In the days of Vaudeville, the row of cheap seats at the very back of the theatre was known as the Peanut Gallery. Peanuts, being the cheapest snacks, were projected through the air at an unpopular performer by the people that occupied these seats. Hence the people that occupied the cheapest seats (and bought the cheapest snacks) were the very ones that contributed the most negativity to the performance!
Nowadays, we think of these kinds of people as hecklers or haters. Hecklers add something to a comedy routine if they heckle us in the spirit of sharp yet witty banter. Most everyone enjoys a little flirtatious banter or friendly jest.
But more often, in the context of the hecklers in our life, the commentators and critics, all they do is drain us of energy and divert a disproportionate amount of attention to what is wrong with our performance rather than highlight to us what we do well or even what other people have enjoyed.
The people that occupy the cheap seats take up so much of our time and attention. We pay them even more attention than the people at the front, those people that have gone out of their way to show up and support us, those that have, metaphorically, paid good money for us to be at the top of our game. They are excited about our performance. We owe them our best.
But so often, the peanut gallery gets ALL of our attention. They are getting more attention than they've paid for with their tickets just because they are the loudest. Ironically, the people that sit at the front quietly supporting us, get little mention and little direct interaction.
In life, there are people in the cheap seats throwing tomatoes at us, or peanuts or banana skins. But it's worthwhile to remember that it's easy to heckle, and, indeed, you can only do so, if you are not performing and if you are not actually in the game. People that are on the stage, don't have time to heckle. This is actually a good test to check whether you yourself have taken yourself off the stage and sat yourself down in the seats. You are either watching and critiquing or you are performing. You cannot do both at the same time.
Next time you find yourself about to engage in peak performance, consider the role of the hecklers in your life. They can add a little drama to your performance, they can spice up and sharpen your witty comeback, or they can distract you mid-flow and make you fall flat on your face.
Give the cheap seats the attention they deserve: that which is commensurate with the price they paid for their ticket.