“I, for one, am so happy to be a human being, not a statue” ~ Alok
Criticism is part and parcel of life as a content creator. When we show up for others, when we invite a back and forth, we also open the door for criticism. Yet, a lot of people do not seem to understand the difference between valid criticism and trolling. How do we criticize the way a human being should? Whitney Lauritsen tackles the topic of public criticism and trolling with her trademark sensitivity and authenticity. Whitney takes a look at a recent live stream of hers that had her asking, “why do people like to publicly shame or criticize?” Dive in deep and learn more as Whitney shares what she has learned.
Listen to the podcast here
How To Be A Human Being, Not A Statue
Lessons From Criticism
This is another one of those moments where I spontaneously decide to record, but unlike the last episode and one other episode before that, it is only 4:00 PM. Last episode ties into the episode right now because I submitted that to my editor. Usually, I like to submit at least eight days in advance to my editor to give the team plenty of time to get this up because I want every episode to run on the same schedule.
These episodes come out every Monday, as you may know. I recorded that solo episode on a Wednesday night or Thursday morning at 1:00 AM. At that time, I felt okay about it but a day or two later, I started to fall into a rejection spiral which I had mentioned in my newsletter. That must have been what prompted that newsletter.
If you do not subscribe to the newsletter, I blog now. Things have shifted a bit since Jason left the show and Wellevatr. I’m trying to find my rhythm and my voice with these episodes and the blog post. I was writing about my experiences with rejection-sensitive dysphoria, shame, and how I’m sensitive. It is something that I have struggled with a lot because I don’t like the feeling that I get in my body. I have a bit of butterflies. It is a fear of being rejected, misunderstood, and called out.
Some of that is not even based on reality. With that episode, I had recorded and was afraid to post and be misunderstood. I felt vulnerable because, in that episode, I talked about how I think I’m neurodivergent. I did some self-assessments and it turned out that I fall on the spectrum for ADHD and Autism Spectrum Disorder, ASD. I’m in a vulnerable state because I’m afraid that I’m wrong or the self-assessment is wrong. I’m afraid of people judging me. I’m afraid of the behavior and symptoms that I have in being misunderstood in general.
That is part of the reason that led me to get the assessment. I’m sitting here thinking, “Why am I so sensitive? Why do I have so many triggers around rejection?” As I talked about in that episode, “Why do I feel so socially uncomfortable at times? Is it just introversion?” I’m glad I put out that episode now. Part of the reason I got triggered was that somebody did leave me a comment about an episode. It was along the lines of like, “You didn’t talk about anything. It took you so long to get to the point. I’m bored.” It hit me and activated the rejection that I feel when I read comments like that and how much I have struggled with them. For so many years, I have been creating content. It has never gotten easier.
I talked to someone about it and they said, “You need to develop a thicker skin.” What I wrote about in the newsletter was that I don’t know if it is about developing a thicker skin and I don’t even know if I’m capable of it. You would think after many years of creating content, putting myself out there, I have made over 1,000 YouTube videos, and I have made over 300 episodes just on this show, not including the other shows that I do. The thick skin has never come. I fell into that shame spiral, “I must have been doing something wrong. Why is it that I can’t get over these triggers? Why do they hurt so much?” These questions come up a lot.We don't want to be a people-pleaser or perfectionist. We want to own ourselves and be allowed to make mistakes. Click To Tweet
There have been a few more negative comments than usual, fortunately. One of them was interesting. I started a daily livestreaming show called Web3 with Whitney. I’m passionate about Web 3.0. I love talking about it and learning about it. I thought, “I want to talk about it Live so that I can have live conversations. I want to have a dialogue back and forth with other people. I don’t want to just be putting something out there as a recording. I want to open it up to that live experience, that connection, and that community that comes along with it.”
It often feels frustrating to me that we are not having a conversation, you and I. I want you to know how much I value you along with opening things up to dialogue, which also opens you up to criticism, trolling, bullying, and rude comments. I know that. I have tried to shield myself from that for a long time. That is part of the reason I have not gone live in a while. Livestreaming is tough. It comes along with so many challenges.
I got this comment about the tech issues that I was having. Somebody was asking why I was having so many tech issues, but the way that they asked, part of those phrasing made me feel like they were almost shaming me. This is how I interpreted it through my shame filter or my rejection filter. When I read words like that, it makes me feel ashamed like, “Why can’t you do better?” That is the essence of what this comment made me feel, which is, “Why are you messing up?”
The more that I’m verbalizing it right now, I feel like it is a common experience and that parental cliché. Many of us have experience with parents, authority figures, teachers, a boss, a co-worker, somebody shaming you, blaming you and criticizing you for not doing things perfectly. That is old programming for me that triggers me to want to be better, wants to be that people pleaser, and wants to be the perfectionist.
Processing The Why Of Rejection
I simultaneously don’t want to be a people pleaser or a perfectionist. I want to own myself. I truly want to be allowed to make mistakes. As I was reflecting on this comment, I thought, “First of all, why did this person say these things to me?” I was processing them to myself for a while. I process them in a conversation with someone else. I did not feel like I was getting to the root of it.
I was thinking about how I know I’m not the only one because anybody can put themselves out there on the internet. These days, most of us are allowing other people to comment on us publicly or privately behind our backs and to our faces. This person was especially interesting because they have a fake burner Instagram account, a weird username, no profile picture, no friends, and no images.
I thought, “Did this person create this account specifically so that they could anonymously leave comments like this?” It may not sound that surprising but to me, my heart breaks for stuff like that because it is like, “Why do we live in this world where someone wants to publicly shame and criticize someone but does not even have the courage to let the world know who they are?” That is the definition of a troll. Why is trolling so commonplace? After all these years, does it still happen?
I have come to realize it is probably never going to stop. I would rather not participate in it. That is part of the reason I stepped back from posting on YouTube. For those that don’t know this about me, a huge part of my career was based on YouTube. I started on YouTube seriously in 2008 or 2009 and it led me to where I am now. That is how I met Jason. YouTube was a huge part of my career and my personal life, and I loved it.
I felt like my heart was being whittled away by these types of comments. They were draining to me. They were sparking that loop, shame spiral, vulnerability hangover, and rejection sensitivity. No matter how hard I tried and no matter how many people I talked to about this, how many times I practiced it, how much research I did, and it felt like no matter what I did, I could not stop myself from feeling all that rejection.
It got to the point where I did not want to post anymore, and when I did post, I would disable the comments. I have a bunch of channels. There is a channel for this show, the Wellevatr channel, and there is my personal channel, the Whitney Lauritsen channel. On that one, I have disabled the comments because I got so tired of wiggling through the kind, rude, trolling, and criticism comments.
What was also interesting that I was reflecting on was how I identified a few people who would create fake accounts. They would email me from fake emails. They would write to me from fake Instagram and YouTube accounts. They wanted to hide themselves but I could tell, from some other wording, that it was the same person on all these different accounts. I have also noticed a pattern of every time I post a video on YouTube, it gets a thumbs down quickly and I have always suspected that it was the same person or the same few people that were committed.
It was fascinating from the sense of they were not doing drive-by trolling. They are committed to trolling, trying to make me feel bad, and pointing out my flaws. That is the definition of abuse in a lot of ways. That’s emotional abuse. I’m not trying to play the victim, but this is part of the issue. When someone like me who has spoken out against how I react to shaming, rejection, and who has been vulnerable and honest about those feelings, the struggles, and someone continues to do that behavior, to me, there is a level of abuse there. I wish that I could do something about it, not just for myself but for everyone. I would not wish that type of behavior on anyone.
I have spoken many times on this show about how I’m not a fan of call-out culture and cancel culture. Even forms of accountability, it is like, “When does it end? Why can’t we just accept the humanity within somebody?” Going back to my livestream show, right before I started this, I wrapped up my sixth episode. I have gone Live every single day for six days and I feel proud of myself for that. It is a time commitment and an energetic drain for me. I believe in what I’m doing, and I’m excited about it.A troll is someone who wants to publicly shame and criticize others but doesn't have the courage to let the world know who they are. Click To Tweet
No matter how hard I have tried over the past six days, something has gone wrong in every single livestream. That triggers this perfectionist mentality. I’m hard enough on myself and I beat myself up far enough. To have someone on the outside point out the flaws, I already know it makes it so much harder. I feel like this is a relatable thing if you are not a content creator by any means. I imagine that on some level, you have experienced this.
I imagine you have had a parental figure, a teacher, a boss, or a colleague. There has got to be somebody or some instance in your life where you have experienced this. That is part of something that helps me process it. I’m trying not to take it personally and not to play the victim. I’m trying to see the universal experience here. The more I examine that, the more heartbreaking it feels. Why do we treat each other this way?
I started to go a level deeper. Both of the comments about my livestreams felt magnified because I’m in a vulnerable transition without Jason here. I’m learning to find my rhythm and my voice doing the show on my own. I have more work. I’m trying to express myself in a way that feels authentic. Maybe it is from neurodivergence, but I go on tangents and I don’t always make sense.
I jump around in subjects and I don’t always get to the point or finish my point. I’m not coming to the show with an outline because I have always felt like this show is about being a human. By that, I mean not being perfect, allowing myself and others that come on the show to get uncomfortable, allowing you, the reader, to get uncomfortable.
Finding Strength In Vulnerability
Maybe that is part of the answer here. What I’m going through with this criticism, rejection, and sensitivity, all of that is extremely uncomfortable. That is part of the lesson. I have not ever been able to grow with thick skin so I have remained uncomfortable for most of these years that I have been creating content. Instead of getting frustrated with the fact that I don’t have a thick skin and this continues to bother me, what if I allow that to show me my humanity and say, “Perhaps it is a strength that I have a thin skin.”
I know it is a strength to be sensitive and vulnerable because I have been studying this for so long. The wisdom of someone like Brené Brown, who has dedicated her whole career to shame and vulnerability, points out how incredibly beneficial it is. This allows us to connect with one another, see strengths and weaknesses.
This is what I was pondering. Many times, in her books and talks, Brené references this quote. One of the presidents has this amazing quote about being in the arena and it is the name of one of her books. I can visualize it because it is this idea of the people that are in the peanut gallery throwing tomatoes, shouting, booing, or whatever. Those people are in the audience. They are not at this stage and not in the same position. They are not comparable unless they switch places.
Learning From Trolls
When I was reading these comments about my livestreams, I thought, “How bold of this person to criticize me when they are not in my shoes. They are not even telling me who they are. If they do not have the courage to tell me who they are, how can they criticize me for having the courage to do things imperfectly?” That is one of the big messages that I have interpreted from Brené Brown’s work.
It is not about one person being better than the other. It is about saying, “Why don’t we look in the mirror, and when we are triggered by someone or someone triggers us, what can we learn from that?” That is what I’m trying to do right now. I feel rejected and shamed, and I’m trying not to be defensive. I’m just trying to learn but I’m also trying to examine what does this say about them?It's a strength to be sensitive and vulnerable. It allows us to connect with one another and see our strengths and weaknesses. Click To Tweet
There is that cliché phrase, “When someone criticizes you or is mean to you, it says more about them than it does about you.” Without knowing exactly who this person is because they are hiding their identity, maybe that is what it is. They are probably ashamed for me to know who they are. There has got to be some level of shame or fear, so much so that they are willing to create a fake Instagram account to leave me a public comment.
I also imagine that this is somebody who has been trying to reach me for a while because I blocked people like this. I do not tolerate this type of behavior. They probably had to create an extra account to reach me because they are blocked in other accounts if it is somebody from the past. They are so desperate to have their criticism get through to me that they go to these extreme lengths but simultaneously hide them. To me, it is the most fascinating view into how people behave differently.
As part of my processing, I tend to research, if you have not noticed this about me already. It is a coping mechanism to me, where it makes me feel better to understand the why and the different perspectives from it. I was googling why people point out other people’s imperfections. There were some great resources that I came up with. One was from Quora. The question was, “Why do some people point out other people’s imperfections/weaknesses and tell them to their face? Is it a lack of proper upbringing?” I love this question. Quora is so cool. I don’t go out of my way to use Quora, but I love seeing the humanity in people’s questions. That makes me feel less alone.
Some of the answers here are, “You are asking why rather than how. There are some cultures in which this is routine behavior, particularly among relatives. In others, it is either a lack of proper upbringing or a deliberate attempt at hurting the other person.” That was the top-upvoted response. I liked that response. It feels so black and white. Without knowing this person’s identity, I have no context as to why they are responding to me that way. I can only make assumptions from my limited perspective, my biases, and my viewpoint on the world.
Some people say, “Why even bother trying to understand?” That is important to me. It helps me process when I know why. When I can’t find out why I try to find other answers like I’m doing right now. That does make me feel better. That helps me breathe through it and release it. Of course, meditation does, too, and stepping back, breathing, talking to others, and processing out loud like I’m doing right now.
I want to take a moment to thank you for reading because it is an outlet for me. Sometimes, I hesitate and I fear that it does feel so one-sided. I don’t want this show to be for my benefit. I truly want it to benefit both of us, and this is where the vulnerability comes in. It is like, “Am I just somebody spewing feelings?” Is there anything wrong with it? It is about humanity.
As much as I love structured shows with lessons, you can tell somebody who has done their research, prepared their feelings and their thoughts, and it has got all that structure and flow to it. Those are wonderful. In fact, I tend to listen mostly to those shows. What has been at the core of 300-plus episodes of this show has been open dialogues? With my guests, I do not prepare much. I don’t know where the conversation will go and neither do they because it is meant to feel authentic in that sense. That is unique because most other shows with guests do not have that lack of structure to them.
Going back to Quora here, the second most upvoted response was, “Sometimes, it is a lack of proper upbringing, but sometimes, it is not so. Don’t rush to blame the parents. For some, their parents didn’t teach them manners or they think that they are doing you a favor, but they don’t have the tact to do it properly.” That is a good one because there was a level of me when I was reading this comment about my livestreams that this person is trying to do me a favor or they feel like they are giving me constructive criticism. Maybe to them, it is not even criticism. It is just feedback.
To be fair, I did ask for it. When you do a livestream, at least the way I do them, the aim is for it to feel like a back and forth. Maybe this person communicates differently than me and I also have to be accountable for my filter. A universal experience is anything through texts can be easily misinterpreted versus when we are talking visually or auditorily. We can hear the meaning behind somebody much better. It is more clear and facial expressions say a lot.
Communication Is Key
It is tough when somebody writes you a message, you are reading it, and you don’t have a Live back and forth to even clarify. You can easily get offended and misinterpret it. I want to also add that into the mix. We do have to be careful. In fact, a few episodes ago, I talked about how to have tough conversations with people who have different opinions than you. One person wrote to me in response to that and was saying how they were struggling with some text communication with their friend and ended up getting intense and tough. That can degrade our relationships. We need to be intentional with how we phrase things but also patient. We could benefit from asking follow-up questions and doing our best not to make assumptions.
I enjoyed making that episode. That one, I felt confident. Ironically, that is the episode where the rude comment of, “Get to the point.” They said they listened to the first four minutes and I didn’t get to the point fast enough. To that, I say this show is not TikTok. It is not even meant to be like YouTube. These are long-winded discussions, topics, and ramblings.You can't ask for only positive communication. That's not fair. Click To Tweet
I’m not going to get to the point that fast and there is a fast forward button for that reason. Some people have listened to shows at 1.25 speed, 1.5 speed, even double the speed to get through the rambling and jumping around. That is cool. I encourage you to do that. I encourage you to read the transcript if you would like to see what the point is faster. That is why I offer so many different ways to consume the information on the show because I know that everybody learns differently and consumes them and has different needs.
To go back to my point, I have had to learn over time that I can’t please everyone no matter how hard I try. That has been one of the greatest lessons of my content creation world. Personally, everybody is coming to their day, showing up and interacting on so many relative levels to how they are feeling that day, the information they have, the education they have, and their background. We have to constantly come back to the humanity within one another.
When I’m processing things like this, I realize, “If I’m struggling with this, can I recognize that the person that triggered me is struggling with their day in their own ways and ways that I cannot understand unless they tell me?” That helps me a lot because a lot of this can feel sad. Bullying, criticism, and rejection are hard things to process.
I feel sad for anyone that goes through this. Looking beyond myself, I wish there was a way to stop it, not just for me but for others. This is something I learned through Byron Katie, who has something called The Work. One of the practices that she teaches is instead of placing blame like, “So and so did this to me and made me feel that way.” She encourages you to flip it around, shifting your perspective back to yourself. It is not about that other person. It is about you and your reaction.
Funny enough, the technology for this episode is not so great. My video is all slow. It is like I’m being forced into a lesson to slow down and accept. I have been behind in posting YouTube videos but assuming that this video goes up one day, you may see it. It is all going in slow motion. I hope my audio sounds okay. It is evoking this panic because I want it to be right and perfect. I don’t want technology to get in my way. I resolved some of the tech challenges that I was having.
I want to share something else that fed into this conversation that I saw on Instagram. This is from this wonderful Instagram account that I follow that has helped me better understand different perspectives. It is a person named ALOK, an author, poet, comedian, and speaker. They use the phrase degender. This person triggers a lot of other people because of the way that this person expresses themselves physically, in words, and all that.
Being Human Is Criticism
I don’t know what the context was. Perhaps it was a photo. ALOK shared a screenshot of a text exchange. It was comforting to me because of not only the way that ALOK responded but seeing the type of things that ALOK must receive every single day. It is not about comparing me to them. Coming back from the humanity to people, when we are vulnerable, we show the behind-the-scenes. We don’t hide our challenges. It is comforting to other people who are going through the same thing in their own relative experience.
Somebody had commented about hair on ALOK’s body and encouraged him, “Can you shave it off?” ALOK responded, “Can you at least be honest about what is going on here, please? I am your mirror. Every time you point the finger at me, three fingers are pointed back at yourself. This is not about my hair. This is about your heartbreak. I’m sorry that beauty norms keep you feeling inadequate. I believe you are beautiful not because of what you look like but because of who you are. For one, I am so happy to be a human being, not a statue.” That was great. I might have just found the title for this episode.
“Like Earth, my body blooms. It has taken a long time to get here but I’m grateful to finally rest in this luscious garden. Next time you feel compelled to offer unsolicited advice to strangers, redirect that energy to yourself. Ask, what part of me is being provoked? Shower it with love. Love is the antidote to fear, rooting for you.” That, to me, is one of the most eloquent responses I have ever read in response to someone.
Opening up the comments section of that post, the top comment underneath ALOK’s comment was, “The fact that you are consistently willing to do this emotional labor for people who are actively trying to hurt you is beautiful.” That is also well-phrased. The comments here are so revealing. Another person said, “As a human with a lot of body hair, I had to learn to love my body hair because so many people tried to make me feel bad about it.” This is the thing. It is navigating these types of exchanges.
The heartbroken feeling I have is knowing that so many people have to deal with this in their own way and that we can’t let somebody be human. Let them be flawed and make mistakes. That was the other thing I was reflecting on with this comment. I feel like my mistakes triggered that person that they were angry I was not perfect, disappointed that I was making mistakes, and frustrated that it was not smooth.
That other person who said, “Four minutes in and you have not gotten to the point,” I was not showing up the way that person wanted me to show up. Does that mean that I need to change? Does that mean that there is something wrong with me? Does that mean that I’m not doing things right and I’m imperfect?
Lessons Learned In Communicating As Humans
The lesson that I’m learning and starting to be able to verbalize is that all of these years I have spent trying to respond to those things, change myself, and be a chameleon, every time someone points out my flaw, “Let me see if I can do it better next time.” It is like begging for forgiveness, begging for acceptance and validation, trying to reach this pinnacle of safety where I can fully protect myself from rejection.
After so many years of content and all my years of life and experiences of rejection and criticism throughout it, I’ve never found that place and I don’t know if it exists. I love ALOK’s encouragement and phrasing about this being heartbreaking for that person, this being about that person feeling inadequate. Redirect the energy back to ourselves instead of offering unsolicited advice to a stranger.
Granted, there are many times that I ask for advice, but I do that because what I want to do is communicate. I can’t ask for only positive communication. That is not fair. I can not ask other people to communicate with me in the way that I want them to. That is too controlling and one-sided. That does not allow the other person to express themselves in the way that they need to. In a way, that is hypocritical. Wouldn’t it be a hypocrite if I said, “The way that you are communicating doesn’t work for me?”
Ultimately, that is what these people said to me, “The way that you started your show does not work for me.” They did not even ask me to change. They were just pointing it out. What if I accepted it and said, “I don’t have to apologize for it. I don’t have to be rude.” What if I just accept that I don’t work for them? How about that?
It is like dating. When we are rejected by someone we want to date, what if we just accept that they don’t like us, don’t want us, don’t love us, or don’t have the same feelings? It is tough. Maybe it would aid us in flowing with life more, not to the point of avoiding discomfort but being okay with the discomfort. That is the big lesson here, being a human, not a statue.
That is so good. I feel like there might have been something else that I screenshotted but don’t have it off the top of my head. I’m going to wrap this up. I’m going to enjoy the rest of my Sunday. Thank you for reading and leaning into this. If you are still reading at this moment, thank you. I’m sure plenty of people read part of the episode and they don’t understand the whole arc of it or the direction that it goes into.
It is like sitting with a friend and the gift of someone allowing you to express yourself however it shows up that day. It is one of the greatest things. I want to continue to acknowledge you and your readership, how much that means to me on so many levels, and remind you that I want to be there for you, too, in whatever ways I can in the current structure of this. I want to hear it all ultimately and I want to continue to move through the discomfort of how I feel about some of the statements that other people make. The big lesson here is that I would rather hear from you and everyone else than not hear anything.
Somehow, I pressed play, and I do not know where that music is coming from. It is coming from Zencastr. Zencastr is the tool I use to record these episodes. I love Zencastr. They are the sponsor of my show. You will hear ads for them in the guest episodes. On their pro version, which I upgraded to, you can play music in the middle of your recording. I have never used it and I accidentally clicked the button. Little behind-the-scenes “mistake,” but it was not a mistake. It was just a little accident and a learning process.
I’m going to wrap up. I want to finish by saying that I hope to hear from you. I promise I will do my best to understand you and accept you. Part of that is not blaming you when I get triggered and not being angry or frustrated. I may go through those levels but ultimately, coming to a place of acceptance and giving you that gift because it is a great gift when people accept me. You must accept me to the level that you would make it through all of these, which is the full episode of me rambling. That is awesome.
I will be back with another guest episode. According to my calendar, I have an episode that I have not even recorded yet so we will both be surprised. I don’t know what it will be like at this moment. I do know who it is, but I don’t remember what this person and I were going to talk about, so that is fun. Stay tuned for that. I hope to hear from you. At this point, I’m learning to allow whatever communication comes through.
Lastly, I tend to read every comment, email, and message that I get, but sometimes I’m a little slow in my response, especially now that I’m doing all this on my own. Know that I have probably seen it. You can always follow up with me if it is important to you for me to respond, and I would appreciate that. I will get back to you as soon as I can. I will see you back next time with a guest and next Monday with my solo episode. If you have any suggestions or topics you would like to see me cover, send them in those messages. I want to address it. Until then, I wish you all the best with your own journey in processing your emotions and being more of a human instead of a statue. Bye.
- Web3 with Whitney
- Wellevatr – YouTube
- Whitney Lauritsen – YouTube
- Why do some people point out other people’s imperfections/weaknesses and tell them to their face? Is it a lack of proper upbringing?
- Is Being Right Overrated? How To Talk With People You Care About Who Have Opposite Opinions
- The Work
- ALOK – Instagram post
Love the show? Subscribe, rate, review, and share!
Join the This Might Get Uncomfortable community today: