Fighting Hate with Love

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It has taken me a long time to write about this. I thought that if I talked about it here I would be fuelling the negativity. Now I realise that by talking about it I have the power to turn it into something positive. Words can hurt but they can also heal. I know this will be rambling, but please hear me out.

I may be known for my photography and my blog but at my core I am still just a 22 year old girl from a small town, no better than anyone else. No amount of exposure has made me any less sensitive or any less capable of making mistakes. I’ll never be good enough but that is what growing as a person is all about.

I was a teenager when I started my blog. It felt like a digital home that I could fill with all that I loved. The things I saw and felt that set sparks off inside me. Back then I didn’t know the ways in which it would shape me, the ways it would change my life. In so many extraordinary ways but in a few darker ways too.

My first taste of the dark side of blogging was a phone call late one night. It was a woman on the other end and she told me my boyfriend would leave me, people only liked my pictures because I was young, I was ugly and I deserved to die. I couldn’t sleep that night, I could only cry. I couldn’t hate anyone, not the men who’d abused me or the girls who’d teased me cruelly at school. Yet here was a total stranger whose voice dripped with hatred for me, and I was caught wondering if I deserved it.

The more I blogged the worse it became. I received hate-mail thousands of words long. Then websites filled with anonymous haters. In those first years I took it all to heart, labelling people’s issues with me as my ‘flaws’. I thought if I was good enough no one would hate me and so I needed to fix myself. I even felt guilty that who I was had caused people to feel so negatively. So I wasn’t quite as cheery or loving, I toned down my writing and confidence and I didn’t share as openly. It didn’t matter if I had good intentions or genuinely wanted to make the world a better place. Every time I shared anything my head filled with countless judgemental voices, picking it all apart.

I knew reading all the hatred was making me depressed but it was so littered with lies and assumptions I was afraid if I didn’t clear them up people would believe them. Words have influence, even when they aren’t true. When I became a young Mother the judgement grew uglier. People said I should have Alba away taken from me. Girls became my friends to try to get ‘gossip’ out of me and it became harder to trust people. When they contacted my friends and my family with rumours it was bleeding into real life and that frightened me.

I was embarrassed that I let it get to me, I am embarrassed even sharing this. It feels like I am looking for pity but I am not. I always felt like I was being weak. After all, didn’t I know deep down that all I had was the present and it only had to affect me as much as I let it? Didn’t I know that every single person could be torn to pieces, that not one of us is perfect? Didn’t I feel how much support and love surrounded me? It is a sad thing that if we don’t fight it, darkness can be heavier than light even when the light is so much greater.

I decided to stop reading the hate. I thought, let the lies and the gossip be. The people I want in my life will be able to see through it, and will give me a chance. I am not my past and I embrace my failures, they have taught me even more than my successes. If I am secure in who I am and the decisions I make, it shouldn’t matter what anyone else says or thinks. I do my best and be my best and that is as much as I can do. Have trust in me.

One day I was staying with my friend Zelda in LA. Her Father is Robin Williams and all her life she has had to deal with negative attention and gossip. She said to me “You don’t need to post about your life Nirrimi. You’re a photographer. You have a choice to not make it personal.” She was right and her words have stuck with me for years. It made me think about why I did blog the way I do. Why I choose vulnerability.

When I stopped posting solely about my photography and started sharing my thoughts an interesting thing happened. The emails I received were no longer short messages from people saying they loved my work and asking what camera I used. I began getting intense, deep letters from people who told me my honesty and perspective have had a lasting impact on their lives. That my words had gifted them courage to follow their dreams or that I had showed them the beauty in the world they had overlooked. My life lessons became theirs too. They are my reason.

I don’t feel angry at anyone who has set out to bring me pain. I know it sounds very ‘hippie’ but I feel like I do love everyone, because I know we’re all the same. We’re all making decisions based on the experiences we’ve had, all wanting to be loved and understood. I like to think that the people who do and say cruel things anonymously online aren’t fully realising the hurt they are causing the people they attack. As though they think we’re not as real as they are. There are many ways to justify hate but at the end of the day it is still hate. I feel that if you wouldn’t say it in the real world, don’t say it online.

Strangely sometimes I am grateful for it. It toughened my skin and helped me to let go of a lot of my ego. I remember reading the hate one day and thinking “if I didn’t know myself, I might not like myself after this” and that realisation made me question the way I felt about everyone. It made me think twice before I spoke badly about another person.

Though I have almost quit a few times, I have kept on. I don’t know what the future holds but I know I will always want to use the skills and time I have to do good for other people. I may not be solving world hunger or climate change, but it is something. I can give more and I will. This world (both real and online) is filled with too much darkness and it needs more light.

I have written this post as a call to action. Whenever you see unnecessary negativity or hate online or in real life, speak up against the hate with loving intention. There is one website that exists solely for snarking and has made a few of my blogger friends quit. These are the forums on me, but I’m not alone on there. I think together we can fill it with some much needed goodness. Let’s make the world a kinder place.

Thank you for reading. I’m grateful that I get the chance to share my side. Here is a silly little video I recorded, filled with ‘ums’ and not at all eloquent (seriously, I can barely watch this without hiding behind my hands). But, hey it is me!

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  5. Anna

    Sweet Nirrimi,

    You are a wonderful woman, mother, friend and so much more. There is so much power, love and inspiration in the words and image you share. Thank you for that.

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  7. Vanessa

    Hi Nirrimi,
    I’ve been following your blog, photography, and stories for a few years now and wanted to say thank you for sharing your experiences! I’m saddened to hear that you’ve received such negative comments from people and that they’ve affected you so deeply, but I am so humbled and impressed by your ability to turn those experiences into a call for people to speak up. Over the years, your blog and writing has been a source of inspiration and learning for me. However, whilst I’ve learnt so much from you, this is only my first comment! Please remember, that for each wonderful person that comments, there are plentiful of us here that are sending out loads of virtual hugs and love your way! I’m 22 as well and empathise with the feeling that the future is rather uncertain and there is still a plentitude of lessons to learn. But I think that as long as you go into it with a positive attitude, knowing that you yourself are being as kind as you can and trying the best that you can, then really what more could anyone ask for? Wishing you and Alba all the best! x x Vanessa

  8. Melissa

    I’m 27, married and have a beautiful daughter who will be one year old on Saturday. I look very young. I get asked if I’m still in high school. I get judged all the time as a teen mom and I’m not even a teenager. Its so hard for me to deal with the judgement! I have worlds of respect for you to be able to deal with it, and keep your head up so high with so many people trying to bring you down.
    You are an amazingly inspiration beautiful lady. I’m so glad I stumbled across your instagram after following Belle Gibson for so long. I’ve gone back through your archives to read about your views, explorations, journeys. I find you amazing, fascinating, inspirational, puzzling. There aren’t enough wonderful people in the world like you. You inspire me everyday. Keep doing what you do beautiful lady. You are amazing.
    Much love xxxxx

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Pale Fire

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One day my sweet friend Claire drove me & Ashlin out of town. The winter wind drew goosebumps on Ash’s skin while we photographed so we wrapped her in a blanket between shots. We watched the sky change colours and saw the light change along with it. I realised how glad I am to be a photographer, to get the chance to embrace so many sunsets and idyllic places. To soak in the world’s beauty.

Stylist: Claire Hart

 Model: Ashlin

Edited with Digital Film + India + Dust

 

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  2. Tone

    The second picture brings me right into the moment. I love your blog. I love your’e honesty. And i believe I look up to you :) You are something real special! You’re talent too. O hope you know, If not this Is written to you as a remider. Thank you!

  3. Caitlin

    I normally don’t comment on blogs but I felt I needed to say that you are talented and beautiful. I just discovered your blog and I am so inspired by your positivity and bravery. The pictures of you and your daughter capture the deeply loving, intimate and physical experience of motherhood in a way I have never seen before. It makes me happy.

  4. Helena

    I just found my way here recently.. and just wanted to tell you that I love these photographs! Simply stunning!

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