I’m going to let you guys in on a little secret: I have always been a major nerd. Sure, I hid it for a while underneath some really rebellious clothes, but on the inside, I’m still the little girl who brought sci-fi novels and my pet snake to show-and-tell. (Not on the same week, of course – that would just be silly.)
The current group of nerds I identify most with isn’t the alien fanboys or the ophiophilists, though. (That would be snake-lovers, for those not up on their lingo.) These days, I’m a self-identified planner nerd – and it amazes me on a daily basis that there are people who feel the need to critique planner nerds for our love of planning things out.
Let me tell you: I don’t plan for the popularity it will (or, more likely, won’t) bring me. I plan to keep myself sane and organized. And you know what? I can always tell the difference when I tell myself I don’t have the time to plan. Like anyone else with an obsessive love or something, there’s a reason for the things I do – and I don’t care if the haters don’t like it.
If you’re struggling with people who put you down for the things you’re into, screw them! You shouldn’t live your lives to make someone else happy, especially if it means sacrificing the things that make you happy. Here’s my 7-step process for dealing with these negative people. Do you have anything to add? Let us know in the comments!
1. Accept that these people are bullies.
While we usually associate bullies with the people who steal your lunch money, pull your hair, or trash-talk you on social media, it’s important to realize that there are other types of bullies, and if the negative people in your life are trying to rain on your nerd parade, that is their problem.
In this situation, your visibility makes you a target. No, that doesn’t mean you should hide – the closet is a terrible place to live, no matter which closet it is. But you do need to realize that the only reason they’re picking on you is because you’re there. If it wasn’t you, it would be someone else.
2. Understand that it’s not about what you do.
Since we’ve already established that these haters are really just bullies, it gets a little easier to depersonalize the things that they say. Remember, they’re just haters – they’re going to find something to be negative about.
Toxic people are really good at seeing the negative in everything and sucking the joy out of everything. They’re going to do whatever they can to cut others down, because they’re not happy with the way their life is going. Maybe they’re jealous of your talents and habits, or maybe they just don’t understand what you’re doing, but one thing is for sure: They’re doing it because of them, not because of you.
3. Distance yourself from shitty people.
This is probably the most clichéd piece of advice I give out, but it’s still just as true as the first time it was said: You can’t live a positive life with a negative attitude. Being around people who have a negative attitude about things will eventually wear down your shine – so don’t give them the satisfaction! Avoid spending any more time with negative people than you absolutely have to.
Understandably, sometimes you can’t avoid the negative people. Maybe they’re your family members, or your coworkers, or some other affiliation that’s not so easy to get out of. In these cases, it’s best to stay busy doing your own thing. Don’t give them the time to break you down, no matter how they try. It’s completely appropriate to ignore the people who are passing judgment on things that have nothing to do with them.
4. Hang onto your own happiness.
It’s most important to remember that these negative people are trying to suck the happiness out of you, so if you get visibly upset about it or let it change who you are, the bullies are winning. We don’t like it when the bullies win, because they’re jerks. Keep doing the things that bring you joy, and don’t let them take the fun out of it!
In some cases, I find that a witty or sarcastic response works, but take caution: Some people are completely inept to sarcasm and will not get it. Others might be a little too sensitive to sarcasm, and lash back out at you. When in doubt, though, just smile and continue on with your day. The more positive you can be in your forced interactions, the better – maybe it’ll even rub off on them eventually.
5. Don’t be a victim.
Remember how I said that you’re a target because you’re visible? Remember that – and make sure that what they do is visible, too. If you show these hurtful people that their words and actions won’t be tolerated, they’re less likely to happen again. Confront your toxic person in a public place, and let it be known that you are being harassed (if applicable).
If their targeting of you actually does constitute harassment, and/or if confronting them didn’t change anything, you might need to go higher up. If the harassment occurs at work, bring it up to your supervisor. If it happens at school, speak with a teacher or staff member. And, if it’s happening at home, speak with another trusted family member. Don’t let them pick on you for something that isn’t hurting anyone.
6. Find your tribe, and stick with them.
One of the most overlooked tools in our arsenal is our social circle – so use it to your advantage! When you find friends and colleagues who share in your “unconventional” interests, you’re building up your own personal support network. These people understand the struggles you face with your interests, and they will help comfort you when things get bad.
If you can’t find people who share the same interests you have, make sure you’re reaching out to people who are positive and supportive. These people are all around you, but they might be a little harder to find – they don’t always step up in defense of a stranger, but once you have them as friends, they’re a lot more likely to stick up for you. Negativity is louder than positivity, so you’ll need a bigger team if you want to beat it.
7. Keep on rocking it.
Lastly, you need to remind yourself that you do not live to please the negative people. Follow your passions, and be unapologetically yourself. Those other people don’t matter, and they never will. They’ll never really be successful in life, because the biggest success of all is finding something you love, and doing it well. The haters can’t love anything – so they’ll never be very good at anything, either.
There’s a reason you’re interested in the things you’re interested in, and the haters don’t have to understand your reasons – or even respect them, if I’m being totally honest. As long as you are comfortable with yourself (and your personal safeties aren’t being compromised), you can effectively forget about the people who focus their negative attention on you.