"If you are not in the arena and getting your ass kicked,
I am not interested in your feedback."
- Brene Brown
I did it. I finally friggin’ did it. I got brave enough to start responding to the thousands of comments underneath In My Chair, my TEDxRVAwomen talk on YouTube. I decided to start returning, one by one, each of the messages in bottles that had been flung out into the rough seas of the comments section, each one hoping for someone to find it, read it, and connect with it.
Now I know what you must be thinking. I thought the same thing.
Why the hell wouldn’t I do that? Why would I even hesitate to respond to YouTube comments? Why would responding to supportive comments ever require any degree of courage?
I know, I feel you. After all, almost every one of the commenters are kindhearted women, earnestly thanking me for speaking up and sharing my story. They, too, struggle with impossible 21st Century beauty standards. They just want to let me know that what I had to say moved them in some way.
When IN MY CHAIR was first posted, I thought about responding to every single one of the beautiful souls that took the time to watch and share their observations. But somehow I just couldn’t respond.
For a few reasons.
The first reason was completely lame: Most TED speakers don't do it. So, I thought: “Well, I guess I shouldn't respond. Wouldn't be professional.”
I already had a bit of an inferiority complex about being on the TED stage, since I don’t fit neatly into a Technology, Engineering or Design category. I’m also not a rich entrepreneur, scientist, or a famous person. It is a daunting arena to step into.
The second reason is, I had only seen one or two TED speakers who did reply. Aaaannd the exchanges didn't seem to go well. I didn't have to scroll down too far before witnessing the trolls swarm; Filling the comments section with criticisms from the speaker’s appearance to the content being boring or uninspiring... and the speaker’s thoughtful responses to their critics were suddenly devoured by bloodthirsty, resentful souls who reside so far away from ‘the arena' they weren't even in the parking lot to tailgate. It was an ugly sight.
As I scrolled down the page, I usually discovered, to my dismay, that eventually the dignified speaker quietly disappeared from the exchange entirely.
“Ugh,” I thought. “Ugly stuff. I just can't handle all the negativity.”
“DO NOT FEED THE TROLLS.”
And boy, on other platforms, did I have trolls.
When my talk was put on the Upworthy.com Facebook page and started to go viral, many of the comments were tough to read ... some were verbatim transcripts of my innermost fears of what people would say about me.
‘She needs a nose job.”
“All of this is Bullshit.”
“She is an actress who is just trying to promote herself.”
“This is just another one of those pseudo-science fluff talks ruining the integrity of TED.”
However, the third and most resonant reason for not responding right away was very simple: