Addicted to Criticism

If there were a room full of woman talking about you, would you want to know what was being said? Honestly. If you were given the headphones for the bug in that room, would you put them on? If you had asked me this a month ago, my answer would have been yes. If someone thought I was doing something wrong, I’d want to know! If someone thought I was doing amazing work, I’d want to feel the satisfaction of hearing their praise. When you’re the subject of a conversation, you can’t help but want in, whether it’s to defend yourself, to better yourself, or just to feel better about yourself- if the conversation’s a pleasant one, that is. But I’m learning more and more that it’s much healthier to just turn around and walk away. In this modern era where you can essentially become a proverbial fly on the wall, thanks to public message boards or blog comments, it’s far too easy to become unhealthily interested in what people think of you, and even worse- addicted to the criticism.

Our first experiences with gossip usually start at a young age, and for girls, it can be vicious and debilitating from the start. Body shaming, personal style criticism, sharing of a humiliating story, or making fun of shortcomings- I’m sure you can relate to one if not all of these areas of criticism young girls make us aware of from an early age. Often those comments coming from youngsters originate from the speaker’s personal insecurities, but that little girl spewing the hurtful words is usually incapable of understanding the fact that bringing others down is a way of making herself feel better- and she’s certainly not ready to realize that those feelings are fleeting when they’re based on criticisms instead of encouragement. When we grow older, though, we become more responsible for our words and ideally should have come to understand how delicate doling out criticism can be, and how to tactfully sandwich such unappealing concerns in between encouragement and love. Or else just to keep our mouths shut and move on.

I have the possibly unusual personality trait that I crave criticism. Can you relate? Criticism doesn’t necessarily make me feel good, but because I have perfectionistic tendencies, criticism reveals to me the ways I can push harder to become a better person. In college I heard of a group of people who thought that I was a snob. It was so shocking to me, because I rarely entertain thoughts of being better than anyone else and I am personally turned off by social groups that give off an air of exclusivity. Did others feel this way too? I began to fret. I evaluated how my actions, my demeanor, and my words could possibly make anyone think I was a snob. I obsessed with being friendly to everyone- sitting with those who sat alone and making more friends than I knew what to do with. Though I was trying to be a good person, it was really unhealthy, and looking back I could see that I was more concerned with proving people (or my own self-doubts) wrong than I was about just living an emotionally healthy life without worrying how it looked from the outside.

I’ve struggled through my whole life with wondering what others think of me, and obsessing over it when I sometimes found out. Making healthy decisions for my life, such as saying no to requests or opportunities when I’m already too busy, can cause such anxiety in me that I have difficulty breathing- just because I wonder and obsess over how others might react to my decisions. My concern for my reputation is usually utmost on my priority list, when my concern for my quality of life and my personal character should be much higher. It’s not as if I’m ever purposefully more concerned about cultivating an image more than a healthy life, but this is inevitably what happens when you allow an unhealthily high regard for the opinion of others to grow in your heart.

For some people, fear of what others may think can prohibit them from putting themselves out there in healthy ways, like becoming published, pinning your art on the crit board in school, speaking in public, or even just walking across a room in an outfit that you worry you can’t “pull off.” For me, I don’t fear what others think as much as I just need to know. Like photographers who can’t get their pictures from the memory card to the internet fast enough, I want to know what people think in order that I might improve myself or else be validated and encouraged by what people have to say.

For the most part, my experience with the internet has been kind. Usually when you put out kindness, kindness returns to you. But as I’m sure you know, that’s not always the case. Some of my friends have had it way worse in their experiences with online bullying, but I was really shocked back in 2011 when after receiving repeated harassing comments from the same anonymous person on my blog, I then discovered how she found me from a message board talking about me. The message board wasn’t over-the-top cruel by any means, but it’s just weird when you have a rather inane presence on the internet, as I’ve had, and people are somehow still offended by it and feel the need to take it to the next level by repeatedly harassing you at your blog home. I was amazed by how easily people justify their hurtful words. And I was shocked by people’s extreme reactions to my harmless little blog to the point that I couldn’t look away or forget. Years later, I found out about GOMI and spent way too much time on there reading criticisms with the intent of bettering my own blog from their feedback. But instead, reading those critical message boards made me more jaded and less likely to hit the publish button without sometimes completely compromising my original vision for the sake of considering how people might react to what I put out there.

The fact that any and every action a blogger puts out there can and will be dissected by calloused and cavalier strangers who don’t know you and don’t care to understand your heart or where you’re coming from- it’s scary. And it totally blows to pieces my former desires to know what people think about everything I do. I had always unabashedly enjoyed crit time in art school. I thrived on criticism and had found a balance between considering the criticism and knowing when to just follow my gut instincts instead. But there’s something so personal about a blog and opening your heart, that I think it can be really unhealthy to seek out what negative responses your heartfelt sharing may have incurred.

Since reading that first critical message board about my blog, I have certainly developed thicker skin. It’s important to be able to delineate personal criticism from criticism about your work. It’s easy to become too invested in the work you put out there, because let’s face it- you pour a lot of yourself and your emotions into it! You sacrifice of yourself to work hard on a project that you’re really proud of, and it stings a little when people think it’s stupid. Sometimes a negative reaction is just a difference in style or opinion, when other times it might be valid. A former professor of mine would famously say to our class, “Just because you spent a lot of time on something doesn’t mean it’s any good.” I certainly keep that in mind when developing ideas and deciding if a project is ready to be published. And I do enjoy interacting with critical commenters (the kinder ones, that is), because those conversations can develop an idea even further than I had originally intended it to go- which can be really great! Criticism in blog comments can offer more helpful criticism than anonymous message boards, because they are kinder and usually come from an intent to help the blogger see something from a different perspective, and that can be a great tool for growth. That’s the kind of criticism that naturally finds its way to you and can keep perfectionists like me from seeking out the scarier criticism that lurks in dark places on the internet.

I’ve finally come to terms with at least a little bit of how unhealthy my desire to unearth criticism has been in my life. Like I said- and we all know- criticism can be a healthy tool for improvement, but when it begins to steal your joy and causes you to hesitate in developing your true self, that’s when it becomes harmful. I’ve learned that reading message boards like those found at GOMI brings me down more than it causes me to improve, so I’ve decided as hard as it is to look away, I must. Would I willingly hang out with a person who is constantly critical? No. So why spend any of my time that way on the internet? It doesn’t really make sense when I spell it out that plainly, though I’ll be honest- it’s difficult to not pop in there and see if anything has been said about me or my projects.

This year I’m working on being kinder to myself, and so I’m learning to let go of my unhealthy addiction to criticism. I’m hard enough on myself as it is- adding another negative voice isn’t going to make my own any gentler. I hope you’re able to take practical steps towards being kinder and truer to yourself too- and let’s not forget to not just be kind to ourselves, but especially to those we share life with. Encouragement does more good than the most thoughtful criticisms ever could!

Top image adapted from an original illustration from Highlights For Children, June-July, 1969.

49 Responses

  1. Marcia says:

    Mandi,
    Wow. You poured it out. Thank you. Just so you know the POSITIVE influence you have on us followers is enormous! I follow you because I find value in what you offer, and learn from it. Women can be so mean to each other sometimes, yet I bet almost very single one of us has a “mean girl” story from our youth. I had no idea there were forums online that exist for the simple purpose of tearing other people down! Shows my era, I guess. There are ways to offer opinions and critiques with kindness and gentleness. Our differences is what makes life interesting. I hope people will learn to be better….

  2. Marisa says:

    I discovered GOMI once while wandering the internet, and I felt almost dirty reading the cruel things people would say about bloggers. It really reveals what is in their hearts.

  3. Becky says:

    That kind of criticism makes me feel awful. And I mean comments about others, not even myself. Such an honest post.

  4. First of all: I love this post. You’re really rocking these serious blog/internet issue posts lately.

    I don’t think I’d want to read it about myself; I’m curious about what others think of me, but I wear my heart on my sleeve and would be deeply hurt if someone was nasty to me. With that said, I’ll confess that I’m addicted to reading criticism about other people. I’m a long-time reader of GOMI and ONTD. When you first find these sites, it’s a natural curiosity that keeps you coming back. And I think, to be fair, both of them began in the spirit of critically looking at the people they discuss… not necessarily tearing them apart for personal reasons, but looking at the work they were producing through a critical lens. In other words, they were created as a space for the discussions weren’t being allowed on the blogs or in the gossip rags. Unfortunately, as more people jump into the conversation it naturally takes a turn and usually for the worse. I think the more commercialized blogs get, the worse the criticism from GOMI (and other sites) will get. Honestly, it’s really easy to forget that people are people when they’re right in front of us; the fact that so many bloggers go from being open and honest about the people they are to becoming “professional bloggers” who sort of remove their personalities from their blogs makes it even easier to forget that they’re people.

    I know I’ve written some really mean things about bloggers online, but I’ve also said some really mean things about the people I know IN REAL LIFE. And the people I really, really love. I’m just a person (and a sinner!) just like everyone else. I’ve been feeling like I need to re-evaluate my gossip problem, and this post feels like exactly what I needed to read to push me over the edge and take some serious steps. Sorry for the book-length comment :)

  5. Rubyellen says:

    Word. I totally feel you! Great post Mandi! I’ve been wanting to share my similar thoughts on this too.

  6. rubyellen says:

    Word. I totally feel you! I’ve been wanting to share my thoughts on this too. Great post Mandi!

  7. Jenni says:

    Thanks so much for sharing this, Mandi. I’ve been thinking a lot about this subject lately. I recently discovered GOMI and a thread on one of my favourite blogs. I was absolutely appalled by what was being written. Criticism is one thing, but it shocking when people can be downright hateful toward someone they don’t even necessarily know! I got into a discussion about it with my husband and we both agreed that if someone hates a blog so much that they want them off the internet, wouldn’t it be more beneficial to STOP READING IT, rather than keep reading while posting how much you hate them?!? Their obsessive hatred is only contributing to a blogger’s success! And I also wonder if people have that much low confidence that they feel the need to invest in hating on others in the internet world to make them feel better about themselves. It’s really shocking to me. I just started a new blog and couldn’t help but think about these things as I begin to put more of myself out there.

  8. Jenni says:

    p.s. even if you enjoy a little criticism… I have none! I love your blog and feel very inspired by your posts!

  9. HM says:

    With all due respect, this is something that bothers me about bloggers. As a blogger, you are putting your “life” out on the internet. The big, wide open internet. For all to see. And not only that, but it is your work. You are collecting money for it in the form of paid advertising that lines the sides of your blog. Blogging has evolved (from three years ago when you brought that Two Peas post up) from people’s personal stories and ideas to where it is today, a very lucrative industry where bloggers are able to get paid monetarily and with goods they promote. There are new laws and disclosures that weren’t there before to “protect” both the reader and the blogger from the information being delivered via “the blog.” Blogging isn’t the personal journals of people on the internet anymore. Bringing up a message board post from 3 years ago, (and linking your readers to it…cringe!) when blogging was completely different than it is now is not a fair comparison. At the end of the day, Blogging is a job that you get paid for and you have to take the good with the bad. It is your JOB to do so. As a reader, I look at it like a business. If I don’t like the way a coffee place makes coffee, as a consumer I can go on the internet (Yelp, for example) and say so as a comment about that business. I also have the freedom as a consumer (or reader) to do that about a blog because it is also a business. If you don’t like that “sting” of people not necessarily liking what you post or if they choose to express their opinions to their friends in conversation, or on a message board, or a billboard for that matter, then maybe a different job would be better for you. I’m glad that you’ve moved on from being addicted to what other people think about you. It seems like you are stronger for realizing the truth about what the role of a blogger actually is. Continue with your success in earnest. It would be hypocritical of you if you thought that putting your “life” out there for promotion and compensation would come without at least some sort of occasional bad criticism. I wish you continued success with your blog. You are a great designer and very talented.

    • Mandi says:

      Thanks for your thoughtful feedback! When I talk about criticism being healthy, I mean about work produced and shared or attitudes displayed for the world to see. If you got on Yelp and gave disrespectful feedback about how a barista (called out by name) at a certain coffee shop was fat and shouldn’t be waring those pants, and her husband, who you saw standing by, is probably gay, then you might understand the kind of weirdness that bloggers deal with. If you wrote about how the service at the shop was slow and the coffee was stale- then that’s a different and completely valid matter.

      I never linked to that Two Peas post when it was new and relevant to my life because I agree that it would’ve been tacky. But now I link to it three years later, it being completely detached and irrelevant to what my blog is today, to show what kind of shameful conversations are happening behind anonymous names about real people. I linked to it so that readers can clearly see for themselves in that the conversations quickly go beyond criticism and bring up body shaming and weird insinuations about my husband being gay, all for the sake of disgusting entertainment. These sorts of conversations have become generally accepted, and I’m not okay with that whether it’s about me or someone I don’t know.

      While my blog isn’t a journal about everything in my life, it is a actually just a passion project of mine that I’m compensated pennies on the hour for. I don’t disclose how much money I make from this blog, because it’s just weird to talk about, I guess. Though I think readers might be very surprised to know how little income it generates. I make my income from contributing to other websites, such as A Beautiful Mess, and that’s what I consider to be my job. I don’t get money from the affiliate links on my sidebar until the rare moment when someone buys something after clicking through. And I do a little happy dance when that makes me a few dollars! haha! I’m not even kidding. The disclaimered sponsored posts that occasionally pop up are the only real income this blog generates for me, and the cost is plainly laid out for that in my sponsor information page. So while I do welcome criticism on how I present a sponsored post, or something like that, it becomes a much larger issue when women start bullying campaigns targeting other women, as is so perfectly displayed in that Two Peas message board. That’s not to say I can’t handle it when it gross gossip about me happens, but rather it’s something I call out because I think it should snap all of us back to reality to reconsider what we’ve all accepted as normal behavior on the internet and how detrimental it can be to everyone involved.

      If I were to make a decent amount of money from this blog, would it be finally be socially acceptable to talk about my vagina and my husband actually being in the closet (what?!) and my being too fat to wear high waisted pants? I mean… I hope not. Those thoughts were what led to be giving up celebrity gossip magazines. If it’s not right to say about my friends, I won’t read it about a stranger, regardless of if they’re a celebrity.

      • H says:

        You seem like you want to not care what people think, but then you’re responding to someone’s (mine) honest opinon in this manner. I don’t know you personally, and I don’t know your husband. I’m sorry that people said personal things about you and your husband that weren’t true and that you didn’t like. I’m sorry that they called you by your own name when they said those things. Maybe they thought it was okay to say your name since this information (about your name, not the untrue things) information that you’ve made public by being a blogger. They mistakenly thought you putting your name on your post made it okay to say mean things and that just stinks. Maybe that’s not okay for them to do so, but that’s a matter of opinion, too. It’s rather unfortunate that people can make comments based on something that they only have half an idea about. I agree with you completely. But not everyone is coming from the same place as you, maturity wise.

        What I do know? I know that you blog, contribute to other blogs, and get paid to do so. (You stated yourself it doesn’t matter how much, but then go on to tell me that it’s really not much… not that it matters… but it does?) I guess I’m just confused. Your “work produced” and personal photos/experiences/stories you share via your blog are one in the same, are they not? If someone doesn’t like it, then oh well. They might like the next thing you do. They might move on to another blog. Either way, why let it bug you to the point you’d have to defend yourself? I might do my job and it won’t be to someone’s standards one day and maybe I’ll hear about it from one of my clients, but that’s life. I’ll use it learn and move on.

        In the end, kindness and honesty win. Sometimes unfortunately they don’t always go hand in hand skipping along like we’d like them to. But, the rare times that they do, it should be celebrated. Bringing up a past hurt is not a way to celebrate that. This is a great conversation, and I thank you for that. Again, great work on your blog and I’m glad you have learned a seemingly valuable lesson here, as you wrote in your post. I know that I have. Thank you for sharing that with us, your readers. Keep up the good work. The work that you are doing is both unique and great, you have a gift and talent for design and lifestyle/fashion/DIY blogging and producing content that reflects that talent.

        • Mandi says:

          Well, I do care about what people think, I just try not to obsess over it. I also care a lot about the acceptability of bullying. Criticism and bullying are different, but the line between is easily blurred. What you’ve shared are thoughtful responses, and I don’t find them overly critical and definitely not bulling. I love engaging in conversations when I write more thoughtful posts like these, but I didn’t mean to come across as bitter or defensive. I would like to add one more thought, though, and it’s about the bullying (not criticism) that was exemplified in that two peas post- bullying is never okay, and I wish people didn’t dismiss it so easily by saying cavalier things like, “well what do you expect when you put yourself out there?” Don’t you think it’s sad that we’ve trained ourselves as a society to expect bullying? If it’s not okay to bully a classmate on Facebook, then it’s not okay to bully a for-profit blogger, regardless of how little or how much money they make. There are no qualifiers for acceptable bullying. (And I do mean bullying, not criticism.)

          I don’t mean any of this to sound self defensive, I just think this is a great platform to talk about these kinds of things and delve see into issue we all deal with.

          • Sorry to but in. I don’t really think someone saying you have a camel toe and your husband is gay once on a message board is bullying. It’s hurtful, but unless someone is engaging in a repeated pattern of intimidating behavior and there’s some sort of imbalance of power then you’re not a victim of bullying, you’re a victim of regular ol’ mean-spirited gossip. That’s not the same thing. I think it’s important to distinguish between the two, because when you call everything that hurts your feelings bullying then you end up diminishing the real life experiences of people who are actually being bullied.

            • Mandi says:

              You’re right- a one time occurrence is not bullying. I actually didn’t know this definition until my (school teacher) husband and I had a conversation about it last month during their bullying conferences. This one instance I’m talking about began with several nasty comments through the coarse of the month, all from the same IP address. I was starting to get a little freaked out, since I had rarely ever seen a negative comment of any kind, much less one from the same person calling me fat, telling me I needed to lose weight, or telling me that I looked stupid in the clothes I wore. I ended up finding out that this person was from the Two Peas message board, which I made slight reference to in my comment that I made on that thread. That’s the only time I’ve actually been bullied on the internet, and my tiny little thread at GOMI is really mundane and not an example of bullying. However, GOMI is a home to people who not only frequently gossip about other bloggers, but some of whom make repeated harassing comments on those women’s blogs and even send threatening e-mails. (I’m not talking about comments that offer criticism- I’m talking about actual harassing comments.) Fortunately I haven’t had that happen to me in a very long time, and it was only ever from that one person, but it’s just freaky to me that some people visit the same message board every day to bring down some of my friends, and take those comments to their blog too in case she didn’t read them at the forum. :(

            • Nicci says:

              I agree with what Rachel said . Perhaps it is because I come from a line of work where bullying and hazing were actual concerns (military) but I find it inappropriate when bloggers complain about how they are so mistreated because someone on the internet said something that wasn’t nice. Do I condone people putting down others? Well, no of course not and neither do I ascribe to the notion that every aspect of a blogger’s life is fair game for commentary because they put their face out there.

              What I am getting at here is it is very important to distinguish the difference between being insulted and being bullied. It is perfectly okay to be hurt by a rude comment but to cry bullying undermines the severity of the act.

              At the end of the day it isn’t really your business what someone else thinks of you.

            • Mandi says:

              So this conversation seems to have taken a turn completely away from what my post’s original intention was, but that’s okay! I wanted to mention that your comment about how somehow my words undermine what others are going through really rubs me the wrong way. I’m speaking as someone who has an issue with this myself- but we have to be careful about using our own experiences as qualifiers for the importance of other’s. Because the version of bullying you’ve seen is so awful, anything else lesser (in your mind) than that is suddenly irrelevant, or not important? I’ve had blogger friends admit in confidence about their entire families being threatened, addresses leaked, repeated harassing e-mails- and because it’s on the internet, it doesn’t matter? If you think I’m undermining what others are going through, then you should probably consider that you may be trivializing what others are going through as well. I wasn’t harping on being bullied, or even making a big deal out of my own experiences- I had thought I made that clear that others have had it way worse, while my own experiences were quite tame.

              I was just reminded of a quote I saw floating around a while back that really spoke to me when I was wallowing in my own self pity of having cancer. I looked at others’ sicknesses and despairs with a weird piety- like I had it so much worse, so how dare they complain about anything they were going through if they still had breath to breathe. The quote was, “Telling someone they can’t be sad because others have it worse is like saying someone can’t be happy because others have it better.” You may want to be careful to not use your own experiences to insinuate or straight out tell people that their perspectives are wrong, just because they are different from your own- even when it comes to something as severe as bullying.

              It’s interesting that the comments took this turn, though- I totally didn’t see that coming! My intent in this post was definitely to inspire people to kinder to themselves in the light of criticism, and when you begin to feel debilitated by your need to please, to learn to let those things go and focus on just doing “you.” :)

        • Mandi says:

          I hope you don’t mind me replying so much! I just think these are great things to talk about as a blog community. :) yours was the most thoughtful comment I had received and there was a lot to spring off of.

    • Meg says:

      I think you’re mistaken about blogs. I don’t see how they’ve changed as drastically as you say within the last three years. The majority of blog ARE still personal journals. Blogging is not as lucrative as you say and most bloggers do not get compensation. Even if they do place ads on their site, that is not justification for needlessly saying horrible things about them.

      Mandi, you have a wonderful blog and I’m sorry you’ve had these kind of experiences.

    • Susan Nuyt says:

      Thank you for the uplifting, encouraging article that you wrote. I think this is needed to have been read by all bloggers. It’s difficult, enough, trying to get somewhere with what drives us in the way of our passions and goals to market our stuff. People are cruel out there, no doubt. They just don’t like it when someone is determined to do what they can’t find the ambition to do, themselves! Amen that we are different in great ways!
      I love your blog, you are awesome!

  10. I don’t know when it switched for me, but I’m almost at the point where I don’t give a single, solitary, crap about what people think about me. I know I’m a good person, I know my heart, the good lord knows my heart, and if you feel like you do, and you don’t like it, kiss my entire black ass.

    Now, I think you’re starting to get to that point too! How does it feel? :)

    • Mandi says:

      Haha! I’ve still a ways to go before I’m that awesome. I think I’ll always care about what people think, because it’s in my nature, but I’m learning to quit obsessing over it. :)

  11. First, good for you for having the balls to write this! And the one recently about your house being a mess and moving things out of the way to take pictures so it looks clean.. loved that!

    I started blogging about a year ago to give my out of town family a way to be a part of our lives. My daughter is 15 months old, we live on one income, so we’re not visiting family all around the country. It’s just kind of the way people do things now anyway! Point is, when I first started my blog, my daughter’s nursery was featured on Apartment Therapy. I was so thrilled! I had been reading AT for several years, so I felt lucky and like a teeny fish being able to take a swim in a huge pond. The first day it was up I got obsessed with the comments; I got some really great ones and some really hurtful ones. My friends were upset someone was “attacking” me so they all reported them and AT took them down. One person said I ripped off another bloggers style, but I had never even heard of that blogger until that moment. I was really upset and obsessed over it. I even blogged about it:
    http://whenlifegivesyoumellins.blogspot.com/2013/07/rising-above.html

    My husbands company is the largest in what they do and they have full on forums dedicated to talking crap about them. It’s quite ridiculous. I talked to him about how upset I was over the negative comments on our daughters nursery and he told me “the internet is for hating other people”. It’s so disgusting and so true!

    It’s hard to avoid people being nasty. I wonder how all you big time bloggers handle it. Especially on Instagram having to read through hundred of comments on one photo with half of them being inappropriate and negative. I keep my account private and usually don’t approve many followers.. which I guess doesn’t make much sense because I have a public blog.

    I have been following you since right before you got pregnant with miss Lucy and I think you’re doing an amazing job! I am so happy for all of your success and I look forward to reading much more from you :)

    xo
    -Ali

  12. Alison says:

    While I understand what you’re trying to communicate, and I absolutely agree that mean people suck, I also feel that it’s important to remember that it’s part of human nature to have opinions and express them, whether they are positive or negative. And really, it’s a beautiful thing when it’s used responsibly, and I would never want it to change. The internet simply gives people a venue to express themselves, it’s why we’re all here. Do people abuse this freedom? Of course they do. Anonymity makes people brave (and stupid). While that’s sad, it’s also unrealistic to expect people to be only positive all the time. This is where personal responsibility comes into play. Know the rules before you play the game. And if you don’t like the rules, you really only have 2 options – don’t play at all, or take your chances. Is that cynical? Maybe. Personally I believe that “the world is changed by your example, not your opinion.”

  13. Liz says:

    Hi Mandi,

    Your blog posts are always so nicely articulated, thoughtful and honest. Its the main reason (as well as your excellent aesthetic, of course) that I continue to read and look forward to all that you post.

    I read a lot of blogs and they have become a source of entertainment (and at times inspiration) for me but I can see how it might be easy to forget that bloggers are real people especially when many readers respond to blog content in the same distant manner they would a magazine article or celebrity tabloid.

    I appreciate the reminder of the need to be a more thoughtful reader. I rarely post a comment. In fact, I only comment when I am moved to say something supportive (never nasty) such as in this instance (and I’m sure there are a lot of people like me who read and enjoy your work but never comment). However, I think the blog community (of people who blog and those who read those blogs) could stand to be reminded more often of the need to be more supportive and to direct their negative energy elsewhere.

    This post reminds me of Lindy West, a contributor to Jezebel, who, a few years ago, publicly responded to the extremely nasty comments she was receiving as a person who has an active presence on the web. She was really brave to stand up and address the malicious bullying. Here’s a link to the video: http://www.upworthy.com/theres-only-one-thing-to-do-when-the-internet-calls-you-fat

    In summary, I think your blog is great.

    Best,
    Liz

    • Mandi says:

      Thanks, Liz! I don’t see anything innately wrong in critical comments, but I’ve just noticed how I began obsessing over what possible negative responses any of my internet-based actions could incur- even before I had put anything out there! It can be debilitating. I overanalyze every idea before I develop it, and edit things too many times to admit! It’s exhausting and as they say, “Ain’t nobody got time for that!” I just gotta let go of the overly critical voice in my head and just do me.

      I hope this post didn’t come across as entitled and like I demand everyone just be sugary sweet or else shut up- but it is good to consider how we present criticism when we feel that it really truly is needed. :) I hope this post could encourage other bloggers, writers, and artists to just chill out and have fun with what they do without worrying about how people will always respond!

  14. Vanessa says:

    Wow, that is disgusting. Why do people feel like they can be so cruel online with no consequences? Bullying is unacceptable anywhere. I’m also surprised like– don’t these women have anything better to do with their time, something more productive, than trash bloggers. It scares me and makes me much more hesitant to share my personal journey on my blog (which I make no money from). The point of blogs in my mind is to CONNECT with people. Not to be targeted out for openly displaying your passions, interests and personality online. Those people need to take a good look in the mirror and find out what inner pain and insecurities their actions are really stemming from.

  15. Mandi,
    You don’t know me and I don’t know you, but…can I just say that I quite enjoy your style and I adore your vintage style! The internet gives some people unlimited “beer balls” and it’s quite sad really. You just continue to be fabulous and post those vintage fashion photos! Which, btw you have been slacking on as of late ;) haha.

    • Mandi says:

      Haha! I knooow! Winter will never end. I can’t take Lucy out in the cold to sit outside while I prance around for pics because taking them indoors is so lame. :) and even if it is warm, getting Lucy to not run away during pictures is a challenge. Mommy fashion blogging is quite the challenge!

  16. Jackie says:

    Hi Mandi,
    I honestly love the fact that you can go out and say what you feel like that. It’s very inspiring to me, as I am still in high school and therefore am still not sure of myself in what I do, say and wear.
    Thank you for loving yourself and showing me how to do the same!! :)
    Jackie

  17. Elizabeth says:

    At this point I give zero shits about what strangers on the internet think about me, my blog content, my life, my (assumed) income, my history, or anything else. I get to decide what I share and while strangers can gossip and bully and be cruel about it all day long on some message board in a corner of the internet I will never deem worthy of my click, I will never ever let that determine my self worth, my blog content, or anything else for that matter. I will determine the quality of my blog content elsewhere, thank you very much. From people who I know personally and whose opinions actually matter to me. I say “criticize” away, people with nothing better to do with your time than spread negativity and hate, I will spend my days doing things that are far more productive than read your asinine drivel.

    • Mandi says:

      I wish I could just not care at all. But at least I’m learning to care less! Baby steps, right?

      • Elizabeth says:

        I mean, it’s obviously a constant battle, but I’ve found the most important thing is not letting those voices become part of your internal reel that plays over and over and gives you your self worth. That reel should be filled with the voices of people who truly love you and know you as fully as possible.

  18. Laurn says:

    What a shame that grown ups still have the mindset of children. I personally love your blog and your style. Your blog is so real and honest, you don’t hide the ups and downs, you share them. Which is not something I can say for most blogsI read.

    Every women is her own biggest critic. Why some feel the need to publish their opinions to try to hurt someone’s feelings is beyond me. If you don’t like it, don’t read it!

    Your blog has a lot of heart and helps me, the reader, feel connected to you. I wish I knew you in real life. You’re awesome <3

  19. Sarah says:

    Sigh. This makes me sad. Not all of GOMI is like that. Some bloggers seem to inspire a lot of anger, but other threads are much more supportive. I post mainly in the Members Only forum because there is a wonderful, supportive community there where bashing bloggers is not the main goal. There are a lot of good people there who support each other, with words and emails but also with financial donations.

    I found GOMI in the first place because a particular blogger posted some really ridiculous, racist nonsense about Trayvon Martin, and 16,000 people on tumblr liked it. I left a reply that was very polite and linked to proven, factual inconsistencies in the way the laws in FL are carried out, ans basically said (VERY politely) that her post seemed really insensitive considering Zimmerman just got off on murdering someone. She was basically cheering that someone was dead and the man who killed him was free. So tasteless, and shocking coming from someone who’s blog I had always liked.

    What happened to my comment? It never appeared. It was not an anonymous comment and the blogger (literally the quintessential white girl raised in privilege) emailed me arguing about why Trayvon deserved to die, basically. She wouldn’t post my comment because I’m sure she thought it made her look bad, but had no issue emailing me personally. I decided to let it slide and still followed her blog. A month later I went to make another comment that was a compliment on her style and discovered that I was completely blocked from her site. I couldn’t comment at all.

    I get it, it’s your blog to do with what you want, but it’s sad in this day and age adults can’t have an open discussion about racism and the inequity of how the law is upheld depending on a person’s skin color. If you are going to post racist comments, then delete every comment that says, Hey that’s racist!, then hell yeah I am going to GOMI to complain about it because that’s really screwed up. “Here’s my opinion, if you don’t like it, take your toys to another sandbox.” Again, that is the blogger’s perspective, but from my perspective as the reader of the blog, when your racist comments make us as a culture look bad and literally, truly make me angry, and you refuse to even allow a discussion about it, then your readers will find another place to complain about it – hence GOMI. If all a blogger wants is sycophants and yes-men who will “DIE” over a picture of your new pedicure, then A) I feel sorry for that person, and B) people who read your blog will get pissed and complain about it somewhere else.

    The irony in all of this, of course, is that people have no issue insulting the people who post on GOMI for being insulting on GOMI. It’s a tad pot kettle to me. People here have said it’s sad and immature to post on GOMI because adults don’t pick apart other adults…but isn’t that what you are doing by calling people who post on GOMI sad and immature?

    • Kait says:

      Urg. Too bad your comment wasn’t well received. =/ It isn’t easy for people to step outside their bubbles, where the world all makes sense, and consider a more uncomfortable perspective.

      But yeah, you make a good point about GOMI. I’ve a number of really interesting discussions and personal stories there, which have widened my perspective. And I think there is little wrong with the criticism aimed at bloggers who are promoting harmful information or scaming or otherwise hurting people.

  20. Jules says:

    Ah GOMI.
    I found it a few months ago via a Forbes article about the best websites for women. That’s a real laugh now that I know the site better. I find myself going to the site almost daily while I’m here at work – it truly is like an addiction. One that I really hate myself for but can’t seem to quit.

    I’d say that a lot of the snark on there is actually quite fair – some bloggers have become so out of touch with reality that they just beg to be talked about. Other blogs have garnered “fame” and somehow have become “million dollar businesses” despite having true talent and it’s a phenomenon that again, begs to be discussed.

    However – there’s criticism – constructive or otherwise – and then there’s downright mean-spirited nitpicking. I think a lot of the nasty commenters on GOMI use the public nature of the Internet as justification for their awful black hearts. I also think that a lot of those “mean girls” (for lack of a better term) are from small, insular towns who don’t see a lot of diversity in their lives and lash out at anyone who is not like them. Classic bullying behaviour.

    My hands aren’t clean. I won’t sit here and pretend I’ve never said a mean thing about someone else on GOMI. I have – and I feel unsettled about it. My place on GOMI has changed, my angle is different. GOMI is so often a vacuum where humanity gets sucked away and I’m just trying call attention to it. It ruffles some feathers, sometimes it finds a kindred spirit – when it does, I know the world’s not such a soulless place after all.

    I’ll probably go straight there after I hit “Submit Comment” here – but I try to tell myself I’m on there to see examples of crappy women saying crappy things and to help remind myself to set my bar higher.

    Keep chugging along, Mandi. You seen like a genuinely sweet person – in the end, it’s yourself you have to answer to and if you know you did right, then all is swell.

  21. Nora says:

    Thanks for sharing this. It amazes me how I let any criticism gnaw away at me too. People could be super kind and say dozens of wonderful things, but I will get stuck on the littlest bit of negative feedback. Reading your thoughts was a great reminder to keep working to let that go.

  22. Lara says:

    Those comments are so mean. I’m disgusted. How are people able to waste their time with this nonsense?
    I’ve been loving and reading your blog for years now, just so you know.

  23. Kate says:

    I think the problem is that the criticism is unwarranted. What makes someone feel the need to tell you how much they do not like something?

    Also – it takes ten positives to outweigh a negative. So one bad comment in the bunch is gonna stick out.

    The negativity tells us much more about the person than it does about you. And you are wonderful. So very very wonderful.

    But as unpleasant as this is it is a learning experience – and sounds like you have grown immensely from it which really is the only thing that matters. How have you (or I or anyone) grown as a person?

    The hateful people have to live with themselves and that is a fate far crueler. I would rather hang out with your blog than any of those very angry people.

    You bring light and creativity to the blog world. Keep on :)

  24. I really think if you can’t say something in love then keep your ideas to yourself. Great post Mandi and food for thought. Learning to be kind to ourselves is probably the ultimate kindness we can show to ourselves when where blogging. X

  25. Lisa W. says:

    WOW…never heard of GOMI, and I guess I really don’t want to after reading all this STUFF!! GEESH…I simply like to read your blog. AND that’s it, nothing else!!!!

    I love your vintage style, I love your old movie previews, I love decorating blogs, AND my gosh how can anyone NOT love Lucy!!!! My lttle lady is almost 20yrs. old. SO seeing Lucy posts makes my heart flutter.

    The heck with the rest…keep the blogging coming. AND goodness sakes stay away from those sick people.

    Love your blog:)

  26. Sarah says:

    This is an important post, and I’m really glad I read it. Unfortunately, this kind of problem isn’t restricted to the Internet, but it does seem to take on a particularly unfortunate overtone when people post anonymously and when they say things about you that aren’t germaine to the content you’re putting out in the first place. As someone whose blog is new, not her job and still very much in the personal journal camp, I don’t have to deal with this, but I still don’t think people should express opinions of any sort unless they have a real purpose behind them. Expressing opinions merely for the sake of airing judgments are the kinds of things we should keep inside our heads or, at worst, behind closed doors with our best friend and a bottle of wine. I’m sorry you’ve had to go through this and I’m encouraged by what I read, since it’s something I struggle with myself … in life in general.

  27. sarah says:

    oh my word. I just had to google GOMI and I am SO SORRY that I did. I felt ill immediately. The dark side of the internet, for sure!
    So sorry you’ve had to deal with internet bullies/nastiness. Some people are so incredibly small.

  28. Jacqueline says:

    Hi there! Your candid words in this post align with much that I have been struggling with. I would like for you to know you are wonderful! I appreciate you for being unapologetically honest with yourself and the world, and for doing the work it takes to get there!! The path we take to find our true selves is incredibly challenging, but absolutely beautiful one. You are truly an inspiration for one to follow their dreams. Thank you.

    p.s. I bookmarked your blog! The only one to make it to my favorites bar!!

  29. Kat Curling says:

    I have a lot of respect for you reading this. I came across GOMI a while back and I literally was in shock that people could spend so much time dedicated to bashing any one person. It’s so distasteful. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but why waste your time? It made really sad for man kind honestly. It almost made me want to quit blogging. While I don’t have a large blog presence or anything I wouldn’t want to hear/see of anyone analyzing my every tweet, judging my SON or digging into my personal history. I don’t take criticism well… so mad props to you for having such a positive outlook on it.

    I adore your blog and everything that you put out into the world to see. I admire you tremendously. =)

  30. June says:

    Wow, Mandi!

    I’ve been following you on A Beautiful Mess from the beginning and just today decided to peek at your blog to see more of you…this was the perfect post to land on for my first reading! Thanks for your honesty and sharing your experience!

  31. Kait says:

    I can so relate! I’m a pretty self critical person also, and I think reading rude or judgemental comentary, even if it’s about other people, does not really encourage me to be more gentle with myself. xD So I see where you’re comming from.

    I think such harsh criticism gets addictive because I want to know how to be perfect so as to avoid disdain, rejection, and other unpleasent responses from others. This kind of thinking results in my trying to please all the wrong people at the expense of the right people, and even sometimes forsaking my my own values and goals in the process. Not cool.

    When I suffer from my perfectionistic intollerance of mistakes, my boyfriend reminds me, “if you’re not making mistakes you’re not learning.” He’s one of the right people. ;)

    I agree that constructive critiques, especially in a learning environment–like a critique group or mentorship program or class or whatever–are awesome. They are also a good opportunity to practice self-compasion in exchange for inner meanie head thoughts. :P

    Anyway Mandi, I have only recently started reading your blog, and I enjoy it. Thank you for this introspection prompting post, and that helpful lighting tutorial which led me here in the first place! :)

  32. Kayla Seah says:

    Excellent post. GOMI is the absolute worst of my guilty pleasures. I really need to stop convincing myself there’s something constructive to be gained from that place.

  33. Jessica says:

    You are beautiful and inspiring. I struggle with many of these same issues and knowing that someone who I look up to so much does also is beyond comforting. Please only take in the positive, you are inspired don’t let anyone take that from you!