Last week was kind of rough.

I won’t belabor the gory details as they’re really not important; the upshot is that I had several people call me names (my favorite was “insufferable bitch”), take insulting shots at me for my approach to content or my takes on various marketing topics, a few people came at me with unsolicited advice about how I essentially need to tone myself down or better mold to their standards somehow, and I had several “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” encounters that left me a little exhausted and more than a little defeated.

Creating content on the internet is not always for the faint of heart. And a week or two like I had can get you easily started on the “Why am I doing this?” train and have you questioning how you show up, whether it’s worth it, and what you do—or don’t—need to change.

I took a few days off social media entirely to reflect and revisit what I think of as my personal code of conduct and guidebook of boundaries for navigating online spaces as a content creator and writer.

I figured I’d share them here with you because they were a good reminder for me and maybe some of them will help you. These are always a work in progress as I learn and experience more.

I create publicly, but I am not public property.

The wording of this was inspired by my friend Becky Scott and a comment she left for me here on LinkedIn. It was the perfect summation of how I feel.

When people want to get nasty with me online, I often get some version of “well, if you didn’t want to get criticism, maybe you shouldn’t put it on a public channel.” I’ll address the “criticism” bit in a moment, but the “public channel” part is important.

I’m using the public forum of the internet to publish my thoughts and ideas and I’m aware that people will read them and have reactions. That’s fine—desired, even— and part of the social contract of all of this. What’s not fine is the idea that you’re entitled to my time, attention, or grace when you show up like a jerk on my digital home bases just because I create content in a virtual and publicly-accessible forum.

Neither are you entitled to use my hard-built platform to spew vitriol and conduct yourself as a nasty digital citizen. If you want to do that, you’ll have to do it in your own spaces. You can choose to interact with me on my content. I can choose to accept or reject that interaction and your presence in my channels based on how you conduct yourself. Which brings me to…

How you talk to me matters as much as what you say to me.

Especially if we’re strangers, coming in hot out of the gate with nothing but snark, unfriendliness, or nastiness earns you a block, not a response.

I have a little more latitude for people with whom I’ve established friendship or at least collegial trust, and I’ll often meet hostility and negativity with curiosity and at least ask what’s going on first (we all have bad days and bad moments and people who’ve made the emotional deposits with me have earned some opportunity for us to work through that together). But I still have limits to how much vitriol I’ll tolerate lobbed in my direction. I don’t have to endure people treating me like garbage, online or off.

The sites themselves are public, but my profiles and pages on these networks are not democracies, and I get to decide what stays and what goes on the tiny corners of these communities that I am responsible for. Your standards for your boundaries can be different, but these are mine and they are non-negotiable.

Discuss ideas not people and never punch down.

Generally, I’m happy to have you respectfully disagree with me, to have open dialogue about things, or to have spirited discussions where we challenge and explore ideas. I am perpetually curious, I absolutely know I don’t know everything, I love to learn, and I’m eager to expand my mind, world view, and horizons. But in my spaces, we don’t punch down using our class, power, platform or privilege to be punitive and cruel.

I am very careful to direct my often-strong opinions toward general thoughts, ideas and concepts. I don’t tear down people or their work unless they are actively harming someone (I don’t even leave bad book reviews because art is hard, subjective, and I am not the arbiter of what people should like). I don’t take cheap shots at people for the purpose of clout-chasing or to stir up drama. And most importantly, I don’t tolerate people who do.

The minute you start making ad hominem attacks, getting personal, or getting wildly disrespectful toward me or others, I’m ushering you out of my online spaces.

I am not for everyone and I do not have to be.

I know I can’t please everyone. And I have to remind myself of that often because I’m wired to be a pleaser.

Creating is hard. Sometimes it requires some bravery, especially when I choose to lean into vulnerability with a lot of what I post. I choose to infuse my personality and my spirit into what I write and create, and I realize I’m not everyone’s cup of tea.

My opinions come from my experience and I try hard to focus on what I know and where I can best contribute something of value. When I’m looking for input on my ideas, I look to people who are also in the arena creating and trying to add something to the world, not just making a sport out of lobbing grenades from the cheap seats.

If someone else’s content or style doesn’t appeal to me, I simply…move past it. I hope and expect people will do the same for me. If they want to weigh in, the first three rules apply.

Maintaining boundaries allows me to show up as my best self.

After a few days of reflection, I got really frustrated when I realized I was letting the few particularly loud and rude trolls dictate how and when I showed up for the many, many people who have been supportive, constructive, and mature members of the community.

There are people who actually want to be connected to me. To have great conversations. To read my ideas and share their own. To get smarter and more inspired together.

That’s who I show up for. So I’ve exercised my mute and block fingers a little extra, quietly opted-out many of the people who have repeatedly walked right through the boundaries I set, pounded some coffee, and reposted this quote on my wall where I can see it clearly:

“I would rather be a hot mess of bold action, a make-it-happen, learn-on-the-fly kind of person, than a perfectly organized coward.” — Brendon Burchard

Creating online, especially as a woman, can be a minefield of exhaustion. You’re too much but never enough. Too loud but not outspoken enough. Too brash but too meek. Too bold but not forceful enough. Too pretty but not feminine enough.

That can fuel doubt sometimes; those familiar feelings of “Who do I think I am and what am I doing here?” But creating online spaces that I value – and where I am valued – is my own responsibility, and it happens by being a participant, not a spectator.

So this hot mess of bold action is getting back in the arena with her own refreshed perspective.

I’ll save you a seat, take a couple of deep breaths, and see you out there.