Don't be afraid to stand up for yourself

Former Prime Minister Winston Churchill said, “You have enemies? Good. That means you've stood up for something, sometime in your life.”

No matter how many compliments you may receive, it’s the one criticism that feels like the end of the world. It’s that one criticism that makes many people question themselves. And for those suffering from a mental illness, like depression, one criticism could be the straw that broke the camel’s back and makes them give up on themselves and on life.

Being a journalist, I receive emails from strangers on a daily basis. And, sometimes, these emails can be downright insulting. Last week, the first email I saw when returning to work after New Year's Day was  from a woman I didn’t know – telling me that I didn’t deserve my job.

In the email, this woman said, “Who hired you? Or who are you related to? You bring shame to true reporters and the intelligence of your readers.”

This email was in reference to an article I wrote sharing local residents’ most memorable moments of 2013. Many readers’ commented that their most memorable moment was getting married or engaged. In an attempt to give a creative lead in to my story, I wrote, “The news was filled with celebrity love stories in 2013 — especially the engagement of rapper Kanye West and Kim Kardashian, who, as a couple, have now become a household name. Many Oakland County residents will also remember 2013 as a year that love was in the air, and their stories could be considered even more romantic than that of ‘Kimye’s.’”

By even mentioning these reality stars, this woman thought I was doing a huge disservice to readers everywhere.

She said, “I understand you are young, it don't insult your readers with pathetic statements that we will remember the 'engagement of rapper Kanye West and Kim Kardashian who, as a couple, have now becomes household name.' NOT to those of us with three-digit IQs and who hold zero regard for the waste that is 'reality stars.'"

For a moment after reading this email, I started to question my journalistic abilities. Just this one woman’s opinion made me question my entire career. And all I wanted to do was hide out in the bathroom for the rest of the day.

And then I snapped out of it.

What the heck was I doing, letting this one woman’s opinion of me completely change my opinion of myself?

So instead of doubting myself, I decided to stand up for myself. I took a deep breath so I wouldn’t send an email full of expletives. And then I told her why, in fact, I deserved to be a journalist.

In my email, first I pointed out what the story was actually about. And then I referenced facts in relation to my story.

I responded, “I know you say that people don’t care about these celebrities. This is obviously not the case considering Kim Kardashian was the third most searched person on Google in 2013 and Kanye West was the 10th most searched. These figures show that, while you may not care about them, a lot of people do.”

I added, “With the increase of online traffic, I was trying to appeal to our younger audience with this article. Which did work considering I received many compliments on social media for my article. Yours was the first criticism I received for the story. But thank you for your input.”

And, guess what? I haven't heard from this woman since.

No matter how old you are, you will encounter bullies in your life. People who just want to put others down — watch as they squirm to somehow feel better about themselves. If you let others' words define you, you are doing just what this person's goal was in the first place.

Instead of giving up, try even harder to prove the naysayers wrong.

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