My excitement was escalating. I’d spent months and months putting the upcoming Quiet Collective conference together. A new website designed, world-leading sponsors locked in, graphics, Facebook ads and email sequences completed and 36+ interviews with an array of phenomenal, hand-selected speakers in the works. Things were coming together so beautifully and I couldn’t wait to bring it all to life. We had a week to go.
And then this happened.
My inbox notification pinged and I received this email.
It was from one of my speakers for the upcoming conference. Without a minute’s thought, I dropped what I was doing and I called the mobile number she’d left.
“Look, Casey…I’ve just received a really insulting anonymous email via my contact form about you and one of the other speakers and I wanted to let you know.”
I could feel the anxiety creep in. My face flushed. Mortified. Thankfully I was on the phone and she couldn’t see my reaction but I hurriedly thanked her for letting me know and promised to investigate further.
And then I hung up and buried my head in my hands. I couldn’t focus. I was shaking. My ears were ringing. I could hear my kids asking if I was ok and I couldn’t even respond.
It felt as if one of my worst nightmares had come true.
For years, this is one of the things that had held me back from true success in my business.
I’d been terrified of putting myself out there, getting visible and sharing about my business and my deep-seated purpose with the world… for fear of being judged by others, of being criticised, of not getting it right.
Slowly, I’d been taking baby steps to overcome this. I’d worked with mentors and coaches, I’d taken the action, I’d done the inner work. And I thought I had a handle on these fears.
And yet here I was again. The same stories bubbling up inside me. My familiar fears rising to the surface.
I’d been trolled by an abusive online hater, saying terrible, defamatory things about me, and all I could hear my inner voice say was this:
“See what happens when you show up online. This is what you get for sharing your voice, for speaking your truth.”
And just an hour later, I received another email from the same speaker, declaring her withdrawal from the conference.
This was the final straw. I felt completely devastated.
The voice in my head got louder and louder, and I couldn’t stop the tears.
“Is what this person saying about me really true? How can someone believe an internet troll over me? What are all the other speakers going to think of me? They are all going to remove themselves. None of them are going to want to be involved in this conference.”
All my months of hard work, the possibility of massive transformation for so many women. Gone.
Over the course of the next few hours and days, every time my inbox pinged, my breath caught in my throat and I’d open the email, expecting the worst.
But what transpired was the complete opposite.
I got email after email from my amazing lineup of speakers, sending these loving messages of support, rallying around me and refusing to let me acquiesce and give up.
“I’m on your side, gorgeous.”
“I can’t even imagine what an emotional roller coaster this has been. I’m so sorry. Sometimes people are just…not nice. But you’re right, this is an opportunity to learn and grow and know you have people at your side.”
“Oh Casey, I’m so sorry to hear this. I’m sending you a tremendous amount of love and light. Sometimes these shadow moments happen to push us deeper into our purpose.”
This was all the encouragement I needed.
I dug deep and pushed through and the Quiet Collective Conference came to life without any further complications. My dream of shining the spotlight on 36 phenomenal speakers sharing their wisdom to over 3000 attendees and the impact we made in their lives came true.
And here’s the thing I was reminded of. Again.
Each time we put ourselves out there, we are going to be judged. There will be the people who love us and the people who hate us. And there are the people who are just plain horrible and want to cause as much hurt as possible.
We won’t be able to please everyone but we do need to find the strategies and steps that will help us move forward and not stop us in our tracks.
So here is a brief summary of the steps I took to ensure I pushed through when ALL I wanted to do is throw in the towel (and hopefully they’ll help you too, if ever you get trolled online!)
- Don’t hide. When I received that first email and notification of her withdrawal, all I wanted to do was crawl into the safety of my bed, snuggle under the covers and hide, away from everyone. I didn’t want to have to face my fears. I didn’t want to brave the other speakers. I didn’t want to take on this troll. But I forced myself to do something, to at least take ONE first step towards action.
- Address it ASAP. I immediately reached out to my closest mentors, colleagues and friends to share what had happened and to get some perspective on the situation. I sobbed uncontrollably to my amazing business coach and she was phenomenal – encouraging, gentle, supportive. I also hired a lawyer to help me understand what my rights were, what we could actually DO to resolve this situation.
- Respond Publicly. Within 24 hours, I emailed this letter to each of my speakers to let them know the situation and my stance on it.
I’ve recently been informed and am absolutely devastated to hear that some (if not all) of you have been contacted by someone online making defamatory remarks about me and one of the other presenters. I am so sorry that you’ve had to be troubled by it. This is my first experience of such an act and am truly heartbroken that one troll has the power to defame others in this manner. However, I refuse to stand by and be ok with someone hiding behind the anonymity of the internet to harm other people and have engaged a lawyer to act on my behalf. As quiet, introverted women we find it hard enough to stand up and be fully seen without people doing these kinds of things but hopefully, as a tribe of women, my speakers, attendees and I can stand against this.
Please find attached correspondence from my lawyer detailing further details and how you can help.
I truly believe good will prevail over evil, so for now, thank you for your participation to date and I’m so sorry you had to be subject to this. I will continue to be a stand for quiet women, shining their light and mine. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your support.
- Use it as F.U.E.L. This experience (this shadow moment as one of my dearest speakers, Alionka, shared) has allowed me to step even further into my purpose by forcing me to face my FEARS head on. I couldn’t have done this without UNITING with my sisterhood who believe in me, support me and push me forward. They were instrumental in EMPOWERING me into action (despite my fears) and as a result, I’ve been able to lean into and lead with LOVE.
For that and for this entire experience (despite the enormity of the challenge), I am so immensely grateful.