Andrea Michelle My troll was one of the best things to happen to me

By Andrea Michelle

Last night I had a dream that someone gave me a carton of freshly laid eggs. The carton was a bit tattered and broken, a corner completely smashed up, yet the eggs that were nestled inside were whole and perfect.

Given I usually don’t remember the dreams I have, I googled the meaning of this one, and learnt that “eggs have a deep and universal reference to new life, new beginnings. Eggs can symbolise potential as yet unrealised, new birth yet to happen. Eggs can also refer to wholeness – nothing is more self-contained and complete than an egg.”

While there was no reference to the busted up carton, I’ve drawn my own simple conclusion about it: things get battered and shredded by external influences.

 

It’s not surprising I had that dream last night. Recently I’ve been exposed to some vicious and incessant trolling online.

Words and accusations were thrown at me repeatedly and made me feel exposed and raw. Threats were made against my children and me. I felt tattered and smashed up like that egg carton.

 

The internet can be a tricky place to exist sometimes as it’s easy for people to spew vitriol behind the safety of their computer screens.

But it’s not the only place we can feel battered by unkind words or actions. They might come from underhanded comments by frenemies, powerplays in the workforce, or even rants from our children.

And while as adults hopefully our coping mechanisms for this has developed, it can be hard not to let it impact you – especially if you are told it enough.

One of the comments I received last week from the troll was that I was a bad mother. The next day, one of my sons – upset with me for ending his screen time to sit down for dinner – called me a bad mother also. Both comments stung like a slap in the face by someone wearing a heavy metallic ring they bought on sale from Sportsgirl for $2.99. The same insult given twice in 24 hours made me start to question my mothering skills.

Is it neglectful of me to let the boys play the computer games they love after they finish their homework while I make dinner?

Was I wrong to have my kids in after school care so I can work?

Am I spoiling them when I buy Slushies every Friday afternoon?

Am I failing at motherhood because I don’t iron their school uniforms and sneak chocolate treats in their lunchboxes?

Do I play/read/listen/teach them enough?

Do I breathe in the right way when I’m near them?

You get the gist.

 

As parents we are well aware that if we tell our children something often, they’ll start to believe it. That’s why we focus on telling them they are smart, brave, and funny and that we are proud of them. We want their inner dialogue to reflect those words, and build their self-esteem accordingly.

Yet as grown ups, we don’t usually get those cheering words from the sidelines. Or if we do, it’s easier to ignore those, and instead focus on the negative words from those who “Boo” us from the bleachers. Those who heckle often do it the loudest. And they stand out from those who cheer because it’s shocking, and hurtful. It can be hard not to take criticism on board. It can be hard for those negative words to not become our own inner dialogue.

 

On Monday night I shared my upset and concerns about this troll on my personal facebook page, and the Fox in Flats facebook page asking for advice. I’m fortunate to have so many kind, supportive, and thoughtful friends and readers who jumped in with practical ideas on how to deal with this – delete, block and report was the overwhelming response.

 

Some of the advice I received however was more personal, and helped to change my perspective about criticism.

 

Unsurprisingly, all of this advice came from friends who also make their livings online – they are the people behind some of Australia’s most successful blogs and websites – so they’re well versed about online acts of cray cray.

 

I want to share their great advice with you to consider in those times when you are feeling under attack from external voices of vitriol – whether online of off –  or for when your bitchy inner-voice is having a go.

 

Think of it as a test for something greater.

“It sucks but it also means you are probably Up-Levelling lady, and the universe is just throwing you an f bomb to make sure you are 100% committed to this next phase. You are awesome, and they will shortly just be a funny story you get to tell at parties!”

Kate McKibbin, Editor: Drop Dead Gorgeous Daily

 

They don’t really know you.

“THIS ISN’T ABOUT YOU. Not one bit. The words she says, or spins, or spreads, they are only a reflection of her. She doesn’t know your fabulous self. She doesn’t see how you love those boys of yours, or what a good mate you are. Let her live her miserable life, and you get busy living your fabulous one.”

Chantelle Ellem, Fat Mum Slim

 

Focus on those who matter.

“Spend as much time thinking about every one of your friends who adore you, and the lovely people who follow and comment on your blog as you do thinking about this horrible one.”

Christina Butcher, Hair Romance

 

Shake it off.

“Haters gonna hate. Just ignore, it’s your attention they crave.”

Nicky Champ, Beauty and Style Editor: Mamamia

 

Acknowledge that it hurts.

“This HURTS & it is ok to listen to that part of your heart.
It is really really hard to ‘just’ block & delete. 
What I mean is – the actual physical part of doing that is easy. Click a few keys and it’s done.
But the internal dialogue and self-questioning is SO HARD to let go of. We all know that you are not the person being painted as this, but we are all humans with hearts and the heart feels this stuff deeply.
Blocking and deleting from your heart is not so easy as doing it on the keyboard.
Be kind to yourself today.”

Ruth Bruten, Gourmet Girlfriend

 

You are in control.

“Look at yourself in the mirror and remind yourself that you are a good person and you define your life.”

Zoey Martin, Operation Move

 

Step away.

“They’ve made their mind up about you and there’s NOTHING you can do or say to change that. Hold your head high, AND TURN OFF YOUR COMPUTER. Tomorrow it will seem a little brighter. Promise.”

Beth MacDonald, Baby Mac

 

Fight back with awesome

“Read Fight back with awesome: my approach to dealing with internet trolls.”

Kayte Murphy, Woogsworld

 

Decide who you will listen to and manage accordingly

“That video is part of my presentation to our writers at Mamamia about being brave and dealing with criticism and I find it so damn helpful.

Something else that works well is to make a list or a mood board of the opinions (negative and positive) which DO matter to you.

Whose opinion will you listen too, and whose feedback will you consider and reflect on?

If you’re not on that list (and your bloody troll won’t be) then you can bugger off ;)”

Jamila Rizvi, Editor-in-Chief: Mamamia

 

Since that advice I’ve recalibrated.

I cranked up Taylor Swift’s anthem about the “haters”, played it on repeat, shook my invisible pom poms and danced around the kitchen while making the kids their lunches. And I seat danced, shaking it off, in the car on the way to school drop off.

I donned the red lipstick that the troll was so scathing about, and had my nine year old snap a couple of pics after school for the record.

Andrea Michelle How to change your perspective about trolls and criticism

Photo credit: Zach, 9

 

I listened to the words my friends and readers had said to me in response to my posts on facebook.

I made myself write down each and every positive thing they had to say about me, even if I didn’t believe them myself:

Positive feedback that matters

 

Yet writing these words down gave me a level of discomfort I wasn’t expecting.

It made me realise that even though others may see me in a certain light, my inner voice had taken on the comments from the troll more than I had realized.

Damn I was pissed!

 

So I forced myself to think about whether these lovely kind words – objectively –  were true or not, as Jamila suggested.

Some of them, like being strong and independent, building a beautiful online community of smart, gorgeous, sassy ladies, being a good mate, and loving my boys were easy to agree with.

Some others not so much. For instance, I don’t feel like my world is gorgeous when there’s a drying rack of clothes in my dining room, toys and socks scattered on the floor, dirty dishes in the sink, and a massive pimple brewing on my chin. Which for the record is me and my place right at this minute.

But I’m keeping that list of lovely kind words and thoughts pinned above my desk for the time being until I start to believe them all. Like a parent to their child, I’ll tell myself I am these things over and over. I want my inner dialogue to speak these words.

 

I also reflected on the words the troll had said to me.

And other names I’ve been called over time that I didn’t realise had set up camp in a corner of my mind toasting marshmallows and singing an evil version of “Kumbaya” on repeat. Names that have chipped away at my self-esteem over time. I wrote them all down too, and reflected honestly about each and every word. Not one of them is true. Not one.

 

I’ve spent this morning cutting up my old editions of glossy mags and am compiling a mood board about how I aspire to move forward as I’d did oh so many years ago. A mood board that changed my life.

 

Like the unbroken eggs in the battered carton that appeared in my dream last night, I still remain whole and in control, despite a few bumps of late. And like the interpretation of the eggs as symbolizing “potential as yet unrealized” I now feel that also.

 

I feel inspired to re-focus on what I’ve been doing in this online space, to let myself be more vulnerable as Brené Brown encouraged the audience in her keynote. I’m also re-thinking some aspects of my personal life. The potential is endless, and I’m excited for the first time in ages.

 

Perhaps the troll was one of the best things to happen to me? It forced me to face my self-doubt, and accept all of the positive energy and kindness that surrounds me.

The troll made me listen to those who actually cheer me on, those who really know me, and those who see me as being a far better person than I had been seeing myself.

x Andrea

baby hanger
// Subscribe to our Weekly Newsletter//
// RSS // Facebook // Twitter // Pinterest // Instagram //
Advertise

59 Comments

  • I had a troll once and it made me very upset for a period of time. I was in a very emotionally raw place, having just left my husband a few months prior to these comments. The person wrote some terrible things about me, but to be honest, I can’t remember really what they were now. It bothered me for months and the, boom, one day I was just like, “What did that chick say again?” I guess time heals a lot of things.

    I’ve always been outspoken in my life from a young age. People have been dogging on me for the way I live my life and my beliefs since I can remember. My attitude is that no one can say anything to me that hasn’t already been said. Obviously, this is within the realm of reason, not terrible “out there” comments. I believe that’s pretty true for me. Say what you want, I’ve heard it all.

    But.

    As a result of my troll it made me a lot more guarded about WHAT I shared online. It was also a really hard, and to be honest, embarrassing thing to have made my life out to be perfect, my relationship to be great and then, boom, divorce. The lesson I took away from the troll and that situation in general is that I’m not sharing my personal life on my blog anymore. My relationship now is something I touch briefly on Instagram and Twitter, but won’t be writing about any time soon. Also, I like when things are private.

    THIS IS SO LONG! Haha.

    • Hi Courtney, I totally get this and am sorry you have gone through all of that. Indeed I have always been careful about what I’ve shared on a personal level for those reasons. And understand in particular how raw one can feel after a separation/divorce or any major “ouch” situation. I think a great learning from that video in the post though is about being vulnerable, not armouring up so you shut yourself down from everything you do and love. Big x A

      • I think vulnerability is important for sure. Definitely through my trials over the past year I’ve become a more open and honest and genuine person. I find it way easier to connect with new people. But…I no longer see blogging as a necessity toward vulnerability. I think as bloggers we’re all kind of skewed in thinking about what we should and should not write about. Really the better question is: Would sharing this help me in any way?

        I did share eventually, about a year later, which is how long it took for me to process everything. In our world of openness, sometimes I think it’s good to be guarded and protective of yourself, your emotions and your life.

  • Oh I so agree with Beth: “They’ve made their mind up about you and there’s NOTHING you can do or say to change that. Hold your head high, AND TURN OFF YOUR COMPUTER. Tomorrow it will seem a little brighter. Promise.”

    Great advice in this post Andrea. But still, I hate that you (and others) have been exposed to this 🙁

  • I’m so sorry that this happened to you. As a Silver Lining Girl, I’m thrilled that you turned that crap around and built more of your awesomeness from it. You know, phoenix. Ashes. All that stuff.

    You know I have this whole new career and life and opportunities because you (and Nikki) encouraged me to start up my own blog all those years ago.

    You. Changed. My. Life!

    • Kimba darling lady, I didnt change your life, you did! All I did was recognise how much of a natural you would be at this and give you little push. So proud of you. xxxx

  • I can only imagine how hurtful these things are, even though any sane person knows they just aren’t true. You are inspiring to me, I respect your ideas & opinions & I hope that counts just a little bit (I know I am just one of many). And by the way, the red lippie rocks!!!! x

  • I agree with Chantelle; it isn’t about you. People only know what the blogger shows on the Internet. They don’t know YOU.

    Kill with kindness. The harder they push, the nicer you are. It’s like punching a soft, downy pillow. I find that if I explain, try to justify myself, etc, it just allows them to continue with the hate. So I learned to say thank you. If they’re nasty, I say thank you. It hurts like a bitch inside but they stop because like I said, it’s like they’re punching a pillow.

    • LOVE that! “It’s like punching a soft, downy pillow” I will absolutley keep that visual in mind going forward. xxx

  • Poor you !!! My advice ? Acknowledge, but don’t rock the criticism. The more you dwell on it, the more power it has to hurt you … “Success is the best antidote” is one of my favourite sayings Lay that nasty ol’ criticism down in the dust at your feet, step over it, and leave it faaaarrrrr behind as you walk on with all the fantastic stuff you’re sharing with us all out here. Show your beautiful boys how it’s done !

    • HI HomeArtFusionista (great name BTW), indeed what you have said creates a great visual. 🙂 Doing this exercise has also helped me to help my boys when they are dealing with negative comments in the playground so it’s good all ’round. xxx

  • No one deserves to be treated badly. Unfortunately the being here on the internet opens us all up to these horrid people and we need to build a thick skin and try not to let their trollish ways dictate how we live. Well done you for taking the classy way and knocking them right out of your mind. Ignore and delete. Hugs gorgeous lady. V xo

  • You don’t deserve a nasty Troll. Step over that bridge under which the loathsome creature lives its pitiful life, and carry on to your beautiful castle ; the one you have created brick by brick with hard work, love and generosity.

  • I’ve been a little spasmodic with social media lately, so I totally missed this. That sounds like it was really crap to deal with. What great advice you received from your clever blogging friends (quite the amazing group of ladies I might add!) I agree with all the comments on your positive page, and I’m so glad this was just a speed bump on your road to bigger and better. Love your work xx

    • Hi Sandra, hey missed your cute face girl! Indeed I am lucky to call that group of women friends and their advice was killer. Onwards and upwards, huh! Hope you are well. xA

  • Some people are just classless arses…and some are so broken inside that they feel hurting others will somehow bring them that ‘one thing’ that will fix them. Only we can fix ourselves by looking within and being honest about who we really are and who we are not.!This is soooo not about you Andrea, you just happen to be an easy target for lashing out. When I talk to women about self esteem I always ask them to tell me the things they like about themselves and their body…I don’t wanna hear what they ‘dont’ like…and neither does their body. By concentrating on what you like about you and your life and listening to the kind words of your friends you’ve invited more good into world. Good trumps evil…every time. Saoinara troll!

    • “By concentrating on what you like about you and your life and listening to the kind words of your friends you’ve invited more good into world. ” Exactly. EXACTLY! Love this. Thankyou lovely. x

  • Oh Andrea I’m so sorry you had a troll. They’re no fun at all. It’s amazing how much mental real estate we give to negative comments and those comments so easily overrun the positive.
    I think you’re amazing and so inspiring and you’ve always been so generous with your encouragement and time with the fox in flats community. You’ve created something really beautiful here and I love the community of women who have congregated here and that I’ve ‘met’ on social media because of you.
    Anyone can see you’re an awesome mum and love your kids like nothing else. Keep doing what you’re doing, and look at that list of awesome words often!! xx

    • Hi Lauren, Thankyou for your beautiful comments, I REALLY appreciate them. I can’t wait to be back on board regularly again. xA

  • Andrea I love your blog. To me you are a positive and inspiring role model for mums who are juggling kids and life, and who want to still wear fashionable but affordable clothes. I say to my own girls “if you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all.” It’s a pity not everyone is raised with this motto. These trolls must be seriously unhappy with their own life. Stay positive and take care of yourself! You have a lot of readers who love you and your blog- I have really missed it lately and am glad to hear you will be sending out posts again x Amy

    • Thankyou for your lovely comments Amy – I have actually added them to my list. And I can’t wait to get writing again. Big xxx’s! xA

  • You’re awesome and so is Brene Brown – loved that talk – watch it ladies if you haven’t already x

    • Thanks darling, and I’m so glad Jamila shared that talk with me – I cant wait to explore her other work. xA

  • I’ve got a troll who used to bomb my advice column with his own special brand of advice, most of it directed at me. When I blocked him, he took to bashing me on other people’s blogs which was nice! I happened to see one comment of his one day, just by chance – I have no idea how many he left. But I realised just what a broken, sad little man he was/is. Nothing to do with me, even though it was hard to shake it off at the time. But maybe that’s what we all need to do… channel a bit more Taylor Swift. And listen to all that great advice!! So glad you’re back. xo

    • Hi Rachel, Wowo I’m sorry that has happened to you. That is messed up. Yes it can be hard for it not to hurt as Ruth said. Try the exercise I did as it has REALLY helped. Big x and good luck! x

  • Fantastic. I’ve had to share this with the Blog With Pip Group I’m in. Such great messages in here. I always think trolling comes from someone’s insecurity and pain. I watched a dear depressed friend do it on Twitter and confronted her on it. Her response was “Oh, they can take it. It’s their job. They’re famous.” We’re talking C list celebrities at best. I felt sad for the people on the receiving end of her rants. I know she’s in a place of deep pain and angry at someone she loved who let her down. I just won’t ever understand taking that out on strangers …

    • Hi Peachy Keen Mumma, Thankyou for sharing the post! Indeed I think so too. Energies would be better spent reflecting on the personal issue being faced, and not taking it out on others. x

  • Such a fantastic post – thank you. I think as bloggers we joke that when we get a troll, it means we have made it. But in reality, someone saying terrible things about you is never going to be pretty or laughing matter. I love what you have shared here and how you are dealing with it. I particularly like the advice about living your own fabulous life, because clearly, the troll doesn’t have one.

    • Thanks Robyn. Indeed I don’t think getting a troll is a reflection of success or otherwise. Although a way I have always measured my success has been on the lovely comments, feedback and interactions with readers. I truly wish for the best for this person and hope they have a fabulous life themselves despite this situation. xA

  • I read your initial FB post and I’ve read this blog. And I’m so glad you’re over it but I genuinely don’t understand why you’d be distressed about a stranger’s comment. No-one can be universally loved, darling. Not you, not me, not Taylor Swift, NO-ONE. You get masses of love. Masses. One little troll in comparison to all that love is meaningless. Block her and it’s over. Not even worth a second thought.

    • Hi Kerri, Thankyou so much for your support and care the other day. And I know noone can be universally loved and I am lucky to have so many people here and in my day to day life who are amazing. I think because a) it was the first time it had happened to me b) the comments became so personal and included threats to my children – that’s when I really lost it – and c) it went so far that they took it upon themselves to contact my ex husband too with lies that could have had major implications had we not been on such great terms with one another. Also, the reason I decided to write about it is because I learnt so much from it all from you and our mates that I think can apply to any situation when we are criticised or our self-confidence is feeling a little worse for wear. Big x’s A

      • Okay, I had no idea they included threats and harassment. I missed that bit. But if I’d known that I wouldn’t have said ‘block and delete’, I would have said ‘call the police stat’. That isn’t trolling. That isn’t criticism. That is completely different. I’m really sorry you went through that but I really think you should let the authorities know if someone is threatening your family. xxxxxx

  • Awesome post Andrea. Just brilliant. I’m going to print it off and put it on the wall (hope that’s okay). Not just for me but for the family too. It’s so important that we know how to turn things around to our advantage. You’re gorgeous and what you do matters. Thank you. Ax

    • Hi Anita, Thankyou so much! And yes, I’ve since used these techniques to help guide my boys and it has been really useful. xxxA

  • I will never understand trolls & I’m kind of glad of that. If this person could meet you in real life and stop hiding behind a keyboard they would soon know that you just radiate warmth and kindness & sincerity. Don’t ever let the spineless think they could dull your sparkle for a second. Pond scum, imagine how empty their life must be to need to fill the void with petty hate. Sad really and how annoying for them it must be that they’ve actually strengthened you and made you shine even brighter. Xoxo

  • Good for you! They are jealous, plain and simple… And who wouldn’t be!?!?!?! You are an inspiration… And beautiful too! I absolutely love your blog! Thank you. Xx

    • Oh thankyou Carol, I’m not sure if it’s jealousy, but I do think it’s just their own insecurities. Big xxx’s A

  • Hi Andrea,

    I’m not a blogger (but someday might like to be) & I really struggle to understand how people think treating someone this way is anywhere close to acceptable. As a fellow human being I’m so sorry someone has treated you this way. I applaud you for your strength in revealing the gift they’ve given you in some really shocking wrapping. Wear that red lipstick with love & pride for yourself and keep on keeping on.
    PS Brene Brown ROCKS. Read Daring Greatly, cause that’s exactly what you’re doing. Much love xx

  • Hi Andrea
    Thank you for sharing your recent experience! I have had a similar experience 2 weeks ago, and yes it did bother me at the time, it goes to show that some people (especially other mums…) can be quite judgemental, but sadly do it to other women due to insecurities. I like the comments above, as these people have already made up their minds about you, and there is nothing more you can do. You are great Andrea. x

    • I’m so sorry to hear you have had a similar experience Maree. But absolutely it is a reflection on them, not you. x

  • One of my fave things I like to say to myself in ANY situation where someone has treated me unacceptably whether this be my husband, my children or someone I don’t even know – “I can not control the things that other people say or do. What I can control is how I allow myself to feel and how I react to that behaviour”. I empower myself through the one thing I can always control… My mind, my decisions, my reactions. I think lots of mothers resort to trolling because they feel really powerless, like a nobody in the world. They see you doing all this cool stuff, making friends and networks, looking pretty, being a somebody. Motherhood does crazy shit to women. It’s a challenging journey that requires us to constantly redefine ourselves. I think some women feel completely stripped of their identity when they become a mother, like they don’t know who they are anymore because they can no longer define themselves the way they used to. So when they see someone like you redefining yourself, rising above, thriving in motherhood, being pretty damn cool it makes them go to a dark place. And that’s not a very nice place to be. It makes me feel sorry for them more than angered by them.

  • Great post! I’m scared of this as a new blogger but you have inspired me and I’m expecting to be attacked one day and I’ll remember this along with your strength and wisdom. And I might stalk you down for an e-hug. You’re awesome and fighting back with awesome is totally working for you. Love the lips and your talented photographer !

  • Love this post. I too have been attacked by trolls recently, mainly directed at my size and shape and well… lack of a thigh gap. I’ve witnessed some heart breaking online bullying directed at one of my daughters and I contemplated hitting delete. The trolls have made me pull back a lot because no one really needs to see the comments or that much negativity.

  • Haters going to hate. They make us stronger. Be strong and ignore those horrible words that sting and stick like mud. Why is it we list to the negative and filter out the positive? You are so amazing and an inspiration to many.

    The kids saying shit, that’s just kids and they know you’re doing your best. They do After School Care because your Dad lives in Adelaide and your mumma is watching them grow from heaven. We do what we can , how we can. Anyone that says otherwise never had a cool mum to buy them slushies on a Friday. Hugs. Zoe xx

    • Zoe, thankyou for putting that into perspective for me. You are right. Many people have their parent living nearby and alive. I’m making do. I dont feel sorry for myself though, never have. I’s just life right? But I REALLY appreciate you have said that to me, as I feel a lot of guilt about that. But there is no other choice. . xxx

  • Look at you … answering to every comment Angel !! You see ?? One nasty bitty troll brought a bazillion friends out of the woodwork Good job ! Shows the true proportion of things. A little rain , loooots of sunshine , and watch all the flowers grow ❤️ !!! Hugs, and have a grrrrreat day .

Leave a Reply

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