You have to face the fact that most people have hang-ups. These worries and fears may be simply explained away by some, but they are very real and sometimes debilitating to others. I have had several of these since I can remember and I’ve never been able to shake them.

I may never be able to surpass my anxieties completely, but yesterday was a giant step in the right direction. I hit a personal milestone and I didn’t even notice that I had done so until later that evening.

Like many people, I fear rejection. That’s why I choose not to put myself out there very much. In person, I dislike drawing attention to myself in a crowd (despite having weird hair) and prefer to listen to conversations rather than join them. I try to do the same thing online, but with the comic strips, I basically have to do the opposite.

I’ve been enjoying all of the positive comments and feedback that I’ve been getting from new readers as well as long time fans. It certainly does wonders for the psyche. It makes me want to get up every day, put on my pants, walk the 15 feet to my drawing table, and work for 14 hours. There is not much that can ruin that wonderful feeling… except for the negative words from a stranger.

I received a few of those negative words yesterday.

It wasn’t anything harsh or super critical or even personal. The person read my most recent comic for the first time and basically called it “terrible.”

It doesn’t matter that the words were typed on a forum (of sorts) because those can hurt just as much as the verbal kind. In fact, the written word seems to hold a bit more truth than if they were spoken. Most people don’t have the courage to say out loud what they feel, myself included, and it is much easier to express yourself when you can delete and erase and rewrite until it’s perfect.

So I find out that someone thinks my comic is terrible. I read the line. I read it over again. And I read it a third time…

And then I went on to the next comment. And the next.

It didn’t even phase me.

Later that evening I realized what had happened and I was kind of shocked. For my entire life, the delicate balance of my mental state depended on the weight of a feather. When you’re small and fragile, that minuscule weight is so much heavier.

When I was younger, if one person called me “geek,” or say anything else negative toward me, I would fly off the handle. I would scream and cry and get incredibly angry. My tantrums were epic. I was an absolute mess and that only made them want to tease me again and again. As I got older, the grade school and high school teasing lessened, but I was definitely scarred from the experience. Even in my 20′s, I didn’t take too kindly to playful teasing, even from friends. I was “sensitive” and didn’t keep the people around me that made it a habit to pick on, ridicule, and taunt their peers.

Yeah, I didn’t have very many friends.

Yesterday was the first time in my life that the negativity did absolutely nothing to me.

It might have been that I’ve grown a thicker skin. It might have been that many of the comments after that one (and the ones before it) were overwhelmingly positive and supportive. It could have been that several people “came to the defense” of the comic itself.

It could have been that I now know that not everyone is going to like my work (or me for that matter), that I should just keep doing what I’m doing, and the people that like it will continue reading. The people that don’t like it can go read something else.

—–

But…

Just because I dodged a bullet doesn’t mean I should go storm the beaches.