It turns out that it is actually impossible to make everybody happy. I know because I’ve tried. In some primitive way humans are wired to depend on others. Being accepted by the pack can feel urgent and necessary, even when it’s totally irrational. At times, having everyone like me not only felt important, it felt like survival.
To facilitate my need for approval, for most of my life I’ve been a very successful people pleaser. I mastered the art of fitting in, reading the room, and doing and saying the right things. But a funny (predictable?) thing happened as my business and platform grew – people started actively and openly criticizing me. Here are just a few things that strangers on the internet have commented recently:
- I don’t like how you move your hands
- I don’t like your voice
- You seem smug and condescending
- Your home is sterile and staged
- I hate your political beliefs so I’m burning your book (!)
While I’d love to tell you I brushed these comments off and went about my day, in reality I did NOTHING OF THE SORT. Instead, I contemplated hiding in the fetal position under a large piece of furniture. I considered writing kind and thoughtful letters explaining myself to PERFECT STRANGERS ON THE INTERNET. If I’m being really honest, there were moments I wanted to shut down my whole operation and choose a new profession where strangers would have no reason to tear me down online.
While I know intellectually that these comments have more to do with the person writing them than me, it can still feel painful and paralyzing to be criticized by strangers – even amid a sea of support. But the more I’ve thought about it, I’ve realized I could choose to shrink and hide and start playing small in an attempt to avoid any additional criticism, or I could continue to be authentic and learn how to shift my mindset and toughen up a bit. I chose the latter.
In a strange way, realizing that it is impossible to please every human at the same time, even if I twist myself into a million pretzels, has resulted in a feeling of joy and freedom I didn’t even realize I was missing. No matter what I do or say, I will always be too this for some people and too that for others, so I may as well just be myself and keep putting my work out in the world knowing full well that not everyone is going to approve of me, my work, my voice, OR EVEN THE WAY I MOVE MY HANDS.
It’s ok. More than ok. It’s actually been tremendously liberating.
Since I’ve committed to continue to putting myself and my work out in the world no matter what, here are a few filters I’ve been using to help handle negative feedback (in the comments section or otherwise). I hope they’ll be helpful to you:
Consider the Source
Is the feedback from someone you love, trust, and respect or is it from an Instagram stranger called @KarenZ227?
Which part, if any, is true?
I find that I get the most triggered by criticism that holds some truth in it. For example, when someone says they don’t like how I move my hands I can laugh it off, but if someone says I’m not sustainable or eco-friendly enough it bothers me because I really care about the environment and somewhere inside I know I could be doing more. In that case, maybe there’s something I can identify that can actually lead to constructive change.
What can I learn?
If hearing criticism tends to rattle you there’s surely mindset work to be done and growth to be had. Consider why you are triggered. What about the criticism bothers you? What can be gained from it? What can be learned? How can you grow thicker skin or believe more solidly in yourself?
Do I Have My Own Back?
We all make mistakes and it’s vital that we acknowledge when we mess up. But it’s just as important to treat ourselves with the same kindness and love that we would extend to a dear friend. If you didn’t intentionally try to hurt, harm, or offend someone, and you can stand behind your actions and intentions, let the angry people be angry and move on. As my mentor likes to say, “allow people to be wrong about you.”
Where is the humor?
It’s easy to take negative feedback very seriously and work yourself into a lather over nothing. Humor is a great coping mechanism, and my go-to solution for working through most things that are hard. After you’ve processed whatever you need to process, do you best to find the funny and then move on.
People pleasing is draining, unhealthy, and ultimately inauthentic. A better bet is to be yourself, do your best, and seek your own approval. At the end of the day, validation from others provides us with only a temporary boost, but validation from ourselves is priceless.
Have you found constructive ways to handle negative or unwanted criticism? Please feel free to share in the comments below.
Photography Credit: Vivian Johnson
44 comments on “How To Be Okay with Not Making Everybody Happy”
Haha that’s quite something.. just a reflection of themselves. Amazing what’s triggers us.. and everyone projects hugely their own inner stuff that’s unconscious and unresolved. FYI never noticed yours hands would love yr spare home 🤷🏻♀️
Excellent post and very thought provoking. Thank you for giving me some actionable advice!
I totally agree with everything you said in this post. Thanks for sharing. I love your book, the way you decorate your home and the way you dress!
I closed my Facebook account (during the Trump years) and don’t miss it one bit. Granted, I am 68 years old so online media is not as ingrained in my life like it is for younger people, but I felt it was wasting some of my time with little or no benefit. It also upset me sometimes when I saw what people, even friends, posted.
Shira, you’ve written thoughtful and sensible words.
People can be ridiculous! If they don’t care for you, that’s their opinion, but then they should not follow you and comment. Putting nasty words out there isn’t helping anyone; and, as you wisely point out, it says more about them than you. . Now into my seventh decade, I am pleased to note that I have grown to care very little about other people’s opinions except, of course, those nearest to me.
It’s always a pleasure to read your posts!
Shira, I love this! I agree with you when you say that as humans, we want to fit it, we want to be liked. But, as you said it is impossible to behave or speak in a manner that everyone likes or agrees with, Being authentic is not always easy, but I feel it is always worth it.
Keep being you!!!!
Bravo! You’re putting beautiful and inspiring goodness into the world. Thank you! Keep on being wonderful YOU! 🙂
I’m so sorry you’ve received such hateful comments. I love everything about your account and have never noticed how you move your hands!
So thankful for your daily inspiration. ❤️
I really needed to read this! I have a new job with so many employees, managers and customers to please and not enough time to do it all. I like your suggestion about believing more in yourself, as what can be learned.
Thank you for this. I appreciate your vulnerability in sharing. I can imagine the roller coaster of emotions that you feel when you read people’s comments. I am a hard core people pleaser and find myself curled up under a large piece of furniture quite often. You are an inspiration and are so helpful to so many people—thank you.
Excellent perspective. Keep up the good work!
It’s brave of you to share your humanness with us instead of a perfect persona that I ( we) can never attain and shouldn’t aspire to. You’re the perfect Shira… and we love you. You inspire!
Thank you for your honesty and for sharing this. I’m so glad that you will continue to share your work with us. I believe in Karma and… well, casting that ugly “useless” first stone/comment should never be done. Thanks Shira, enjoy your good Karma 😉.
Are you kidding me?
Your book, your insights, your style are contributing goodness and beauty and inspiration. Lord knows we need more like yours every singe day.
Please keep being you!
Savor all the good that comes your way.
Let that other ****go.
Peace & Love & a Big Hug,
You have no idea how much I needed to see this post today, especially: allow people to be wrong about you. Brilliant!
There are people out there who like to tear down others and the internet can make that so much easier to do as there’s little repercussions. But you have a great attitude towards it.
I love your emails and posts – they’re always useful and thoughtful, and I appreciate that you’re not trying to constantly sell your audience products! Every time I see your name pop up, I know it’s going to calm my brain! 😁
Great post. I’m having a hard time putting my work on SM even though I do it for my “regular” job no problem. And btw, you are not smug at all–you come across as very genuine.
I found this to be so DISCONCERTING that people would say some of these things about you. I on the other hand have been TOTALLY inspired by your depth, your honesty, and I have learned so much from you. One of the ways also to withstand stupid criticism, is to go to your tribe of people who love and support you. KEEP WRITING.
Such important words! Especially for women and mothers who often feel they have to do everything perfectly and also get everyone on board, too!
Keep smiling that lovely smile of yours. All will be fine.
Omg what ridiculous comments ! I find your voice vvv relaxing to listen to and actually find myself listening to your podcasts when I’m feeling stressed to feel calm again !!!!! Xxxxx
What terribly rude comments people have given you. They sound like people who are unhappy with life. Thank you for the time you put in to sharing the growth in your life. Some of the things have helped me grow also.
Shira, I laughed at some-how you move your hands? My goodness!!! Others while I don’t agree with you politically I still bought your book and thinbk it’s a very valuable resource. Thank you for writing “Minimalista”. I am really looking forward to your new book your writing now!!! Have a wonderful day!!!
Even when I do the exact opposite of your recommendations, I love your clear and positive attitude. I so enjoy following your blogs
We all love you! Just wanted to remind you of that in order to balance out the occasional negatives. Every year I seem to get an evaluation from a student who just did not like me or my teaching style. Even after 25 years, I feel it. I like your advice to listen to what might be useful in people’s comments without allowing them to shake your confidence. You are great just the way you are, and a lot of us depend on that.
Hi Shira! I just read a great book called “Please Yourself.” It’s about how to not be a people pleaser. I highly recommended it! Also, super wide words above. And lastly, I’m sorry for the silly and mean things people said to you online. I think you’re great! And you give away so much help for free. It’s truly appreciated from this mama of 4 in NJ.
Forget the haters. You are amazing and you are great at what you do!
Thank you so much for posting this, Shira. Sometimes the critics are your very own family members, which is particularly difficult to handle, but the same principles you outlined apply and it was helpful to be reminded of that.
I’m so sorry this has happened to you. I am not sure why people think we are entitled to any and every comment on their mind. I am of the mindset that if someone wants to hear my opinion, they’ll ask. Except when it’s positive. I try to sprinkle that around like confetti, as the saying goes. PLEASE, please don’t quit doing what you’re doing…your work has given me so much inspiration! Your book is NOT on my bookcase with the other gorgeous ones I own; it is on my side table, within reach, and often goes with me as my husband and I take trips. I like to relish the contents often. Can’t wait for your next book. ❤️
My brother is the rapper Pitbull. For nearly a decade I ran his social channels and it would horrify & infuriate me when I would read some of the comments. His response was this: mama, if they are hating on me then I’m doing something right.
As per usual, he was right.
Thank you for being brave and sharing this. Your approach to handling criticism is so healthy and honest, and the next time a loved one goes through something like this I know just where to look for a good list of wisdom! Also, I loved your book and always look forward to your posts. So sad that people are emboldened by anonymity online and feel they can say these kinds of hurtful (and ridiculous) comments. Keep the content coming, please!
Thank you so much, the timing of this post was perfect. 🌈
i needed to hear this today. thank you for sharing your wisdom.
You have a gift and you show the confidence it
takes not to let some rude comments take it
away from you. Using rude comments as a tool
to learn more about yourself, and share that with
others, is one strong individual. It is a culture
that has been created, we need to be the “I”
in kind and do better. Keep up the good work.
Loved your book, your style, your home, and your kind beliefs. I have always found it odd that people comment rude things….like why are they here? You have more positive people here, but we are just quieter. Lol!
Love this! Glad you will keep being yourself!
People are not nice when they hide behind their FB account etc. It is mean and nasty and comments are written like that for them to feel better or think they are clever or funny putting people down -and they know they are not seeing you face to face ever but people need to be called out on it.
I admire you and love your book, follow you on Instagram and love to read your blogs…when/if it gets too much you can always turn off comments. People who like you will still enjoy your posts & can live without posting a comment but people there just to say something snide won’t be able to. It is one of the unfortunate things now that you are becoming famous but it should not be that is accepted. It seems to have become part of the online culture and it needs to stop. You continue being you and let nasty people go.
You hand really?! We will just leave that one. I just want to say that from one converted people pleaser to another, I couldn’t agree more. I would love to shout it from the rooftops not that that will help you because I live in Canada lol. But honestly I personally have grown so much, choose to stay in my own lane and really have learned to consider the source which has helped me greatly. I love your book, think you are inspiring and honestly love your home and if you are happy there I’m happy for you. Hope this brightens your day just a little. xx kim
I think people who are people pleasers (raising my hand!) have some amazing traits in that we are so much more sensitive to others and are empathetic to how others might be feeling… we just need to use that trait in helpful ways instead of unhealthy ways!
I was cracking up at your list of criticisms from people. Someone commented on one of my YouTube videos once that minimalism must not be working for me because I talk so fast–clearly I am not relaxed! 😀 I agree that you just have to laugh about stuff like that!
Just to say well done, Shira.
I’m sorry that you have had such awful and hateful comments directed at you.
I love your book and find your approach to life and home care fresh and life-giving. Please, carry on!
Encouraging thoughts and good energy all around you.
Shira, your words are like a healing balm on my soul. I will reread them over and over. Thank you for sharing so openly and honestly. I hope you reread your words when people are unkind. They are powerful! Love your heart. ❤️
Unfortunately, the web with its technical possibilities and the multiple evaluation options have established a communication culture which also brings out the worst in some people regarding their social behaviour. And if we dare to show up on social media or in real life, we always risk to be offended, too.
In a free and open society it is absolutely okay to critisize, also publicly, what and whose opinion one does not like or share, but it should at least be in a objective, respectful and fair way. If not, it is neither worth being read, taken serious nor commented. Judging, insulting and bashing is not acceptable, in no way. And as you wrote, Shira: It says more on their character and their lack of empathy than on any aspect of the critisized person. Everything we hear or read on ourselves touches us even if we do not want it to. Because we are a feeling species. But you should try to fade out those insults and ignore or block those people. They do not really mean you. In fact, they mean and hurt themselves. You are absolutely okay the way you are. Always and forever. And you do not have to justify for being you. If others do not like you or your point of view, they can easily stay away from you as you do not force them to follow you. Its their responsibility. Not yours to care for them. And instead of them you add value to other peoples‘ lives. So hold on and stay as you are.
Some people just love to cut others down. In Australia we call it the Tall Poppy Syndrome where people who are doing well for themselves are criticised by others. You are doing a great job. Don’t let them get to you. x
I agree with everything you said. Your insight, thoughts and helpful tips are very inspiring for me! I look forward to reading your blog and absolutely love your book Minimalista!!
Your home is beautiful and I continue to strive to achieve the same sense of calm and beauty in my own home. Love your wardrobe too.