The Day A Bully Almost Destroyed My Business

It was a brisk Friday in December of 2010. I felt exhausted and mentally drained after going back and forth with leasing negotiations on my very first studio space for Little Nest Portraits. I was ready for a weekend full of rest! Before launching into my Friday night, I thought I’d take a quick peek at my email. I saw an alert letting me know there was a new comment on my photography blog. As I clicked to read it, I saw:

You call this work professional? This is not professional photography.”

What a disturbing way to end a week, I sighed to myself.

And then I saw more. And still more. All negative reviews and comments from someone who opted to remain anonymous.

Bully in business

Before determining this person was a troll and deleting their hurtful words, I took a second to click the IP address. It was then I discovered that the person making the comments was located in the same vicinity as my new studio location!

The comments didn’t stop there. As the evening went on, more and more notifications of negative reviews on various websites came rolling in. Dozens of them hurling at me as I pursued each one in an effort to keep up with either responding back or deleting them.

Each comment somehow embedded information that highlighted my worst fears about myself. It was as if the writer somehow knew my insecurities and worded the reviews in an attempt to create the greatest damage possible.

In the next few weeks I launched my own personal reconnaissance mission to try to find the source of the harassment. I knew the person was near the studio. I just had to determine who it might be.

Sure enough, after talking to enough people in the business, I learned that a local photographer was protesting to mutual friends about our studio moving into her territory. Upon learning this, I contacted an attorney who advised we send a cease and desist letter to her on the grounds of defamation. If she wasn’t responsible, she’d defend herself and claim innocence. But interestingly enough, she did the opposite.

She admitted guilt.

“Okay,” I thought. “Damage done, but at least the problem is resolved and I can move on.” The month following, however, was a continuation of the harassment that launched a full on battle between my attorney and hers. As a result of this legal war, I couldn’t sleep, stopped working, and all I could do was obsess about my pain, how wrong she was and how I needed to make everyone involved realize that. While I always strive to be a Joypreneur, I was struggling to face every new day. Bullies suck the joy right out of people.

I wanted to quit. I wanted it to stop. I wanted to just get out of this mess.

It seemed as though she’d won.

There came a day when I confronted her via a phone call. I wasn’t yelling at her or venting my frustration. Instead, I sought an apology. I wanted her to feel sorry. And I wanted her to admit it to me.

I never got that.

The phone call left me disappointed and frustrated, yet again. It was then I realized that all this effort. All this joy-sucking turmoil. All this distraction. I was allowing it to consume me and distract me from my dream, my goal and my potential.

People who are upset by your growth could quite possibly be the price of your success. And no one loses that game more than the people around you. Through work, you’re empowered to bring joy to so many other people — your customers, your employees, your partners.

When you let negativity win, they lose out on getting to experience working with you. Today, as I’m sitting here reflecting on those events of my past, I find joy in growing a national company that allows other female entrepreneurs to realize their dreams. I could have never imagined how insignificant that situation was to my success, despite how consuming it felt at the time. At the time it felt so big, so dramatic, so stressful – and in retrospect it was amazingly insignificant.

You’ll always be faced with distractions — and sometimes even bullies. Remember that you’re in this for a bigger reason!  Connecting with your why, and your joy is helpful in seeing the situation as just a bump in the road instead of an insurmountable obstacle.

Remind yourself that joy always wins.

Question: Have you ever been consumed by negativity or a bully? How did you overcome it? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.