If you want to know what you are doing wrong in life, just spend time with a little kid. The lack of a filter on a child is both horrifying, and also refreshing. That little kid will tell you that your outfit looks terrible. They will tell you that the hairstyle you are trying out is ugly. They will tell you that the car you drive is far inferior to the one that their parents drive. If you don’t like hanging out with kids, there’s another way to get a good dose of what you are doing wrong. Just post something on YouTube.
The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly of YouTube
YouTube is one of the most amazing websites that exists. If you are willing to push through all of the cat videos, which are amazing, and get past the drama filled channels, you can find knowledge on how to do almost anything you can think of. On the other hand, YouTube is also one of the most horrifying websites out there. If you want to know the horrors of YouTube, just scroll down and take a peek at the comments. People are both at their best, and at their worst in comment land. To keep it safe, I don’t typically interact with comments on YouTube, neither good nor bad.
When I first started putting my, admittedly kind of rough, Board Simple videos up on YouTube, I got a variety of comments. Several people were extremely nice. Other people gave helpful comments on things I could do better. Still others were just kind of ridiculous. When I first started, the good comments gave me a high. They drove me to keep going. The negative comments sent me plummeting to the ground, where I would quickly shatter. What can I say, I’m sensitive. There were whole chunks of time that I just told myself the rollercoaster ride was not worth it. I wanted to quit altogether, and at times I did. Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me, right? More like yeah right! Words can hurt just as much, and sometimes more, than actions.
There are two types of people who deliver criticism. There are those who want to help you to be better, and those who want to hurt you. For example, helpful criticism might be something like, the lighting in your video is a bit bright, or the audio levels are a bit off. Unhelpful criticism might be something like, “your voice sounds like a constipated cat”. Sorry, I didn’t choose this voice, so there’s that. No one has actually left that in a comment, but I would actually probably laugh if someone did. I’m from Wisconsin, and have had people pinch their nose to imitate my voice before, which also makes me laugh. The thing about it is that both of these comments can actually be used to make you better. The helpful criticism can make both you, and your product better. The harmful criticism can make you better. Being able to see the harmful criticism for what it is, irrational expectations, and learning to let it roll off of you, rather than letting it seep into your skin, is an important skill. You build the skill by flexing your critical thinking muscles. Look at the comment, think about what they are saying and what you can actually control.
For every person that uses their space of the comments section to tell me something that sucks about my videos, there are several people that say thank you. Those appreciative people keep me going, but at the same point, the mean people keep me going too. I’m from the midwest, the land of niceties. Where I’m from, you wait until the people have left the room before you tell everything wrong with them, thank you very much! I don’t shelter myself from the comments. I read them all. I have thought a few times that maybe I’d start interacting with them, but in all honesty, I don’t have the time.
Appreciating the Criticism
Board Simple helped me in a lot of ways. I’m a perfectionist by nature, and trust me, I can point out several imperfections in my Boards Simple videos. The longer I did it, the more I was exposed to the realities of my imperfections. It’s one thing to put something out to the public that is at the high end of the human capability to achieve perfection. It’s another thing altogether to release something that you know has flaws. The sound in my videos is never perfect. I don’t need comments to know that. But in some ways every negative comment I read, started to make me stronger. Had I only received positive comments all of the time, I never would have been faced with this demon on my shoulder telling me I’m not good enough to do things. I would have been sheltered and remained in the comfort. The negativity made me face my biggest fear of being outed as not perfect. Guess what, I’m not. I used to keep the negative comments to myself. I was embarrassed of the impression I had made on someone. Now I take walks with my husband and tell him about them. I rationalize the comments instead of letting them transform into monsters that haunt me. If someone criticizes me, I let it bounce off of me, because, in all honesty, people aren’t paying me for these things. We’re spoiled by the free nature of so many things out there. When someone tells me they hate the way I made the video, I brush the comment off, because, you know what, that person can always pick up the rulebook and figure this out on their own.
I used to let the comments affect me. Whenever I would get a notification that someone had left a comment on one of my videos, my stomach would tie itself in knots. The words left behind on my page would either leave me feeling euphoric or they would crush me. I would ruminate on the words. But the more I read them and internalized them, the more power I started to take back from them. I don’t always know why a person decides to use their time on this earth making others feel bad about themselves, but I do know that I am choosing to not feel bad about myself and the content I’m putting out for Board Simple. Ironically, I have the very people who made me feel bad in the first place to thank for that.