In my role as a Kinesiologist, I’ve worked with hundreds of female entrepreneurs, many of whom have a big online following as part of what they do.
These women are inspiring, creative and heart-centred entrepreneurs who want the best for their clients + readers. They know that increasing their reach means helping more people. They know creating a successful business (including healthy turnover) benefits them, their families and the wider community, and will work hard to deal with money blocks that can hold them back.
And yet, fears of visibility can often come up.
Fears of being judged, or criticised.
Fears of haters.
Why do these fears come up?
Because these things actually can and do occur as you grow your profile, especially if you have a less-than-conventional message. And who wants to be conventional anyway?
I have had clients who don’t look at their own social media pages so as to avoid having to process the negative comments that have increased alongside their popularity (staff filter what they see).
Clients who have found themselves on sites set up to criticise high profile people (imagine bothering to create or contribute to such a thing!)
Clients who are in the early stages of business who fear even getting their website up, or writing blog posts, or posting on social media, as they’re so worried about what others might think or say. Clients reduced to tears by unexpected negativity.
And clients + friends who have been disappointed in the way they have been represented in traditional media (usually they get great coverage, but sometimes, the tone is off).
We all know that mainstream media looks for an angle, and it’s not always a positive one.
As just one example, a few of my clients + friends were featured in a could-have-been-awesome article on BRW about women + online business. In fact, I’ve met each of the women featured in person.
Positive, inspiring, generous quotes from women who have created solid, thriving businesses in a non-conventional way juxtaposed with what I felt to be snarky “commentary”,
“Part of a new breed of businesswomen harnessing the internet to create a glamorous online persona as a coach, working largely from home… Many are claiming six-figure annual earnings.
You know the ones.
Clogging up our inbox and Facebook feed with promises to teach us how to blog. Make more money. Have a happier life. Improve our business. Feel less stressed. Be more successful. Take better photos. Run an e-course. People are buying in, and the top echelon of these women are earning more than many CEOs.”
Innovative, passionate women treading their own paths and creating substantial incomes as they help others. It’s fascinating to see this somehow slated as a negative (which is my reading of this). I think we’re well past thinking it’s a bad thing for a woman to want to make good money on her own terms. Aren’t we, BRW?
It’s hard to imagine successful online start-ups created by men being dismissed for working hard to create and then share possible solutions to solve the problems of others (“you know the ones”). Newsflash! This is what all successful businesses must do, online or not: provide solutions.
It’s also hard to imagine the quote: “money seems to be the ultimate measure of success, with everyone more than willing to share their earnings,” when participants simply answered specific income related questions for a supposedly reputable business publication, or male contributors being asked to bitch about their peers for “off-the-record” comments. Or maybe they are and the real issue I have is with this kind of journalism, especially highlighted because I happen to know these women.
Also? You always have control of your own inbox and Facebook feed. Hide, delete, unsubscribe if you don’t like what you’re reading or seeing.
The issue is NOT that the article should be 100% positive. The issue I personally have is with the condescending, disbelieving and patronising tone. Anyone who has achieved success in their own business whether online or not will tell you they have worked HARD to achieve this and I believe this is to be respected.
And then there are examples where words are twisted around and used to harm.
Witness Sarah Wilson’s recent article speculating that her own auto-immune condition may be related to self-hatred. I always find Sarah’s posts reflective and curious. She doesn’t claim to have all the answers, but she’s always exploring:
When I’m asked, though, “What caused your disease?” I have to be frank and say – once all angles are ironed out – everything points to… anxiety.
Or as I like to put it, a profound, visceral, itchy dis-ease with myself.”
The article continues in this vein, with Sarah making honest reflections about her own healing journey. That article was then picked up by News.com and a highly inflammatory reaction published by Mamamia.com:
“Part of me thinks that Wilson is just trolling – making outlandish statements in order to generate a response.
(She) is … using her public profile and media platforms to serve up bizarre, anti-scientific opinions on medication and disease.
It seems (she is) deliberately attempting to bait people.” (source)
An article itself clearly designed to bait. Nasty. And not the first article with a vicious tone about Sarah on this publication. I’m sure an early version of this article actually accused Sarah of having an eating disorder disguised as sugar-free eating preference (since removed). An article that attacks the person, rather than exploring the issue or opinion expressed in a balanced way. On a website that theoretically supports women.
Sarah is a highly seasoned media pro and followed up with a reasoned, clear response.
She also said:
“I invite you all to feel free to comment below. But implore you to read my original post and to keep your comments mindful and reasonable.
Please do speak out, however.
I’m at the end of my tether with the baseness of these e-attacks. I’m fed up with what it brings out in everyone – it’s not good.
It doesn’t serve humanity.
It takes us backwards.”
I agree. Usually I’d just skip over issues like this and focus on releasing whatever got triggered in me (and yes, I was triggered by both of these articles, so there’s definitely a lesson here for me).
But this time, I do want to speak out.
I want to stand for responsible, considered reflections on life + health issues, and against pulling other people down to get a point of view across or get more traffic.
And I’m all about being part of solutions.
So, given that we have no control over how others perceive us, interpret our message or how they choose to react or respond, what can we actually do?
Sure, there are practical things you can do – don’t try to win over a perceived “hater,” for example. Engage in discussion or answer questions if you wish, but you can safely ignore blatant meanness. Delete + block if it’s on your own social media profiles. Get offline for a while. Spend time with loved ones. You might get a friend, partner or family member to filter messages/emails/social media for a short time if there’s some kind of incident.
And while we’re at it, avoid terms like “haters” – it adds power and negative energy when you’re actually wanting to defuse and detach.
But I want to talk about what’s beyond this.
I want to bring the energy back to you, and away from any perceived negativity.
Do you personally have a fear of being criticised online?
Go into it.
What are you ACTUALLY fearful that someone might say about you or to you online? Or what is it about what they actually said that REALLY activates your anger or makes you feel upset:
- That you lack credibility?
- You don’t know what you’re talking about?
- That you’re a fake, or a joke, or not legitimate?
- You’re just out to make money?
- That you have no integrity?
- That you’re unbalanced?
- You’re not good enough, or smart enough, or successful enough?
Or do you fear being completely misrepresented? (This may well happen.)
That your reputation will be attacked? (Do you have solid enough support around you that such an attack could run off you even if you were?)
Really think about it.
It’s pretty likely you will only fear being criticised about something that you’re secretly worried about yourself. (It doesn’t mean it’s true, by the way.) And you’ll feel most emotional and activated when the criticism hits on an inner wound you harbour, which may even connect back to old childhood issues.
Work on exploring and owning these fears. Imagine the absolute worst case scenario (or the reality, if it has happened). Then, play with it. Pop the scenario on a stage. Shrink it down. Turn it into a black + white silent movie. Add some canned laughter and turn it into a comedy. Keep playing until there’s no charge or negative emotion left.
Do you know what? None of us is perfect. Our fears of being judged or criticised can show us our vulnerabilities. You don’t need to fear your vulnerabilities.
And then? People can say whatever they like about you.
Instead of it destabilising and upsetting you, you’ll be more likely to just shrug it off. This is what I certainly saw the women in the BRW article do, they are all total professionals and do understand how the media works.
With more detachment, you’ll be able to see the comments or article for what they really are which may well be: Poor journalism. Someone unhappy with their own life. Jealousy. A person having a bad day. A misunderstanding (yours or theirs). Something triggered in them (or you). Poor editing. An ill-thought out article or comment. Projection. An over-reaction. Personal issues. A person commenting or writing in a rush, or while distracted. Someone in pain. Poor communication. Simply a differing opinion or perspective and not something to get upset about at all. A different life lens or communication style. Or irrelevant.
The point being: who knows? This person likely doesn’t even know you. Their opinion bears little weight. And so much can be lost when you remove context, expression, body language, tone and the ability to engage in a real-time discussion. And however strongly you feel about your own viewpoint and stance, the Truth is likely to be a little more nuanced.
Own the parts that belong to you and hand the rest of it back to them. You sure can’t please everyone. Even if you’re the most balanced, reasonable person in the world, there will be someone who really doesn’t like balanced, reasonable people.
Carry on with your awesomeness.
Don’t dim your light.
Love to hear your thoughts! And share this article with someone else who needs this message. Thanks!
You can read some of the discussion + comments about this topic + post on my Facebook page here.