An Open Letter to the Ones Who Read My Article and Criticized Me.


For starters, you don’t know me. You’ve never met me. You’ve never spent any time with me. And you don’t know my story. You’ve seen a sliver of it.

I tore a page out of my life and shared it with you. A page. Not even a chapter. And certainly not the whole book. But you couldn’t even absorb the entirety of that single page. You grabbed at some of the larger pieces that caught your attention, yanked them out of context, and threw them back at me.

You missed.

For perhaps the first time in my life (I’ve always been on the sensitive side), I was able to remain unoffended at such a response. Because I know myself, I know my story, and I have seen that story bring about gratitude and relief in other readers. The sheer number of views and shares told me all I need to know: that what I had to offer had value.

To be honest, your words made me want to hug you. I wanted to reassure you that you don’t, in fact, carry the burden of knowing everything there is to know. That’s too heavy a load for anyone to bear. You’re like all the rest of us: imperfect, flawed, stumbling over mistakes, and just doing the best we can. I’m willing to admit my mistakes. Are you? Or do you just prefer to call others out on what you perceive to be theirs?

Didn’t your mama teach you that if you couldn’t say anything nice, you shouldn’t say anything at all? Can you tell me what it is that delights you about criticizing strangers? Can you explain how you know so much more about my life than I do? I want to understand why it is so easy for you to automatically shift into critical gear rather than compassion. Is that really what you want to put out into the world?

Is that how you want to be known? Where is your kindness? How can you introduce the world’s smallest violin to someone who is just trying to help others who are going through what she is going through? You tossed a pail of water at a stranger who was holding a lamp to light the way for other strangers.

Maybe you should try on your considerate pants. You might have to wiggle a little bit and suck it in before you can zip them up, but considerate pants are kind of like the One Ring… even if it doesn’t seem to fit at first, they’re perfect for you once you put them on. And they look way better than that troll costume you’ve been parading around in, believe me.

You want to know the truly awesome thing though? You don’t have to listen to a word I say here. Because I don’t know you either. Maybe you were having a bad day. Maybe your own experiences gave you a sharp bias to my situation. Maybe you’re just a generally unhappy person, and you don’t know how to change that.

Your harsh and haughty comment is hardly a sliver of who you are, and I am in no place to judge you… on that, or on anything. You do you, stranger, and I wish you the best.


Justin Haley Phillips is a free spirit, an adventurer, a nerd, a people-loving introvert and, above all, a writer. Her purpose with words has always been to express herself with the intention of letting others know they are not alone. She has loved and lost, fought and failed, but always gets back up again, fiercer than ever! Her alter ego is the superhero Bounce-Back Girl. Haley can be found in libraries, on road trips, staring at the sky, leaving behind sticky notes with positive affirmations on them, or curled up with a cuppa and a good book. She also wants you to know how amazing you are, and to remember that you are loved.


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