Trolls on the Bridge: How to Keep Negative Feedback from Shredding Your Heart

I recently read this quote by Allen Arnold and it resonated deeply. “If God is pleased with your latest creation but the world ignores it, how do you feel? The answer reveals who you are creating for.”

thumbs up

Excellent question. I fall into this trap far too often. I hope people like what I’ve written. This new blog was a step out of my comfort zone. Will people read it? Will they like it? This doesn’t even have to revolve around writing. This could be about any situation. The secret fear is, “Will they approve what I offer? Will they approve of me?”

So many of us say we are living, breathing, creating, and doing for an Audience of One, but the truth is, when our creative offering is ignored by the masses, we suffer hurt. Disappointment. We may even feel insignificant or devalued. Such a reaction tells us the true condition of our heart.

What’s worse? Not having our creation ignored but having it, or perhaps even our very person, attacked. Ouch.

ecclesiastes 7 5Let me stop here and say I’m not talking about constructive criticism, although for some, any kind of criticism feels like destructive criticism. Wearing our feelings on our sleeve about something we create isn’t healthy. One of the best pieces of advice I heard early on when beginning my writing career came from Tamera Alexander. She said, “What you create, whether it be your book, your story, an article, whatever it is…that thing is not your baby. It is a product. You are not what you create.”

Great advice, and an excellent way to keep the sting from burning too deeply when criticism need be applied. And trust me, it will. No one is born the expert in their field. No one.
Constructive criticism is intended to build up. It’s based on love and wants the best for the other person. Destructive criticism wants only to harm. Its intent is to destroy, and is usually birthed out of jealousy or fear. So when you’ve been hit with negative feedback, it’s important to take a step back and analyze the source. There are four types of feedback sources.

  1. Lovers  

flatteryThese guys love everything you produce, say, and do. They love you. More of you 24-7. Of course, they would never dream of giving you negative feedback so they aren’t pertinent to our chat today, but beware. You should still take their gushing praise with a grain of salt. Don’t let it give you a big head. “…a flattering mouth works ruin.” (Proverbs 26:28)

 

 

  1. Critics

More or less, critics are people who are educated in the creative product you’ve released. They have opinions that are subjective but carefully thought out about why they do or don’t like something, how aspects could be improved, etc. Good critics should be about the product, not the person behind it. Constructive criticism from a critic can be extremely valuable. Just remember their opinion is subjective.

  1. Trolls

trollAh, here is where things get messy. Trolls will hit you with all kinds of negative feedback. They don’t like your product because blah, blah, blah. Some criticisms may seem legit, some utterly ridiculous and hurtful. In the midst of their barbs, it may become apparent to you these guys have never even read or used your product. What?!

Trolls are internet drama feeders. They love stirring up fights because they find it amusing. They will go after your creation, and possibly, after you just for the shock value of it. As a friend of mine recently put it, “Trolls are just looking for a goat to cross their bridge.” Someone to torture. Someone to mess with. Although it seems they are quite hostile towards you, they are probably indifferent. They really don’t care about you at all, one way or the other. They are just looking for some drama-induced excitement in their too-dull lives. feed the trolls

Word of advice: Don’t feed the trolls. Do not engage with them. Don’t try to make them like you. They are out for one thing: drama. You feed a troll, and they’ll keep hanging around the bridge. Starve a troll, and they’ll look for some other place to feed.

  1. Haters muppet haters

As a recovering people pleaser, this one hurts, but it’s true. There will be some people that hate you. There I said it. Let it sink in. They will hate you for no other reason than that. It’s usually based out of some sort of jealousy, but perhaps not. Maybe it’s a wound they are struggling with and you’re an easy target. Whatever the reason, there will be people that don’t like you. They will say the meanest, most nasty, soul-cutting things to you. You’ll have a choice in that moment whether to believe what they say about you and your worth or reject it. (Remember this: a lie can only harm us if we believe it.)

john 15 18You are not what you create. You were lovingly fashioned and knit together by God, designed for a purpose before you ever drew a breath. Haters spew venom because they have no love nor light. Trolls linger on bridges, but none of it changes one thing between you and the Author of Life.

Press on. Pray for those who hurt you. Love with abandon, even those trolls and haters. They must hurt deeply to have so much acid spill out. Here’s a thought: every time you’re confronted with hurtful feedback, instead of lashing back or wallowing in tears, as we all so often want to do, bow your head and say a prayer for that mean person. Talk about agape love in action.

After all, trolls need Jesus too.

galatians-1-10

Jesus Wasn’t Calling: How I Learned to Walk Away from Perfectionism and Self-Inflicted Martyrdom

Jesus wasn’t calling.

Okay, maybe not. Obviously, Jesus is still in the calling business. Hang with me here and I’ll do my feeble best to try to explain my muddled thoughts.

batman-slapI have to admit it was quite a shock to realize all those years I spent doing and running, spinning my wheels and frantically trying to be a good, little Christian girl for Jesus weren’t for Him at all. They were for me.

When the truth hit, it slapped me hard.

I’ll never forget that night. Curled in on myself, sobbing on the mat of our bathroom floor into the wee hours of the night. My physical body had reached its limit and my emotions lay in scattered wreckage.

I was so overwhelmed, so undone and so completely exhausted I thought I was drowning. I couldn’t breathe. Couldn’t escape. Every fiber of my being cried out for relief.

drowning

I remember curling the long, soft tufts of the burgundy bathmat in my fists and clenching my teeth as salty tears filled my mouth.

God, You lied to me. You said if I served You, You would give me joy. I have no joy. I have no peace. This is not the victorious life You promised.

I was lied to all right, but it wasn’t by God. The enemy had fooled me into believing the best way to feel loved was by doing whatever it took to make people love me and I fell for it…hook, line and sinker.

It took awhile for me to realize all those ‘good’ things I was doing, all the activities pulling me away from my family and draining the peace and joy from my walk with God weren’t “callings from Jesus”. They were the hungry cries of a broken girl who desperately needed the approval of people to feel loved. I blamed “Christian service” for my inability to say no, servant-hood for my perfectionism and worse yet, developed a martyr mentality to mask the ever-growing resentment welling up inside.

please love me

Jesus has called us to many things, but living a life where we exchange His rich, vibrant, unconditional love for the weak, oscillating approval of man is not one of them. Excellence is good but trying to sacrificing the rest He’s promised in order to cram in more is not. Serving in church programs and ministries is wonderful, but only if you’re doing it from a heart that yearns to love others instead of a need to be seen by others.

That’s what I meant when I said Jesus wasn’t calling. I had confused my Christian service with people pleasing. And like it always does whenever the moving target of people pleasing and perfectionism can’t be hit, resentment fills in the void. Self-inflicted martyrs make poor servants.

My journey with Jesus is vibrant now. Full of joy and adventure, freedom and rest and yes, serving too. The difference is I’ve learned why I do what I do and I’ve learned where my worth lies…in the nail-pierced hands of Jesus. Now when He calls, I can hear His voice plainly. john-1027-28 I don’t confuse His gentle whisper with the screaming shouts and harsh demands of the world around me, or even with the old self-condemnation that creeps in from time to time.

I had to learn the hard way though. You don’t have to. Look inside. Check your motives. Make sure that it’s Jesus calling.

You can read more of my story here:      https://www.amazon.com/Hollow-Victory-Landmines-Victorious-Christian/dp/1484100131/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1487684657&sr=8-1&keywords=hollow+victory+tara+johnson      

Lie #5: Approval Means I’m Loved

We’re up to lie #5 in our series on exposing the enemy’s schemes…”Approval means I’m loved.” This lie was nearly my undoing.

I desperately want people to like me. There. I said it. The thought of someone being displeased with me in any way drops a sick feeling in my gut.

What’s one way to shake that cold feeling of dread? Work harder. Be more agreeable, more likable. Fit in. Be accepted and never, ever let them see the real you. After all, if they know what you’re really like, the acceptance will disappear. Right?   please love me

That’s what I told myself, anyways.

I’ve battled people pleasing all my life. I can readily admit it now, but I would have died a thousand deaths to confess such a thing ten years ago.

At one point, my people pleasing was so bad, and weird, that I couldn’t even express my own tastes for fear of someone thinking I was odd. One day, my friends were chatting about how much they loved fresh tomatoes.

One of them turned to me with smile. “Is there anything more delicious than a fresh tomato, Tara?”

I replied, “Of course not! Nothing better.” tomato

Confession: I hate tomatoes with a passion.

Why did I lie? Especially over something so trivial? Because I craved acceptance. I needed their love. And I mistakenly thought that disagreement led to loss of love.

At the time in my life of my “tomato lie”, I did anything that anyone asked me to do. If a deacon said the sanctuary windows needed to be washed at midnight, guess who was down at the church at the stroke of twelve with Windex in hand?

All of that changed one night in 2002. For lack of a better word, I snapped. My physical body reached its limit and my emotions lay in scattered wreckage. I crawled on to the bathroom floor and curled myself into a ball on the bathmat while I sobbed into the wee hours of the night.

I was so overwhelmed, so undone and so completely exhausted I thought I was drowning. I couldn’t breathe. Couldn’t escape. Every fiber of my being cried out for relief. cry

I remember curling the long soft tufts of the burgundy bathmat in my fists, clenching my teeth as salty tears filled my mouth.

God, You lied to me. You said if I served You, You would give me joy. I have no joy. I have no peace. This is not the victorious life You promised.

I was lied to, but not by God. The enemy had fooled me into believing the best way to feel loved was by doing whatever it took to make people like me. I fell for it…hook, line and sinker.

It wasn’t until I found myself begging God to take me out of this life that I realized I had been had.

Somewhere along the way, I took my eyes off Jesus and began living for the applause of people. Men and women just like me. Sinners and failures, just like me. People who have made a mess of their own lives, just like me. People who didn’t die for me, yet I esteemed their opinion as if they did. And I lost sight of my Savior in the process. I gave away freedom and unconditional love and traded them for conditions, hopelessness and chains. hands in chains

I’m tired of shackling myself to others’ expectations when obeying Him is all that matters. I’m tired of being sucked into a spiral of exhaustion when He has promised me rest. I’m tired of living like everyone else’s opinion of me is more important than His. I have no desire to place people, and their approval, as my idol, my focus or my hope any longer.

And that’s what this lie breeds…idolatry.

The common ground sought by people pleasers the world over is this: we have a desperate need to feel loved. We search for unconditional love in conditionally minded people. We crave approval, using it as a gauge to tell us our own worth. But all that matters is what God thinks—and He loved me so much, He gave His own life to redeem me from the land of darkness. It doesn’t matter whether I’m on top of the world or scraping bottom at my worst…His love never changes. And I’ve discovered this amazing truth is what my heart has been searching for all along.

Approval and love are not the same thing. Anyone who tells you differently is a liar. Take it from a girl who learned the hard way.

approval vs lovegalatians 1 10

 

The Impersonator

elviselvis impersonator

I opened the mailbox and rifled through the collection of papers waiting to be opened.

Bills, bills, junk mail, bills…I stopped when one brightly colored advertisement caught my eye.

Clutched in my fingers was the smiling face of Dolly Parton.

dolly

I scanned the ad, admiring the bright, glossy sheen. Dolly Parton was coming to my hometown? Why hadn’t I heard about this? Miss Islands-in-the-Stream-I-Will-Always-Love-You was coming to my city next week? Why wasn’t this being blasted from every television and radio station in town?

I’m not a mega fan of Dolly’s, but still, someone of her acclaim should be welcomed with more than a flyer. No fanfare or hoopla?

I studied the flyer again and that’s when I caught it. “Dolly Parton” was in big, bold letters. Underneath in teeny, timid font was the word “Impersonator”.

It went on to list the lady’s name and accolades, but I was no longer interested. With a shrug of my shoulders, I tossed the flyer in the trash, wondering how the venue could possibly fill the number of seats available in only a week.

Why did I toss the flyer? Because no matter how wonderful the impersonator was, no matter how talented or how close she looked or sang to the legend, she was not the real Dolly Parton. I was interested in the actual artist…not an imitation.

Fake is never as valuable as the real thing.

I spent a large portion of my young adult life being a poor imitation. No, not a Dolly Parton impersonator (although I can manage a killer imitation of Julie Andrews). No, I’m talking about something much more serious. I was a people pleaser. I lost myself, my worth, and the girl God had created me to be because I foolishly thought approval equaled love. It doesn’t.

approval stamp

Living for approval, for that stamp of acceptance from your peers will turn you into an imitator. Oh, you might be a great one. You might be able to sound and look like the real thing. But just because something looks like the real thing doesn’t mean it is.

How many of us are giving up our status as a diamond in the King’s crown, only to spend our resources pretending to be cubic zirconium instead? Anyone who knows the difference between the two can easily tell you the diamond is infinitely more precious. Why do we spend our lives trying to be something we’re not? The simple answer…we don’t see our own worth.

real versus fake

For we are His workmanship [His own master work, a work of art], created in Christ Jesus [reborn from above—spiritually transformed, renewed, ready to be used] for good works, which God prepared [for us] beforehand [taking paths which He set], so that we would walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us].” (Ephesians 2:10 AMP)

When we live for approval, when we become plastic people, or worse yet imitators of plastic people, we are throwing away the beautiful purpose designed for us before we were ever born. What a tragedy.

potter

The world already has a Dolly Parton. But there is only one you. Only one person with your unique fingerprint. Only one person with your unique blend of talents, skills and quirks. Don’t throw away your worth trying to be an imitation.

Jesus didn’t just die for Dolly Parton. He died for you. Know your worth in His eyes. Your destiny depends on it.

only one you tulip

Impressions

My kids love impressions. The crazier, the better. And being a singer, I always find it a hilarious exercise to see if I can manipulate my voice enough to oblige their whims.

queen of hearts

Today I spent all day conversing like the Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland. When bad manners were displayed at dinner, the Queen of Hearts yelled, “Off with your head!”, causing an eruption of giggles.

In the past few months, I have spent much time as the Count from Sesame Street, Patrick from Spongebob Squarepants, mariaMaria from The Sound of Music, Elmyra from Tiny Toons, Ethel Merman and Glinda from Wicked. (Along with a cast of unique quirky characters created by our crazy family.) It makes me wonder what impression my kids will pick the next day and if I’ll be able to pull it off. elmyra

For the past two weeks they have begged me to talk like Adele. And when I say that they asked me to converse like Adele, I mean all. day. long. Around the clock for two weeks. The cockney impression was spouted so frequently, I began to forget what my own voice sounded like.

The funny thing is that after I spent a few days talking like Adele, I couldn’t stop. Pretending became the norm. The norm became habit. And habit became hard to break. I forgot my own voice. And pretending to be someone I wasn’t made me feel like I was constantly in performance mode.

Too many of us live out our lives as a charade: the perfect Christian, no faults, no struggles…we live in an illusion meant to fool others and hide our wounds. We don’t like people seeing us in all of our mess and brokenness. So we stay tucked behind our masks…our impressions. We give people what we think they want to hear, and lose who God wants us to be in the process.

Impressions, pretending to be someone your not can be fun for a little while, but please don’t live there. God has a unique plan for your life…and it doesn’t include you trying to be someone else. Perfectionism and people-pleasing are detrimental patterns. They lie to you and, in subtle ways, proclaim that what God created isn’t good enough.approval vs loveGod made you a one-of-a-kind. He loves you, not the masks you wear or the performances you put on to be accepted. He doesn’t need another Adele or a Maria von Trapp or anyone else. He wants YOU. He had a plan for your life before you were ever created.

“Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” ~Psalm 139:16

Whatever voice He has given you, use it. Whatever story He has given you, write it. Whatever skills or talents He blessed you with, use them for His glory. Whatever your past, your successes, your failures, love Him. Chase after Him. Embrace your identity in Him. Don’t spend your life pretending to be a poor imitation.

adele

No matter how fantastic your Adele impression may be.

Have you ever struggled with pretending to be something you’re not? Are you a people-pleaser? How does it make you feel to constantly be in performance mode? I would love to hear your thoughts!

Check out more of Tara’s ministry at www.TaraJohnsonMinistries.com