A few weeks back I wrote a blog titled ‘Trolls: we choose to let them in’. At the heart of the message I shared is that we have the power choose the extent to which people affect us. I wrote, “Irrespective of how challenging it can be we all have the power to choose what we pay attention to and what we allow to impact how we feel.” Today my ability to practice what I preach was seriously tested.
Recently I was interviewed by journalist Deb Killalea who yesterday published her article under the headline ‘Why you need to quit your dead-end job.’ Casually scanning the news last night I came across the article and was excited to see it had already been shared often on social media. Curious to see what comments people had made I decided to search for the article on Google. That’s when my first brush with Internet nastiness began.
My enthusiastic search for validation soon turned to disappointment. While there were plenty of gratifying ‘likes’ some of the comments left me feeling the way I did when I was bullied at school. A wave of self doubt washed over me as my mind raced back to the article searching for reasons why people would hate my point of view so much. I had clearly upset some people and for a moment in time it concerned me greatly.
Unfortunately this was a moment many people warned me would eventually arrive. That is when my decision to be a media commentator would lead to harsh and very public criticism. Despite the heads up, the strength of some people’s criticisms took me by surprise and unquestionably knocked me back a few steps. What really perplexed me were the personal attacks – although I must say some also made me laugh.
Thankfully I’ve learned a lot since the days I was bullied at school and I soon remembered my power to choose how I think, feel and act. The experience was a powerful reminder that I decide the weight I give to people’s words, I choose what is relevant and worthy of my consideration, I am entirely in control of how I let nasty people into my world and psyche. What I’m not in control of is how what they choose to say and how they choose to behave.
What this experience also revealed is the extent to which some people believe they are victims of circumstance. I was saddened to read the comments of people who believe they have no power to create a different life. Some suggested it is irresponsible to tell people that a happy and fulfilling work life is an option available to them. One guy who wrote an especially nasty expletive filled FB message accused me of contributing to youth suicide by creating false hope.
While unlike my critics I respect their right to have a different point of view, but I wont be getting on their pessimistic and defeatist bandwagon any time soon. I remain firmly of the opinion that irrespective of what life throws at us, the choices we make ultimately define the quality of life we create. Sitting in a dead-end job hoping something will change will get you nowhere other than exactly where you are. Only when you choose to strive to create a better life does change become possible.