Say Thank You to Your Haters

Once you find your voice and reason in life, it will be what expresses you. It becomes what you stand for, which inevitably also represents what you stand against.

I am a recovering asshole. I have been inhabited by hate. I have hated. I have held others in disdain. I have been nasty. I have bullied. I have intimidated. I have shot down the dreams of others. I have pummelled people with my intellect in the hopes of feeling better about my own insecurities. I have avenged others for perceived wrongs. I know the hater, because I was one – and didn’t even have the personal insight to know it for many years.

Now, I choose to love because it is the strongest thing I can do. It proves that I reject hate, even when hated. I cannot control the hate of others. But if I am going to be hated for who I am, then I need to be fearless in being who I need to be.

Now, I say thank you to my haters. And there are plenty. Some hate what I say. Some hate how I say it. Some hate that I make them feel uncomfortable. Some hate the way I look. Some hate that I swear. Some hate that I am Canadian (oddly enough by other Canadians sometimes). Some hate that I have had opportunities they have not. Some hate that I critique the dominant paradigms. Some hate that I use data and evidence. Some hate that I am innovative. Some hate that I do not ask for permission from others before doing new things. Some hate that we are a private company. Some hate that we do no give away every stitch of research or testing we have done on our products. Some hate that some of the ideas we share are not published, even though we have loads of data to back up our position. Some even hate that I have a popular blog that people read.

Some haters tell me that they hate me. Some haters will couch that in language that sounds supportive, such as, “We are so worried for your soul because of the terrible things you do to the homeless that we have been keeping a prayer chain going for you.” Some haters just don’t invite me to stuff, even though I may have a lot to contribute. Some haters make false promises that they never deliver on (oh, the emails, phone calls and contracts I am waiting for!).

I could lie to you and bust out the “sticks and stones may break my bones” nonsense. But when it comes to professional colleagues and your life’s work, sometimes words of the haters do still sting. Sometimes when haters don’t invite you to a specific event or want you to kiss their ass to get asked to join in on something, it really bothers me. I could tell you I am a bigger person and it doesn’t bother me – but that would be a lie. If I make a conscious decision to not be filled with hatred myself, then I have to give myself permission to feel, as imperfect and bothersome as my emotions may be sometimes.

Haters prove to me what I do not want to be.

Love has proven to be possible when I stop comparing myself to others. If I am authentically who I am, and I am vulnerable with sharing my imperfections, then I have the ability to open myself up to being a gift.

I accept that there is darkness. I accept that even in a profession of people that state they are trying to help others, there is no shortage of people trying to tear others down. These are not helpful comments and feedback. These are shots intended to destroy others. It is all about ego. As a mentor remarked to me a few years back when we were just getting the SPDAT started, without darkness the shine of the stars would be lost. The more stars, the prettier the night sky is how I feel now.

I say thank you to my haters because they have taught me about resilience and perseverance. Without others telling me that I cannot or that I should stop, the value of continuing to move forward and succeeding would be meaningless. I can be remarkably imperfect, still have days full of self doubt, and yet still keep pushing forward.

Haters help me “work the problem”. When confronted with something in life or practice that is not working, it would be easiest to give up or blame someone else. For years in my career, especially when I worked in government, I could go to meeting after meeting just to outline what could not be done. I complained instead of creating possible solutions. I thought it was my job to dump my problems on the lap of another to absolve myself from responsibility. But if haters see you do that, it confirms all of their suspicions about you. So now I work the problem to find solutions.

Haters remind me of the importance of being fearless in telling the truth. And I live in that truth. The only people, it turns out, that are pissed off that I keep living in the truth are those that are living a lie. I am not saying all those that live in hate are liars, but there certainly are some.

Haters keep me motivated after I make mistakes, and challenge me to keep taking risks. Taking a risk is the only proof I can give you that I believe in hope. Continuing to try after tasting failure is the only proof I can give you that the idea was important enough to me in the first place. If I give up, the haters win. I have learned so much from my mistakes, I am committed to making even more.

Haters are going to hate. I cannot control that. But thank you to the haters, because you make life worth living, with greater conviction to be awesome and full of love. And without the haters, I probably would not be as committed or work as hard to end homelessness. On some level, I am working this hard to prove the haters wrong.


About Iain De Jong

Leader. Edutainer. Coach. Consultant. Professor. Researcher. Blogger. Do-gooder. Potty mouth. Positive disruptor. Relentless advocate for social justice. Comedian. Dad. Minimalist. Recovering musician. Canadian citizen. International jetsetter. Living life in jeans and a t-shirt. Trying really hard to end homelessness in developed countries around the world, expand harm reduction practices, make housing happen, and reform the justice system. Driven by change, fuelled by passion. Winner of a shit ton of prestigious awards, none of which matter unless change happens in how we think about vulnerability, marginality, and inclusion.

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