kindness and empathy. I think so often people think those some of those have to be like a little bit. Well, I’m either going to tell it like it is and I’m going to kind of be a jerk about it.
Elsie: Like you have to be angry to write…
Emma: I have to be. I have to mic drop the situation or I could be kind and just be nice. And, you know, it’s like, no, no, no, no, no. Honesty can 100 percent exist alongside kindness and empathy, you know. But it just it sometimes does take that thoughtful moment where you take a second to be like, hey, is this actually helpful? OK. It is. All right. What’s the kinda way I could word this? OK, I think this is pretty good. And then you see where it goes because they may misread it. They may misunderstand you. Communication is hard. But, you know, I think that’s all it is, is it’s just taking that extra second to, like, not be guided by only your emotions or only one part of your brain. Use your whole brain. Is this useful? Is this kind? If the answer’s yes. I’m still gonna offer up this honest critique of what’s going on, you know?
Elsie: Yeah, I think so, yeah.
Emma: And I oh. I also want to say, I feel like we’ve covered this a tiny bit, but I just wanted to be super, super clear on it. I think there is a huge difference between telling someone they’re incorrect and telling someone they’re stupid. And I think that’s important for both parties to understand. If you’re the one giving their critique, sorry. Every time I say critique I trip on it, what is that? Good Lord! Anyway, if you’re the person giving the critique, then no, you don’t need to call someone stupid just because they were incorrect, just because maybe they misspelled word or they said something that was just clearly wrong and they could have easily researched. You don’t need to call them stupid. What you need to say is they made a mistake. And in the same way, if you’re the person who has made a mistake and someone tells you, hey, just so you know, you made a mistake here. If you hear in your head, I am stupid. That’s a little bit on you. And that means you have some work to do inside of your head and inside of your heart to be able to take criticism in your life and grow from it instead of believing. Oh, no, I am stupid or oh, no, I’m not worthy of love because I made a mistake. That might be something that is deep rooted inside of you because of past experience. And you’re gonna need to work through that. But it doesn’t have anything to do with the person offering the critique.
Elsie: Well said.
Emma: Thanks. That was my trying to be a Brene Brown segment.
Elsie: Really good!
Emma: But I’ll never make it, but I can aspire.
Elsie: I think Brene would be very proud of you right now.
Emma: Dare to dream.
Elsie: Ok, so we are going to end this episode by doing a flash Q&A where we’re going to answer all of the most common questions about bullying slash critiques.
Emma: Which are not the same thing, as we’ve mentioned, that everything in this general category of negativity.
Elsie: Yeah, that’s where taking about okay. Do you agree that negativity is just a normal part of your job?
Emma: Yes, but I don’t think it should be.
Elsie: Aww. That’s your whole answer? That’s so sweet.
Emma: Yeah, that was a flash, right?
Elsie: Yeah. Well, that was a very, very quick. OK. So I agree that it is a normal part of our job. I wish that it wasn’t. I accept it for what it is. And I hope that in doing this episode and honestly, like, we kind of repeat this stuff a lot through the years, that will try to be a good influence to make the Internet a kinder place.
Elsie: Hold out hope, right?
Emma: Oh, yeah.
Elsie: I do think that it’s kinder than it was when I first started blogging and that people are a little bit more self-aware, that you can’t just be a troll and still, you know, be a good person. Do you delete negative comments? Do you block people or should I ignore them?
Emma: I think if it’s bordering into more of a harassment area, then I would potentially delete it or block them, but if it’s just pretty mild or it’s a critique and maybe you need to do some of your own self work, then no, I think it’s good to allow some discussion. I think disagreement is very uncomfortable for me, but I recognize it’s not always uncomfortable for everyone else. And it could be healthy. So, yeah, but if someone’s harassing your you block them.
Elsie: Ok. I agree with that. I think that some controversial back and forth is honestly really good. It’s fun to read. It’s engaging. It’s interesting. And then it crosses the line. And when someone crosses the line, like yesterday, I had someone going a little crazy on my Instagram and it started with saying that they didn’t like the baby name I chose. And it ended with them claiming that they were having an affair with my husband and calling another person on the Instagram comments fat. So they had to be blocked. Goodbye forever.
Emma: Wow, that took a turn.
Elsie: It took a dark turn really fast and it was honestly really strange. So I felt like at first I was like, this is kind of funny. Which I think a lot of times it is. And then it’s like clearly not funny anymore at a certain point and it just gets super…So yeah, I only block people when they say something crazy like that. You know, I like ignoring. I love just ignoring them, especially if it’s a D.M. a D.M. I’ll just never write back. Just delete that stuff and move on. Alright. If you receive a hurtful comment, do you talk about it with someone? And if so, who?
Emma: Maybe…if I feel like I need to like I feel like I’m blocked because I’m like getting stuck in my head on it, then, yeah, I might talk to you or my husband Trey about it, but most the time I don’t believe it’s worth my energy. I really try to be very intentional about where I put my energy and my effort. I’m very intentional about the friends I let into my life and the work that I do. So why not be intentional about what, you know, you let into your brain as far as like what people say and if they can have power. So sometimes you can’t help it. I get it. But I think you can also kind of like as you practice this, you get better at it. Where you’re like, oh, that was mean. Do I agree with it? No. Do I want this to have power in my life today? No. And then you can kind of shut it down. But yeah, it takes a while. So that’s that’s a real Xman power that you can develop.
Elsie: I couldn’t have said it better myself. I completely agree that over time you kind of learn that the more you talk about it and think about it and bring it up again, the more power it has. Sometimes just deleting it, even a really bad one. Sometimes if you just delete it and move on, you won’t even ever think of it again. So…
Emma: Yeah, sometimes you can, like, let yourself get a tiny bit addicted to it in a way, kind of like gossip. You can get a little bit addicted, you know, and that’s OK. Like I’ve been there. We’ve all been there. But is that really how you want to spend these precious times that you have on this earth? Not me. So.
Elsie: It can waste a lot of time. That’s true. How do you phrase a sincere suggestion that isn’t meant solely to criticize?
Emma: I mean, I don’t know. I find this hard to do without. I think really you just use kindness and empathy. And if you’re really, really unsure, like if you’re like, I don’t do this often and I’m just, you know, maybe read it to a friend who it’s not intended for or a husband or whatever, whoever is around anyone and just see if they but how they think it comes off.
Elsie: Yeah. OK, I have some serious thoughts about this one. Okay so…
Emma: Okay good because my answer was lame. Thank God.
Elsie: I think a lot of…No, no. I think a lot of people feel like they have to do the Oreo cookie where it’s like a nice sentence or two. And then the thing that they really came here to say, and then a couple more nice sentences so that you know, that they’re not a jerk. And then you put all together. The thing that I’ve learned through the years about, you know, serving up something critical, whether it is to someone online, you know, a blogger I love who one day does one thing that really offends me or, you know, one of my employees, like a lot of times, you know, you have to talk about things that are awkward. Right? I think the best thing is to just say it as simply as you can and just just put it out there and you don’t have to apologize for it. And you don’t have to, like, put a lot of flowers around it. Just let it be what it is.
Emma: Yes, I agree.
Elsie: What is the worst thing that someone has ever said online to you?
Emma: I mean, I feel like we kind of covered mine is to review. I am worthless and Elsie is the only reason I am successful and my hands look terrible and I should be ashamed.
Elsie: That’s funny because the same person would probably say I was worthless in a different conversation. Ok. So the worst thing that someone is said online. To me, OK. So there’s been like I had like a string of, like stalker experiences when I was younger that were super weird. They were dumb. Now that I look back at the time, it really freaked me out. And it turned out to be like some local hipster boy who wasn’t, you know, he’s not a big deal. It’s just stupid, immature. But yeah, recently when we were on our adoption trip, someone said something really, really bad. That’s…what did they say? They basically said we were stealing another kid and it, like, burned my eyes out when I read it. I just couldn’t believe what I was reading. It’s just so. So. And that’s what I was talking about earlier. Like, when people say something as a fact, when it’s just not a fact at all and it’s super, super crazy. But, you know, people can say whatever they want. Yeah. And that was the second to last time I blocked someone. The stealing the kid and the having an affair with my husband. So, yeah, I feel like I don’t want this. I’m worried now that I’ve said those that people will make it some kind of, like, stupid contest, though, to try to get blocked. And I don’t want that. Please don’t do that to me. I don’t need that.
Emma: No, I think I’d like to I like to think that our podcast listeners, like sincerely, based on the feedback we get for the most part, seem to be really nice.
Elsie: Yeah. I guess maybe I’d say then all because the rest of our audience on Instagram and the blog can’t hear us right now. But the podcast listeners are our favorite part of our audience. The nicest, kindest, most wonderful part of our audience. Do you take scheduled breaks from social?
Emma: Not really. But I also think maybe some people…it’s not a bad idea if you need to. My main thing that I would say about this just here’s my flash answer is I think you should always whether you’re having a downtime or not, really think about your goal of why you’re on social media. Here are some appropriate goals to market your small business, to network with others, to sincerely keep up with friends or family members to get inspired or research other people’s awesome work and hopefully root them on. If you’re trying to get your self-esteem from social media, get on off of there. You need to get some real life friends who can fill you up because that’s just not the right place for it.
Elsie: Mm hmm. I agree. I think the part where it says scheduled breaks was what was throwing me off because I don’t need a schedule like I. It’s not that I. I have had a few times over the last few years where I did the thing where you log out every time you use Instagram to just keep myself off of it more. And I did a thing last year where I tried using it for only 30 minutes a day, which was helpful for the time. And kind of just an interesting experiment, because I think I’m on it way too much, just like many people. But I think that really what it is, is that you’re able to walk away from it anytime you need to. And for me, it’s just plugging my phone in in my bedroom or in a different room and then going and living my life with my family. And I feel like as long as I’m able to do that, that’s the most important thing.
Elsie: How do you stop thinking about a hurtful or personal comment?
Emma: I try to do something else that will engage my mind. So that or I think you can break the cycle by being positive. So I’ll go, you know, to other friends accounts or people who are putting themselves out online with their work or whatever they’re doing and leave them some comments that are like thoughtful and sincere. And if I really just, like, can’t get out of it, like, I’m usually what happens is I start to snowball and then it starts to be not really like the main thing the person said to me. It’s just all the main things I want to say to myself with that, just like sparked the fire. If that makes sense, if I’m in that place where I’m snowballing, then I usually call Trey or talk to someone because I typically, like, need someone else to kind of stop me like a human in real life and be like, hey, you’re not a worthless piece of garbage like you’re telling yourself, you should stop saying that to yourself. You would never say that to a friend if you know, you would never imagine saying that to another human. So stop saying it to yourself.
Elsie: Yeah, I completely agree. OK. I really like what you said about leaving comments for other people, because I think that one of the negative things about being online, social media, blogging, whatever, is that you’re thinking a lot about yourself and how you’re doing and how you’re feeling and, you know, worrying about. Yeah. What you’re achieving. But I think that taking the focus off of yourself and going and just spreading kindness and leaving a bunch of nice comments on your friends photos is a great way to sort of like palate cleanse yourself. I love that. I’m definitely going to do that. So next time you see me leaving, like 8 nice comments in a row, you’ll know what was happening. (laughs)
Emma: Be like, oh, she’s digging herself out of sadness ditch right now. Go Elsie Go!
Elsie: But that goes a positive way to do it. I love that.
Elsie: We’ll end with a kind of silly one. What is the funniest thing a bully has ever said just to be mean? I definitely know what mine is. And it’s so dumb. It’s from our fashion blogging days. And I still don’t understand what it means or why. But the comment said “Elsie. Why did you Photoshop your crotch?” (laughs)
Emma: (laughs) Oh yes!
Elsie: I still don’t know how it looked like I Photoshop my crotch, but I think it’s so funny that they left that as a comment.
Emma: I just love anytime someone uses the word ‘crotch’. I think that’s just funny.
Elsie: God Yeah! Who does that?!
Emma: Yeah, that’s a funny. It’s funny to be accused of something so random like that actually. Like, what? I don’t even…should I Photoshop my crotch? I guess it looks weird.
Elsie: I honestly don’t even know. Please send us an email. If there’s anything from this episode that you want to hear more about in the future, I think we probably will make this into sort of a series eventually where we do more episodes on either the subject or, you know, subjects about business related things that we can all relate on. We’re really appreciating your podcast reviews. I just went through and read them and it was delightful. I’ve never enjoyed reading reviews so much before. I mean, about my own thing. Like, sometimes it’s horrifying. Right. But these ones are really, really sweet. And thank you for leaving them. So this review is from Bri. It says, “I’ve been a longtime ABM reader and the podcast was the icing on the cake. Listening to it is like having a chat with old friends.” So, yeah, that really made our week. Thank you, Bri, for listening. And we will be back next week. Bye.
You guys do not curse excessively, it feels more authentic if you just talk! Personally, this is part of my short but sweet solo commute to work which counts as my “adult convo” time thanks to podcasts and I enjoy the realness, lol. Keep up the excellent work! You guys were so brave to be open about what you’ve faced, and you certainly triumphed.
I love the swearing, it’s hardly offensive! Much worse on TV. You two feel so wholesome and this podcast is just lovely!
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.)
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 🙂
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!
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!❤️
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!
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.
One of the best, most vulnerable episodes yet. thank you for sharing. also agree that the explicit rating is fine 🙂
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. ❤️
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!
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.
Great podcast, looking forward to listening to more of your episodes!
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!
Great episode, y’all. ?
Ps. Don’t stop cursing. I am 100% pro swearing.
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.
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!
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 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 🙂
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