Dealing With Negative Comments

I borrowed this title from the author of a blog I follow – whom I am coming to know and admire more through her blog – and a recently-posted entry of an experience and reaction she had to some negative comments that were thrown her way. One thing I’ve learned through the years is that when people direct ugly comments your way it usually comes from their own insecurity and really has nothing to do with you. Ironically, our first instinct is to take the comments personally, especially when a nerve is hit. But, how we handle the situation often says a lot about who we are, or even who we are becoming.

I’ve had Betsy’s permission to reprint some of her story here and I’d like to share it with you. Whether we are trying to tackle personal health, financial, emotional or other difficult obstacles, I think we can all learn from Betsy’s experience how to support others in similar situations, and how to react and support ourselves when we are faced with the negative comments.

“…I’ve been training for [the Seattle Rock ‘N Roll] half-marathon as part of my “bucket list…” It has been a tough process, and…throughout these months of training I’ve continued to have the same worry:

What if people make fun of me for not being a “real” runner?

This is an insecurity I’ve had since I started [training] last fall. I couldn’t even run 60 seconds at a time without gasping for breath, and I had serious doubts that I would ever be able to run a mile, much less a half-marathon. Even deeper than the lack of fitness was my insecurity over how I looked compared to all the other runners. I have never been athletic, and on my best day I could be described as curvy.

Over the past 8 months I’ve made significant progress, and… I’m confident that I’ll run those 13.1 miles, and I’m even getting a little ambitious over the time it will take to finish.

But still the insecurities remain.

[One] Saturday I went running in a beautiful spot on a sunny day. Normally I wear a special running shirt that wicks the sweat away and make[s] me look like all the other runners, but I didn’t get my laundry done and had to run in an old Patriots t-shirt. Near the start of the run a woman running toward me said to her friend: “See that? *Not* a runner.” This is exactly the kind of comment I’ve been dreading these past 8 months, though I really thought most people would just think it and not say it. All this time I’ve been looking for judgement [sic]in their eyes and this woman made it so convenient by actually saying it out loud!

At first I was really taken aback and felt the tears sting my eyes (I mean, I heard it over my iPod while playing Eminen, so she didn’t exactly whisper it). And then I tried to justify it by saying that I wasn’t dressed appropriately and blah, blah, blah – making excuses for why a stranger would make a rude comment like that!

If we work this comment out it really doesn’t take long to neutralize it. By the sheer act of running at that moment I am a runner. By training 4-5 days a week for months at a time, I am a runner. By sticking to a regimen that predicts I will be able to finish the half-marathon, I am a runner. Even if I don’t make it across the finish line, I am still a runner BECAUSE I RUN. There is nothing anyone can say to change that unless I let it change my opinion of myself [emphasis added] and stop running…

Neutralizing negative comments

Do you find yourself paralyzed by the fear of negative comments? There are 3 steps that I use to work through this that may help you, too.

1. Realize that your insecurity is what gives negative comments power. For instance, if someone told me they didn’t like my hair, it wouldn’t bother me much… [My hairstyle] is not a point of insecurity for me, so negative comments slide off pretty easily. Running, on the other hand, is a real sore spot because it is so far out of my comfort zone.

2. Let your imagination run wild. Think of the worst things someone could say to you about your new decision. Go crazy with it! The more outrageous you make your scenario, the easier it will be to see how ridiculous it is to fret…

3. Turn the mirror around. In my case, the other runner was wearing makeup, had on a perfectly matched outfit (without a jog bra!), and wasn’t even sweating. It’s obvious that appearance is important to her. Why should I make that my issue? She could be an Olympic sprinter or a total jerk, but either way her comments say more about her belief system than mine. I’ve got too much work to do on myself to worry about everyone else’s insecurities…

Remember that you don’t make big changes in your life for other people’s approval. By the same token, other people’s negative reactions shouldn’t cause you to stop making positive changes in your life (or to never start at all).”

Go Forth and Conquer!

To read Betsy’s full entry – as well as her recap of her Seattle Marathon adventure, visit

Married With Luggage

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12 Responses to “Dealing With Negative Comments”

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  7. Reema says:

    Another race?! Good for you! Is that right before you go on your trip?

    Anytime you want to add Zumba to the mix, I'm waiting! Good luck!

  8. Betsy Talbot says:

    Thanks for sharing my story, Reema. I'm happy to report that I did finish the race, and along the way a lot of fit and well-dressed runners gave me much support and encouragement. Most people really are good and you can't let a few negative comments spoil you to the rest of humanity.

    After a couple of weeks of recovery I'm going to begin training for another race on September 26. See, I'm a runner after all. 🙂

    (and just maybe I'll add one of those fun Zumba classes to my training regimen!)

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