• Home
  • /
  • Blog
  • /
  • 3 Truths About Negativity + How to Overcome Your Harshest Critics

3 Truths About Negativity + How to Overcome Your Harshest Critics

3 Truths About Negativity

Truth #1: people who choose negativity are everywhere. 

Truth #2: people who choose negativity are wasting time.

Truth #3: you don’t have to let them waste yours.

Today we’re going to explore:

1) how you can avoid “people who choose negativity” (I don’t like to use the term “negative people” — we don’t know what they’re going through)

2) how to avoid wasting your own time

3) how to differentiate between negativity and useful critique

4) how to overcome negativity (and use it for something good!)

5) how to deal with rejection and failure you encounter on your quest for success — whatever your path may be.

(I call this “3 Truths About Negativity”, but you’ll probably find a few more than 3 packed into this post!)

Everyone experiences negativity — even me! Anyone who starts a new business of any kind will have to face it at some time or another.

Here are just a handful of some of the unkind things I’ve been told during the short life of ProofreadAnywhere:

  • “Nice scam.”
  • “Why would I buy anything from you? You don’t even have an English degree.”
  • “What a waste of time. Knowledge should be free.”

Meanies vs. Critics

Let’s differentiate: there’s a big difference between a rant-filled email from a “meanie” with no other purpose than to tear you down and one with criticism that you can actually use (even if it’s poorly delivered).

When I get constructive criticism, it’s not always easy to digest, but I know it’s a good thing.

If it’s useful information, it gives me a direct pathway to grow and improve, and it didn’t cost me a cent. It’s like having a consultant give you advice for free!

You may not always agree with the criticism — sometimes there are things going on behind the scenes only you understand fully — and that’s okay. You don’t have to feel like you’re a child being scolded whenever someone shakes a finger or expresses a dislike about something.

You don’t have to feel like you’re a child being scolded whenever someone shakes a finger or expresses a dislike about something. “

Ultimately, you are the boss in your business, and you get to make the final decision. Whatever decision you make, you need to feel good about it — don’t get roped into the trap of people-pleasing.

A student, Valerie, shared this quote with me recently. I think we should all buy t-shirts:


So there’s the good stuff, but there’s also the bad stuff to which no one’s immune, either, the stuff that’s meant as nothing more than a slap in the face, a punch in the gut, however you want to call it.

I’ve been criticized for openly calling out the “meanies” — these are folks who get angry for some reason and instead of handling it like an adult, say something hurtful.

These folks are not critics, and listening to them is a waste of time.

A recent example that sticks out: when we drastically expanded our course here on PA, I chose to make an announcement about the tuition increase. I asked for understanding and that anyone who felt the fee increase for a better course was unfair to please keep negativity to themselves and to treat me like a human.

Totally a fair request, right?

Many readers wrote in to tell me I had every right to increase tuition since I had packed in so much more value to the course. Many readers wrote in to tell me they were HAPPY I was a human, since they’d experienced very little “humanness” on the web in the past.

But there were also a few people who felt it was not okay for me to be open and request to be treated like a fellow human.

Some folks were caught in the web of misconception that to be a professional, you can’t be exactly who you are at the same time.

(This post proves that is not true.)

It was interesting to say the least. When I received the responses, I was like, “Umm… am I not allowed to be a human? Am I not allowed to express myself freely on the platform I created? Who made that rule? How’d you become perfect?!

Always Remember:

There is no rule, and no one is perfect. I know we can sometimes be our own harshest judges/critics, but we are all allowed to be human, and no one deserves to be treated otherwise. Just ’cause someone else doesn’t think so, doesn’t make it the rule.

One thing I’ve learned in the last few years is that some folks will always be on the lookout for something wrong, or something they interpret as wrong, with anything — perhaps as a form of self-sabotage —  and I’m [slowly] learning to be okay with that.

And this:

We can’t change people who don’t want to change.

We can’t help people who won’t help themselves.

We can’t always predict or control how people interpret us or our actions.

We’re only in charge of ourselves.

We have to let go of everything out of our control.

… but have you been told flat-out negative things in your quest to live your dream?

Maybe you’ve been told things like this:

  • “You should be happy you even have a job.”
  • “Yeah, we’ll see where this new venture goes.”
  • “Don’t you think you should just stay put?”
  • “Really? You’re going to try that? But it’s so much work.”

Maybe even your spouse or a family member is critical of something new you’d like to try. Maybe people are always trying to sabotage your weight loss.

The list is endless. 

Remember Truth #2? People who choose negativity are wasting time.

So when you receive a negative email, or someone makes a negative comment, realize they are literally wasting their breath, wasting their time — time they could be using to do something positive.

This goes for family, too, and family is the hardest. 

They mean well (usually). They may feel an innate sense of responsibility for your well-being, and even have a fear that if you go outside of the “safe” box, something bad will happen.

Even though you love them, they don’t always know what’s best for you or what you really need/want.

Family can often operate inside a box of age-old ideas, and any idea outside that box is labeled as wrong, stupid, careless, or irrational. Despite what they may tell you, family members don’t know you better than you know yourself.

What makes dealing with negativity from family members so hard?

I think what makes it especially hard when it comes to negativity or naysaying from family is that none of us ever got official permission to make our own decisions in life, so when we start making decisions different from what those close to us would make, their initial jerk reaction is “Um, no. That’s silly,” or “That’ll never work.”

No questions, no investigation, they just shut it down.

Who says they know it all?

Well … we kinda learned it that way.

It was beaten into our heads as kids that we have to listen to our elders, listen to our parents, that they know what’s best, and while there’s a lot of truth in that, you do grow up. You gather your own wisdom and learn your own way. We just never got a lesson in school or college to help us transition to the more flexible, reasonable, “grown-up” version of the “family knows best” idea: respect others’ opinions, but do what you feel is best.

Important takeaway: you’re an adult, you have one life, and you’re in charge of living it.

Imagine growing old having always done only what other people told you was best, even if it didn’t jive with what you felt was best. Wanted to become a proofreader but your dad told you it was a waste of time? Hated your job but your older sister said you’d be foolish to leave it? Always wanted to explore Europe but your best friend said it was too dangerous? Some of the best things in life happen when we take a risk and follow what’s inside us, that something we’ve always wanted to do, or that place we’ve always wanted to go.

DO IT. BECOME IT. GO THERE. There is always a way. 

Using Negativity As Fuel

If you entertain the negativity, you waste time, too.

That doesn’t mean you have to ignore it completely, but instead of letting it bring you down as was intended, allow it to fuel you.

Hear me on this: the best thing you can do to prove your nay-sayers and doubters wrong is succeed. And keep succeeding.

Not acquiesce to their negativity. Not quit because they’re probably right. Not argue with them. Not debate over it.

Just show them through your dedication and continued actions toward your goal.

If you’re toying with the idea of starting on a new path, whether that’s in proofreading or some other avenue, do not be surprised by criticism and negativity. It’s coming.

Expect it.

Plan for it.

I know that may sound way too easy. But trust me. It takes time to grow a thick skin, but you can do it. For me, the mean comments generally come from people who are not even students. They come from people who are probably too scared to try. People who might be looking for an easy way out (and making a career out of proofreading definitely isn’t easy!).

If they were students, they wouldn’t be complaining… they’d be saying things like this:

social proof

AWESOME, right?! I love, love, LOVE hearing success stories like these, and I will never grow tired of them — it’s the best feeling in the world to know you’re making a difference in people’s lives.

But still, I’m a human with feelings. Just like everyone else.

I don’t mind being raw with you about it, either.

When I read unkind emails/comments from people who’ve forgotten I’m a human, my skin flushes and burns, my heart rate goes up a bit … I sometimes find myself oddly embarrassed and the only thing that keeps me from crying is … well, I don’t know.

Early on, the horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach would linger for days, and at times I wondered if it would ever go away.

Remember a few months back we talked about fear? There was a time when I felt every negative email I received had some kind of power, that the person writing it was exposing me as some kind of fraud, that maybe they knew something I didn’t.

But none of that is true.

People who send unhelpful, unkind, negative emails to try and tear you down are just. wasting. time. Both your time and their time.

[I know, I know — it still sucks to have to sit there and get punched in the face by unkind people who hide behind their computer screens.]

Why do some humans think it’s okay to say unkind things to other humans?

Do they realize what it’s like to be on the receiving end?

There are some common theories.

Perhaps they want to make themselves feel better.

Maybe they’re jealous or envious of your success and are trying to sabotage you.

Maybe they’ve been hurt in the past (“hurt people hurt people”).

I try to give people the benefit of the doubt. Their negativity may have nothing to do with you, and it’s easy to forget the person on the other end of the email is a human — plus, we all make mistakes.

Realize whenever another person is outright negative toward you, it’s never a reflection on you.

Someone flipping out, calling names, acting with immaturity, making judgments, holding grudges — this behavior is always a reflection on their character, not yours.

What If You “Deserve” Negativity?

If you ever find yourself to truly be at fault for someone being upset with you (you will!), and you are met with negative behavior because of it, realize their reaction is their responsibility.

You may have indeed done or said something to hurt them, but the way they choose to react to that is 100% their choice.

No one forces anyone to become angry or to say unkind things. People choose these behaviors.

Similarly, the way you choose to react to their negative or unkind reaction is your choice.

There have been times where I’ve been confronted negatively because of a poor choice I’d made. Instead of reacting in the same tone I was met with, I chose to apologize and make it right, offering not an ounce of what I’ve come to call “defensive snarkiness.”

Was it hard? YEP. Especially in cases of total miscommunication, overreaction, and general misunderstanding, you will likely find it extremely hard not to flip out and get defensive trying to plead your case and prove wrong the person you’ve offended.

Just take a deep breath, and be a kind human being. Own up to whatever you did to cause the ruckus, and do what you can to make it right.

Again, their reaction to your positive efforts to resolve the conflict is still their responsibility. If they choose to respond with more verbal venom, cool. Let them waste their time. You just pick yourself up, having learned from your mistakes, and move on to bigger and better things.

Moving on is hard, but it feels so, so good.

How to Deal With a Person Who Chooses Negativity

Say to yourself, “Okay, they’re upset with me/don’t like me/think I’m horrible/whatever.”

Then ask yourself these questions (feel free to write your answers down — it helps!):

  • Is there anything true in this email/about this comment? Could I have done something differently? (If so, make those changes in the future — learn from the criticism, if there is any. If not, then you know the person is just wasting time.)
  • Am I making a difference in other people’s lives in some way? (If you’re a proofreader, you’re darn right you are.)
  • Am I TRYING my absolute best? (Yes.)
  • What is this person actually doing? (Spending their time sending an unhelpful rant over email, wasting their life spewing hurtful things to another human, etc.)
  • What is this person NOT doing? (Not helping anyone, not spending their time building a business, not trying to make the world a better place by spreading happiness, not spending their time wisely, etc.)

When you take negativity thrown your way and focus on the positive about yourself and your efforts, using any tidbit you can get to make improvements along the way, you effectively turn what was meant for harm into FUEL for good.

To be clear, by asking yourself what the person who chose negativity is actually doing/not doing, you aren’t wasting time focusing on the person. Instead, you’re getting real with yourself and acknowledging how much power they have over you and your success: NONE.


IN CLOSING … Keep Being Awesome

Critics will always be there, and it will take time to develop thick skin.

They’ll always be there to tell you you don’t have what it takes, asking for your “credentials” (despite your track record of excellent results), and it makes me wonder what they do or how they feel after they hit “send” or after they say whatever to you. What exactly do they expect their negativity to achieve? Are they sitting there waiting for you to what? Crumble? Cry? Shut down and become a hermit?

I’m reminded of another quote: “Pay no attention to what critics say. No statue was ever erected in honor of a critic.”

Now, as I mentioned before, you may be able to glean something useful out of a critical rant, if the critic offers suggestions, but that’s not usually the case — unhappy people who choose negativity can often pose as “critics,” and it’s wise to know the difference.

Beware of yourself being your own worst critic, and self-sabotage. I fall into that trap sometimes — but we’ll talk more about that in a later post. 🙂


Often, talking about our struggles with things like negativity can help a lot in defusing their effect on us. So: how have you dealt with negativity and critics in your efforts to build a business? What have you learned? Any mistakes or big breakthroughs along the way? Leave a comment and let’s talk about it!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked

  1. Great article Caitlin. These are some important points that we definitely need reminding of sometimes. There is still no shortage of negativity from other people and you have given some great perspectives and reframes for how to view negativity in a more constructive way.

  2. Caitlin: All I can say is that you have an awesome and professional way of dealing with “people with negativity.” (I normally would have said, “. . . dealing with negative people,” but I learned real “quick-like” after reading your ideas on this and instantly adopted your viewpoint regarding “people with negativity.” Makes a lot of sense! Also, like I said in my first message to you, you truly are a “supersmart chick!” (Pardon the expression, but it’s literally true, as far as I am concerned). You reactions to all your “self-appointed” critics are very mature and professional, and I believe the absolutely best way of dealing with “people with negativity,” ever. Congratulations to you!

  3. It’s funny. I JUST interacted with a “person with negativity” yesterday and was feeling in a funk about it and then I received an email about this blog post on negativity. So timely and so very helpful!!! I think the great thing about this post is to realize that negativity is real, you cannot totally avoid it, and confronting our feelings about it is also very important. I emailed the quote to myself so that I can see it on a regular basis: ““Pay no attention to what critics say. No statue was ever erected in honor of a critic.” (Hahaha). Thanks again for this lovely and timely post. It really made my day (and my weekend)!

  4. Thank you, Caitlin, for all your valuable blog posts. This is my second time to read this post, and I plan to come back and read it again whenever I need reminding. For those of us who appreciate civility and really want to get along with others in a world where not everyone does, these are “words to live by.”

  5. Being an “old guy” I guess I don’t understand this focus on negativity. Thirty years in engineering has taught me that yep, I’m going to screw up once in a while. Doing so may cost the company I’m working for hundreds if not thousands of dollars. I’m my own worst critic and am the first to acknowledge that I messed up. I’ve found that if you’re good at what you do and to blow my own horn here, I am! You move on and allow the clowns who want to try and hold that over your head to reach their turn at screwing it up royally. When (and I do mean when) that happens, you give them a sideways grin and move on!

    1. Thank you for your comment, Kevin. I’m also my own worst critic. You seem to have a good outlook on this situation. 🙂

  6. I have been noticing more negativity lately whether it is at the store, waiting in line or even on Facebook. I see more negative responses or telling others what did/doing wrong then supporting or asking if they need help. An example is a “friends” son was driving home one night last week, On his way home he hit a deer while on a patch of ice, his car spun around hitting on coming car. Resulting in driver of other car dying. A person commented that he shouldn’t be out driving if he can’t control his car, & they hope he ends up in jail for killing the other driver…. I feel the poor kid will live the rest of his life knowing he was involved in the death of the other person & the guilt alone will be “punishment”. I asked what they needed help with, kid in hospital with several broken bones & just lost their Grandma, offered meals, office help, etc….

    1. Oh, that’s horrible! That poor boy will never be the same. How can anyone blame him for hitting a deer? Accidents happen, folks, and sometimes they have harsh consequences — but they’re still accidents. 🙁

  7. After telling my husband that I didn’t have any proofreading work this week, he said, “I don’t know why you’re wasting your time with that. How much have you made so far? It isn’t enough to quit your job!” He went on and on. When he was finished, I simply said, “I just started this business in October. I’ve had 4 happy clients. And I think you should be supporting me instead of tearing me down!” This was just last night and we aren’t speaking much today. Don’t get me wrong, he is my best friend, but he is also very negative because of HIS lot in life. I feel very confident that I can make this proofreading gig work. I’ll just have to wait until I CAN quit my job to show him I can succeed!

    1. I love your positive attitude, Linda! Yeah, quitting your job just three months after starting your proofreading business would be nothing short of miraculous (and maybe a little premature even then). Just keep going and show him you CAN do this!

  8. My mom gave me several old sayings that I have tried to keep in mind throughout my adult life that have helped me deal with negativity and haters.

    Only people who are actually working make mistakes.

    Nothing worth having is free or easy.

    Nothing is ever easy. You have to work.

    People who like to create drama are never successful – or happy.

    There is always a solution if you are willing to look for it.

    Ignore those who try to tell you who you are. You know who you are.

    You can learn anything if you put your mind to it.

    There are more, but you get the idea. I am a ‘glass half full’ kind of gal.

    1. Those are some great sayings, Kelley! I’m going to keep some of those in mind. 🙂

  9. The force is with you Caitlin. Do. Or do not. There is no try.

  10. I guess I’ve been lucky and not ever really been bothered by negative people. I’ve always been that persistently positive person and when faced with negative people, always asked myself why they feel that or choose to react that way. I already have 2 businesses that I love and have learned a lot from. I figure as long as I learn from constructive or negative feedback and fix the problem, it is a positive experience. I also always remember a quote I heard a long time ago when getting negative comments/feedback. “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, become critics.” Being able to see things from others’ points of view can really help in dispersing the amount they negatively impact you.

    Things I’ve learned from my other 2 businesses are always ask your clients what they want and do your research constantly. It’s easy to tell them what you do but you may not be covering everything that they need which can lead to so-so or negative reviews. For example, I make custom dog collars, leashes, and accessories. It’s still a relatively new venture so it’s easy to learn new things related to the industry. Through research, I found that some leashes have a D-ring up by the handle for attaching keys or poop bags to. When I brought the idea up to some of my clients, they all LOVED the idea and it led to several sales. I asked them what else they were looking for and was told tug toys for their agility dogs that would hold up. I hadn’t even thought about it but quickly was able to come up with a design that worked perfectly for their needs. I still get the occasional negative comment saying that I don’t have a large enough selection but I’ve found that by turning it around into a positive, asking them what they’d like to see in my store, it helps open lines of communication which benefits us both.

    1. Love this comment! Perfect example of how you’ve taken the negative and used it to make yourself and your business even better.

  11. Gosh, I wish I’d been able to read this ten years ago! I especially love that you mention that there are no negative people, only people who choose negativity. I’ve certainly observed that, and (hopefully) have been able to interact with more compassion because of that knowledge. Thank you!

  12. Great article! Luckily, I have gotten encouragement from my sister. Although, at first, she was hesitant and cautious, saying that she was suspicious of the course. Rather than getting defensive, I listened to her apprehensions and argued (positively) my reasons and research. She was impressed that I had done my homework and really thought hard about the challenges and work ahead of me. That is when she decided to support me. I welcome constructive criticism but I will not allow for negativity. Thank you Caitlin!

  13. I run the school which doesn’t follow traditional techniques of teaching, but believes in learning through experiences. I always come across with criticism on methods and techniques used for learning by children, maybe, from parents or even from teachers sometime. I respond to them by saying that it’s okay; it’s their view and these are my views, and in my school my views will be implemented as I trust them and they have been proved over a period of time. Of course, some critics are really good suggestions, just not presented in proper manner. And it’s true there is no statue in honor of a critic! (Hahaha!)

  14. This has such funny timing for me, I’ve been a bit timid to tell people what I’m pursuing until I feel successful. That’s so silly! So I told a group of new friends that I’m pursuing this as a career, and the first things out of ALL of their mouths was WHAT? Why? You are so good at a, b and c and your personality and, and. I remember clearly feeling a hot heat and embarrassment as I tried to explain why. Then it dawned on me, it was shall I call reverse jealousy. As in, I shall project my insecurity on you so that I don’t feel jealous. At least that’s what it felt like. So I don’t bring it up anymore and that’s ok. My close friends and family cheer me on and know that my excitement is real and my life path has been rough and I deserve better!

    1. It’s great that you’ve learned to ignore the critics and keep on pushing toward what you know is possible!

  15. Hi Caitlin! I’m just moving into the second module in the course; feeling excited for the opportunities and really appreciative of your candid thoughts and honest comments throughout. I gain something valuable out of each of your posts, so much so that I’ve bookmarked many them so I remember to revisit them when I am feeling discouraged or beat down. This, however, was a whopper of an article for me!
    Thank you for everything this course entails, but mostly for being approachable, truthful, and REAL. Thank you for being a human. 🙂

  16. “No statue was ever erected in honor of a critic.”

    I’m originally from Illinois, where they have a statue of Roger Ebert, film critic. 🙂

  17. I like this: “I chose to apologize and make it right, offering not an ounce of what I’ve come to call ‘defensive snarkiness.'” I think that is something many of us need to learn. It rankles, but I know that if I react this way, I will have nothing with which to reproach myself. Also, may I suggest “jibe” instead of “jive”?

  18. I can really get derailed with negativity from others and have to work really hard to not take it to heart. I agree that negative comments are useful if there is a solution to be gained from it; however, when a negative comment is just to hurt your feelings, it generally does not provide a solution and its effect is only to hurt the person.

  19. I loved this article and it was just what I needed to hear today! Two and a half weeks ago I left my job, a job I do not like at all, to take a much needed mental health break. I have felt guilty over this decision and have felt like my co-workers are upset with me for leaving them with all of my work to do, in addition to their own.

    I really appreciated your reminder that whatever decision I make, I need to feel good about it. And I do. I needed this time away to strengthen my mind, figure out what I want to do, and prepare for going back, at least for a little while. Also, it has given me the time to get started with the Beginner’s Basecamp, which I have wanted to do for several months.

    I am super excited to begin this new journey and excited to learn all the new things the course will teach me! I know having something to look forward to will make it easier to go back to work in a few weeks, knowing that it will not be forever and that someday I will be able to quit my job and proofread full time!

    Thank you so much for developing this course, and for your words of encouragement in how to deal with negativity- real or imagined! ????

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}

Posts You Might Like