A huge trend in my generation is to call out and address “haters.” Whether on Twitter, in a YouTube video’s comment section, or a celebrity’s Instagram post, critics are everywhere. These “haters” seem to be pretty elusive, hiding behind anonymous profiles or protecting themselves by hitting the delete button after a particularly harsh attack.
However, what we sometimes fail to realize, is that we have many people surrounding us daily that practice the same tactics as these online predators. And sadly, they can be some of our closest family and friends. Say what?
I really want to discuss and bring this issue to light because as a college student (and also a creative entrepreneur), I face this problem almost daily. Because of this, I imagine a lot of people out there feel similarly. The creative industry should be a place where people can lift each other up, and congratulate achievement, instead of tearing one another down.
When I was in middle school, I decided to start a YouTube channel dedicated to fashion and beauty. I loved to play around with makeup, and watched as other people uploaded their own tutorials and reviews online. I wanted to be like them! I remember sitting in a Panera booth across from my mom, being so nervous to ask her if I could start my own channel and upload videos. She said yes, and always supported me throughout my YouTube career.
My YouTube channel started to quickly grow, and I had almost 10,000 subscribers by eighth grade. My “fans” would comment on my social media and ask when I was going to be posting another video, or for beauty/fashion advice. I loved feeling valued and getting attention from people similar to me. However, not everyone shared my vision for my YouTube channel.
At school, I was mocked a lot and called by my YouTube channel handle as a sort of mean nickname. People would laugh and quote my videos. Once, someone projected one of my YouTube videos onto the classroom projector to show the teacher and class, without my permission. My extended family asked about my YouTube channel at every holiday, and desperately tried to understand what I was doing online.
I was starting to make money from YouTube, had over 1,000,000 views on my channel, and had been featured on channels like Teen Vogue. However, I started to hate the persona I had created. Why? Because I stuck out like a sore thumb in the world of middle school, where everyone else was trying to blend in.
I ended up deleting all of my YouTube videos years later out of sheer embarrassment. I still pretend to laugh along and giggle when a friend from home brings up my YouTube years, however, I really believe it’s sad that I stopped doing something that I once loved simply because of what others thought/said.
Fortunately, I am not one to easily give up on things. Now five years later, here I am, with a new project. I love EmmaLenhart.com, my website for helping girl bosses turn their dreams into reality, and treat it like my own child. I have now realized, since starting my website and brand, that the “haters” never really go away.
I am in college, with a profitable business, and I still get insecure about what I am doing. In society, we are taught to be ashamed and scared of self-promotion and ambition. But self-promotion and ambition are exactly what you need to have in the business world if you ever want to make a (big) name for yourself.
People my age love to look up to celebrities and millionaires, without realizing that they, too, once started small. (Um hello? Has anyone seen the Justin Bieber movie where his singing YouTube videos had just a few hundred views and he was playing on a street corner?) I digress. The point of this post was not to rant about others shooting down ideas, but rather to confess that I have suffered from self-doubt that stems from other’s opinions and I’m sure some of you have, too. However, I don’t let that doubt and awkwardness kill my passions anymore. Let’s focus a little more energy on cheering on our peers, instead of plotting ways to bring them down.