Contributing Author Emily Hearn Harrison
I’ve always known that I was a people pleaser. From a very early age there were these clear, unfortunate signs. Like when I changed schools in the second grade. Most of the kids in my new class were instantly friendly, but I remember that there were these two girls who didn’t like me. No matter what I did, the girls wouldn’t give me an ounce of their attention or approval.
I went to my mom for advice, and like any loving parent would, she enthusiastically assured me that they probably did like me. But in this case, she was wrong. I foolishly spent that entire school year trying to win over their affection, neglecting the fifteen other kids in my class who already liked me and could have been great pals. The two girls and I never became friends.
I’ve spent my whole life acting like that second grader who couldn’t possibly be content until everyone liked me, fueled by the hope that they might.
I think that most people feel some version of this people-pleasing anxiety. It’s a deeply rooted, instinctual desire to want to be accepted.
Haters Gonna Hate
But the truth is this; there will be people who do not like us.
There will be people who do not understand us.
There will be people who do not appreciate our art.
But more importantly (and this should be the focus of our attention) THERE WILL BE PEOPLE THAT DO.
I’ve wondered if our people-pleasing rampages are somehow perpetuated by the good-intentioned, motherly advise that says, “they probably do like you.” I think about all the hours I’ve wasted trying to win over that small percentage of “haters” when I’m so thoroughly loved and appreciated by a larger percentage.
In the past I’ve asked myself what I was thinking becoming a singer/songwriter.
Because the truth is, I do worry, and I do measure myself and my worth against what other people think of me. My mind stays busy with doubts about my work and fears about all of the people who will not like what I’ve done. I tell myself that I’m not good enough.
What a waste of my energy and what a disappointment to those who do believe in me and do need to hear what I have to say.
I’ve found that it’s almost better to acknowledge that those doubts and fears are based in some truth. “Yes, there will be haters.”
And then comes the part that I think is pivotal to becoming the best you can be:
“Yes, there will be haters AND THAT’S OKAY. Because they are not the ones I’m creating for.”
I spent most of last year making an album.
I wrote this album in the midst of a busy touring schedule which often had me stretched thin, writing new songs from the floors of friends’ apartments in random cities all over the country. Some of these moments were simply the best of my life, while others left me exhausted and homesick. But I poured my heart into these 12 songs, and I still spent a few too many months worrying about how people would receive it (that instinct might never go away).
I realized just before I recorded my new album “Hourglass” that I cannot create something and secretly hope that everyone will love it.
Because everyone won’t.
I still have the exact words of a few bitter critics glued in my memory, but at the end of the day artists create for those who need and want to hear what we have to say. That is simply all we can do.
I think that is exactly what makes art so beautiful–that there could be that group of people, be it large or small, that feels more understood in life because of what you wrote, sang, drew, painted, or said.
It’s so humbling looking back to see how every moment has been perfectly crafted by God to prepare me for the next step. That’s it–just one patient step at a time. I have to learn to trust that His good plan is so much bigger than my fear of being rejected. I have to remember that He created me (and you) for a purpose and with a unique story to tell.
The ironic thing is that after trying to block out the desire for people to like my album, I was blown away and thrilled by the response. I was so genuinely touched (almost to the point of tears) to see all of my friends and sweet fans posting about the new album for 3 days straight. People have continued to approach me with stories about how my songs have encouraged them, moved them, made them want to dance, or made them feel more understood.
So my advice to you, no matter what your task, is to remember that there will be haters. So don’t you dare let the fear of failure change what you create or keep you from creating.
Because the haters are not the ones you are creating for.
Check out Emily’s newest Album Hourglass, available on iTunes for download!