In the past few years, concern trolling has been a frequent topic of conversation. Criticizing someone under the pretense of concern is hardly a new tactic, but it can be hard to spot until after the fact. If you're an ambitious woman, however, you're probably already attuned to concern trolling comments about your job; in fact, considering the way society treats women in positions of power, they're probably par for the course.
So what does concern trolling mean? The term has been bandied about online for some time now, and it boils down to this: Concern trolling is the practice of hiding judgment behind a veneer of concern. Although it's usually discussed in terms of message boards and comments on social media, concern trolling isn't unique to the Internet; in addition to the stereotypical anonymous online hater, it can come from friends, partners, and even (or perhaps especially) your parents. The most common example is someone who justifies fat shaming by claiming to worry about someone's health, but concern trolling can be used in pretty much any context — like, say, criticizing your job.
The workplace is notorious for thinly-veiled discrimination, but sometimes occupations themselves can be the basis for criticism. Pretty much any woman in a male-dominated profession or person of color in a white-dominated field has probably come across concern trolling comments in their careers, but they're certainly not the only ones to experience the joy being trolled. Let's take a look at five examples below.
1. "Aren't You Worried You're Wasting Your Potential?"
If you've worked as anything other than a high-powered business executive, doctor, or lawyer, you've probably heard this one, but it's especially relevant if you're in the creative industry. Society tends to rank jobs based on income and tangible output rather than how happy they make their workers, but what matters is how happy you are in your career. Whether you're a barista, artist, or Wall Street CEO, your "potential" is nobody else's business but your own.
2. "You Must Feel So Out Of Place."
Anyone who's been the minority in their field has come across this kind of comment before, and all it serves to do is make things awkward. They may be trying to empathize with you, but pointing out the difference between you and everyone else just highlights that you aren't exactly like other workers — and the fact that they brought it up means they're probably paying more attention to you than your work performance.
3. "Why Don't You Go Into Something With Better Pay?"
Let's get this out of the way: Pretty much everyone is OK with getting paid more. However, everyone has different priorities; for some people, actively enjoying their job is more important than a six-figure salary, and vice versa. Your income is between you and your boss — not the person telling you to pick another industry.
4. "It Might Reflect Badly On You Later."
We're taught that we have to follow specific career paths to be "successful" by other people's standards, but society is always changing. If doctors can become actors and former reality TV stars can run for POTUS, your stint as an acrobat is hardly going to derail your eventual plans to run a nonprofit.
5. "But You Can't Have A Family With Your Career."
This kind of comment is almost exclusively directed at women, and it makes some serious assumptions about whether you even want to have children. Even if you do plan on having a family, your career isn't the only factor — if dozens of former presidents can guide the American people, avoid diplomatic incidents, routinely give inspiring speeches, and have a family, I'd say ordinary people can, too.
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