The Physician Philosopher Podcast

TPP #17: How to Deal With Haters

Physician Disability Insurance

Success seems like the ultimate goal. But it’s important to know that success is going to come with your fair share of critics. There are people who are going to look down on you, make excuses for your success, and be jealous and opinionated.


Those opinions do not define who you are. It’s important to keep in mind the thoughts you think about others around you and your thoughts about what they think about you. At the end of the day it doesn’t really matter as much as you think.

Sometimes you can use constructive criticism to better yourself. Look to those who genuinely love you and know you to help encourage you to be the best version of you. Always remember that mischaracterization doesn’t prove who you are. You can choose how to react to what people have to save about you.

Today You’ll Learn

  • How to deal with people who are haters.
  • The difference between constructive criticism and mischaracterization.
  • How you can react to what people think about you.
  • Why the opinions of those who truly love you and your own opinions matter the most.
  • And more!

Episode Resources

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Everyone wants to be successful, until they find enough of success that they experience their first critic. You know what I'm talking about, the online troll who's sipping so hard on their haterade that they make you sound like the worst person in the world. It takes a lot of mindset work to learn how to deal with that situation, so if you've ever been called name, received a bad online review, been the talk of the town, or been trolled online, keep listening to Learn How to Deal.

This is the Physician Philosopher Podcast. I'm Dr. Jimmy Turner, an anesthesiologist, personal finance blogger, and life coach for doctors. The Physician Philosopher Podcast teaches you how to create the life that you deserve one thought at a time. Start before you're ready, start by starting, start now. Hey, hey, hey, everyone. Welcome to Episode Number 17 of the Physician Philosopher Podcast where we take an uncurated and unapologetic look into the physician life.

Today's thought is this, you can either be judged or ignored, the choice is up to you. And when you get judged you alone get to decide what that means. So before I go into how to deal with criticism let me just tell you a story so that you can see that I relate. The first time that I experienced major criticism was on the Physician Philosopher. I noticed a really big spike in the blog traffic and so I started diving into that and started really trying to figure out where it came from.

And so I looked at my posts and I saw there's this one post in particular that was getting a lot more traffic than everything else. Well, I wrote a post in a bit of a vacuum in terms of I had a very small audience at the time, my readers knew me, they had read multiple articles, they knew my stance, my perspective on things, but when this post was read in a vacuum by itself and particularly with a feminist lens on it it came across as sexist. And to others who didn't know me that's how it was read.

Which is interesting because to the blog readers that knew me I had people email me and say that they cried when they read it and how powerful it was and that they were going to have tough conversations with their spouse or partner because of it because that's what the post was about, my family, and what I felt like my wife should consider doing if I died financially. Because the backstory here is, and you can see why this might come across in written words and prose very poorly, but I have a reading disability and my wife has just an avid hatred for math.

And so in personal finance world you lay out simple math when you're going through a post, it's what everybody does. So if you don't read personal finance and you don't know that my wife hates math and that I make fun of her for that and she makes fun of me for my reading disability when I trip over words reading books to our kids, for example, you would read this post and basically make it look like I was mansplaining math to my wife.

So interestingly, people didn't just like this post got picked up and syndicated and when it did one person in particular blasted out on Twitter, and this person had, I don't know, 130,000 Twitter followers. And it was super interesting to me because I didn't have appreciation for the fact of how just poorly construed your words can be when they're in written word and when someone puts on a different lens and reads it in a different way. And when I went back and read it I was like, "Yeah, I guess I can see what they're saying." And as someone who really cares a lot about women empowerment, about my wife, about the two girls that I have that are my little girls that I want to grow up and run the world if they want to, I mean, it really felt awful, honestly, because I was being cast in a light that wasn't consistent with who I am.

And at the time though it felt like, "Gosh, I just need to respond to this, I need to respond to this hatred." Just to give you some examples of how bad this got, some of the comments when people read that post and then follow it underneath that tweet that blasted out about how terrible this post was and how condescending it was, people were like, and these are real quotes by the way, I went back and looked just so that I could show you how well I could relate to if you're going through the same thing.

So they're were like, "Dear wife, leave now. You deserve better." "Time for an attorney." "The divorce kind." They called me sexist. They said that you should find a way to cash out on the life insurance that I mentioned, in other words, that she should murder me. And so several of these were coming from physicians, people that work in medicine. And to me that's a little mind because I questioned how these people treated other people that thought differently than them in clinic or the hospital or in the operating room, so on and so forth.

But really I was just hurt because that's not who I am. And I know that, my wife knows that, my little girls know that, anyone that is a woman physician that I work with which I have, a ton of amazing women physicians that I work with they know that. And so I felt awful, I felt like I needed to respond because I wanted to defend that that's not who I am. And I actually really liked criticism, I liked the opportunity to become a better person, to improve my way of thinking and my life. And so I looked at this and I was like, "Okay, well, this is an opportunity for me to become a better person."

And so I wrote a response and of course nobody read it, they didn't read it. These people that are blasting me on Twitter aren't going to read that response, right? And so that's when I really learned my first lesson when it comes to dealing with criticism and it's kind of a set of lessons if you will, but first of all, don't feed the trolls. And what I mean by that is, and if you're in this space, in the online space you know what that means. You've probably seen that phrase or heard someone say that phrase before. But ultimately what I'm saying is that people when they get behind a keyboard are a bunch of keyboard warriors. They will say whatever they think that is on their mind and they will say it in the most abrasive, offensive way possible and they feel like they know you, all of you.

Like this one interaction, this one bad post that I wrote that could have been written so much better, and I recognize that. But I screwed up, wrote a post that didn't exactly cast me in the best light, and from that one post all of these trolls, all of these keyboard warriors thought they knew everything about me. The ins and outs of who I am, they probably think they know what political affiliation I hold and what my belief system is and in fact, multiple of them mentioned that, they thought that they did. And so don't feed the trolls. When you write back a response it just makes it worse.

And now it doesn't mean don't apologize when you get something wrong, it doesn't mean don't step into who you are and if you made a misstep, don't go out in public and offer an apology, that's not what I'm saying. My point is that the trolls don't care, they just want to cast blame, throw rocks, have avid hatred for you behind a keyboard and be super brave and say things to you on a keyboard that they would never say to you in real life. No one in real life would ever treat somebody the way that people treat people online, they just wouldn't.

And so the first lesson that I learned is don't feed the trolls. I never should have written the response because none of them read it and at the end of the day the critics are going to come and that's just how it is. And you know who you are, and we're going to dive into this a little bit more, but ultimately you know who you are, your family knows who you are and the online critic isn't the one that matters. Now, this could be an example like the one I just gave, this could be a bad online patient review or a bad review in person. Maybe someone called you a bad doctor online, said that you thought they were fat, said that you didn't care, that you lack compassion or empathy. These are some of the quotes that I've had clients give me about bad online reviews they've gotten. And so maybe that's your situation, right? Everyone is brave behind the keyboard, it's amazing how brave people get behind a keyboard.

But if you've ever been called a name, been the talk of gossip, had things go round about you or gotten a bad online patient review, or you live in the blogging podcasting world and you've gotten a bad review or a lot of hate for something that you did, welcome, you have in some sense arrived. So the problem is this, you can either be judged or ignored, the choice is completely up to you.

And what I mean is that if you put yourself out there, particularly in online space whether that's in clinical medicine, social media, content creation, online business, someone is going to disagree with you on how you do things, on what your views are, on what you say. And so that is fundamentally important to work out because people will say things like, "I thought you helped doctors, why isn't your help free?" Or, "It feels like you're promoting products. Why can't you just write in podcast-free content without the promotion?"

I mean, these some of the things that I hear in the space. "I can't believe you're marketing and targeting toward male physicians, don't do yet men get enough help? What about the women physicians out there?" I've heard that one too, which is interesting because actually the coaching space is the minority is men, interestingly. Not in the rest of the world but in this one space it is men, and like by a landslide.

So when I get that question I explain to people and try to educate them on the fact that there's actually 200 life coach schools certified or getting certified coaches and of those 200, 195 of them are women. And most of those women work with women only. So yes, I market to men because there are men out there that need the help, they need help. They want to talk to somebody, they don't know where to find it. Many of us go to a multiple coaches and then get told, "No, we really appreciate you reaching out but we only work with women. Why don't you try so-and-so," you get pushed down the line.

So here's the thing, you're either going to get yourself out there and be judged because that's just the way things are, people are judgmental. Or you just aren't big enough to have had this experience yet. The longer you're in this space and the more public that you are going to get judged, there's no way around it. And so the problem isn't, "Okay, well, let me think about the best and most sensitive and positive way that I can spend my words that I never get judged." No matter how you do that it is going to happen and so I actually encourage you just to be yourself, be authentic, be genuine, be who you are. And the problem is that the criticism is going to happen and there's nothing you can do, it's coming.

So what you can do is learn how to deal with criticism so that you aren't wasting your time, your energy, your feelings on people who really don't care about you, they don't care about your mission, they aren't your target audience, they aren't the people you're trying to help. So the solution is few different things. First of all, I'll give you three. The first one is that when you think about criticism I want you to think about it how I teach my clients. I've had multiple clients at this point come up and say, "Hey, Jimmy, I really want to talk about a bad online review that I got. I was in the clinic the other day taking care of a patient and I ended up getting a bad online review. They said that I just didn't have any empathy or compassion, that I was a bad doctor, that I didn't care about them and I didn't give them what they wanted."

And so I said, "Okay, let's back up. Why don't you just tell me about the interaction. What happened, what are the facts? What was said, what was not said?" The client proceeded to tell me about the patient interaction. And basically the end result was that the patient walked out of the exam room without getting the prescription that they wanted and so they left a scathing online review. Now, this is interesting, right? Because the online review and the things that were mentioned weren't actually true about this doctor, they weren't actually true about the experience and what happened.

But if you receive criticism there's two responses that you can have. First is that if it's well-warranted, obviously reflect on that, become a better person, apologize, we should be in the business of becoming better partners, parents, and physicians. And so if you've truly done something wrong and someone's pointing it out, by all means don't just ignore them, you need to go out and have some resolution, some reconciliation. That said, if it is a complete mischaracterization of who you are and what you're about, recognize that the person who gets to determine who and what you are is you, it's not them. And in fact, by placing them in that position you're handing all of the power over to the person who is saying something about you, they're criticizing you. You're giving them the power to determine how you feel instead of recognizing that true.

What do I mean by that? Let me come up with a random example, right? If somebody came up to you and said, "Hey, I really hate the fluorescent lights, those purple neon lights underneath that used truck you drive." Unless you have an old used truck with fluorescent neon lights underneath it you'd probably say back to the person, "Actually, that's not my truck. Thanks for the info but that's not true. That's not an actual thing in the real world." And so interestingly, when someone points out something like that we don't get mad. Or if they say, the common example in the life coach school is, "Hey, I hate your purple hair." Unless you have purple hair then you're not going to get upset. You only get upset when you feel like it's something that could be true because otherwise you just correct a person like, "Oh, I don't have purple hair, but thanks, I guess."

And so if you treat online reviews or online criticism or trolls in the space in the same way and recognize that the person who gets to determine who and what you are is you and do you know who you are, if they say something that's not true about you or about your character or about who you're trying to be in this world, then you can also recognize that holds no power you because it's not true and maybe something else is going on in their world that's making them act that way. Maybe there was a result they didn't get, maybe there's something else going on. Maybe we can apply the doctrine of charity that we talked about in a prior episode in this situation. Is it possible that something else is going on in that person's life right now that's leading to these really hateful words that they're saying about me?

But at the end of the day you get to decide who and what you are, not the person behind the keyboard, I just mentioned that. And one way you can wrap your head around. This is the second tool, and this comes a little bit from a Teddy Roosevelt and a little bit from Brene Brown. It's the idea of the man in the arena, right? And I'm actually going to read this speech to you from Theodore Roosevelt. It comes from France, I think it was in 1910. And I just want to read this to you because I think it's so powerful so even if you've heard this before I think it's just profoundly powerful. And so I'm going to read it and then explain to you why this thing is so important life and in fact why my sister bought this for me to go in my office because these words are just so powerful to me.

This is what Roosevelt said, "It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs. Who comes up short again and again because there is no effort without error and shortcoming, but who does actually strive to do the deeds. Who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions. Who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."

Many of you know this speech, right? But, gosh, it's so powerful. Every time I read it I'm like, "Man, it's so good." But it starts with, "It is not the critic who counts." That's where this portion of the speech that's famous starts. And what is it says does count is the man in the arena. It's the person in the arena who's getting their face marred, sweat and blood on their face, and they're putting the work in, they're trying as hard as they can. And guess what? Sometimes you're going to find success, sometimes you're going to fall flat on your face, sometimes you're going to get it wrong. You're going to err, you're going to have shortcomings, you're going to come up short again and again. That's not what matters, you are in the arena.

And most of the time with keyboard warriors and trolls in the online space, you know where they aren't? They are not in the arena. So you're going to win some and you're going to lose some but when one who is not even in the space trying, they don't know what it's like to put yourself out there and to try to help doctors find the life that they want, they don't know what it's like to help patients in the clinic or the operating room or wherever you might work in the emergency department, wherever your shift is. If they are the cold and timid soul that's on the sideline throwing stones at you and they've never been in the arena doing battle, trying to do what's right trying to help other people, their opinion just simply doesn't matter.

You are not the cold and timid soul, you are in the arena. So as Brene Brown would put this, the follow-up quote to this amazing, amazing speech by Teddy Roosevelt is that if you aren't in the arena also getting your kicked I'm not interested in or open to your feedback. Brene's point is that when you have trolls come around remind yourself, "I'm in the arena, I'm trying my best." No, I don't always get it right but I'm here. I'm here right now doing what I can trying to and help doctors find peace, find balance and defeat burnout, find financial freedom. Do I always get it right? Absolutely not. But at least I am in the arena and if you're not I am not interested or open to your feedback.

That doesn't mean that I'm not interested in or open to feedback in general, it's just that those hateful comments that get thrown at you when you live in this space for long enough, I'm just not interested in them. I'm not going to apologize to you. I'm not going to go out of my way to explain myself. And the reason why is because they don't want that, the trolls don't want that, don't feed the trolls. And recognize that unless they're in the arena, their opinion, their feedback, their criticism doesn't count. It is not the critic who counts, that's from Roosevelt. It's beautiful, beautiful wisdom there.

The final thought that I'll pitch at you is this. And I heard this actually from Dr. Hala Sabry and I asked her if I could quote her on this because I think it's just such an awesome quote, right? So you live enough time in this space, you grow a successful business, you grow a successful social media group. Dr. Sabry is a social media guru among being also an amazing physician and an amazing coach. but she says it this way, "You know who doesn't have haters? People who aren't successful." So wrap your head around that.

The beautiful thing I love about this, it's almost like Thomas Edison's quote, where he's like, I'm going to flail on this a little bit but he's like, "I didn't fail 10,000 times, I found 10,000 ways that won't work. So he flipped it on its head and actually made failure a goal. Like, no, it's not a failure, that is just something that won't work and so it actually propelled me to find what does work. And in the same way, Dr. Sabry here is saying, "Who doesn't have haters? People who aren't successful." In other words, if you're successful you are going to have haters and you should view that as a sign of success. That you are picking interest, that you are out there enough that people see it.

And so in a way haters, online bullies and trolls shouldn't bother you or concern you. In fact, if you're thinking about it the right way you should be like, "Finally, I'm making it. The sign that I'm out there enough that people have strong enough opinions about what I'm doing that they will voice it online. And it honestly these days doesn't take a whole lot for people to voice negative opinions online. But if you think about anybody who is well-known, helping people in this space or in any other space, there are detractors. There are people that are critics, that are online haters.

And so just like our episode about failing forward receiving criticism shouldn't be viewed as a bad thing, honestly. If it's valid and it's coming from someone who is in the arena with you by all means make a change, become a better human being. I'm not saying don't do that, please don't do that. Become a better person, apologize when you need to. But if it's not from someone in the arena, it's from a hater or it's from a troll online, then just recognize that receiving criticism should be a goal because it means you are really carving out your niche. And as they say the riches are in the niches, when that's said that way. And there's a reason for that, you're really claiming your space and that means that people that aren't in that space may get offended, and that's okay.

What goes along with these rare cases of criticism, and I want to save this for last because oftentimes this is where people start trying to make themselves feel better and it just doesn't work but I will mention it, is that for every one case of hatred that I get, I get hundreds, hundreds of emails, messages, and direct messages, text messages, from people telling me how profoundly impactful the work that we are doing at the Physician Philosopher has been on them. We are seeing people come in and be vulnerable, men have open spaces to talk, to share and to say where they're at. And for other people watching to say, "Oh my gosh, I've had the same thought for so many years but I've just been afraid to say it."

The vulnerability and the impact that the alpha coaching experience for example is having right now is just massive, just massive. Just creating a space where people are not judged for who they are or what they think, what they believe, and they can come in and just openly share and work on becoming better partners, parents and physicians, and it's been so impactful. And so I get emails, messages, all the time about how great the group call was, how great the one-on-one coaching calls are with the alpha coaches and how impactful and profoundly helpful those things have been. And so for every one case of criticism that I get, I get hundreds of those.

And so if I were to stop because my skin was too thin and I was to avoid carrying on this journey because I couldn't deal with the criticism, how many hundreds or thousands of doctors out there would I not be helping in the future? Because I gave up because it hurt so bad when a critic found their way into my life and blasted me and said that my wife should murder me or divorce me or cash in my life insurance? I've gone through that. I've totally had that experience, it is not fun. But now that I've learned to receive and to deal with criticism in a different way and to recognize that it's not the critic who counts, you got to be in the arena with me for it to matter and that unsuccessful people don't have haters but successful people do, I've wrapped my head around this now.

And so when I get criticism each time I'm getting better and better at dealing with it and I focus more and more and more on the people I'm helping, that are in the arena with me, that are valiantly fighting to become the best partner, parent, a physician that can be and I just don't listen to the critics anymore. So today's thought is this, you can either be judged or ignored, the choice is up to you. And when you get judged you alone get to decide what that means. Until next time my friends, start before you're ready, start by starting, start now.

My dad, Dr. Jimmy Turner is a physician first, personal finance blogger and a life coach for doctors. However, he is not your physician or your life coach. He also isn't a financial advisor, financial planner, or accountant. Anything discussed in this podcast is for general education and entertainment purposes only. Life coaching is not a substitute for therapy, medicine, or medical treatment. However, if you are a doctor looking for a life coach you can reach out to my dad at [email protected].


1 Comment

  1. pk

    A few years ago I watched a documentary about Mr. Rogers. In the end, it briefly mentioned the were protesters at his funeral. I thought to myself, if a man that was so positive, genuine, wholesome, and sincere, who made it his life’s work to help children could have haters, than any of us can. In my opinion, how these protesters viewed Mr. Rogers had nothing to do with who he was and what he stood for. People can misperceive us, or judge us because of their own internal struggles, biases, or issues. In a funny way, it was rather freeing for me, because if Mr. Rogers has people speak out against him, then all of us should expect criticism and not take it personally. Thanks for the podcast and sharing so openly!


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