Standing Strong And Confident In The Wake Of Naysayers
Don’t worry if you’re making waves simply by being yourself. The moon does it all the time.” ~ Scott Stabile
It’s been hard to write, lately, struck by the bane of writers, “writer’s block.” So, it took a disappointing incident on LinkedIn to get me writing again because I feel the need to turn this negative event into something useful to empower myself and anyone who reads this.
A young woman posted her photograph, sporting her bright red hair and dainty nose ring, with the statement, “This is what a CEO looks like,” noting that she is CEO of her own vegan food company. Most of the responses were similar to mine, in that they were supportive of her job well done. However, while LinkedIn used to be a platform for supporting each other and networking, the atmosphere has changed to some extent, as it has just about everywhere we go, either virtually or in person. Some people are ready to attack and demean. I was struck by the belittling comments about her fashion choices and how she will never make it in the business world. Most of the degrading statements were made by men, some of whom have long been retired.
As she pointed out in her responses to the negative comments, she wasn’t asking for opinions about her appearance. She had been making a statement in order to change our expectations of what people are “supposed to look like,” and that she doesn’t need approval from LinkedIn followers, as she owns a successful company and that she is the boss and can wear what she chooses. As I observed, this young woman’s fashion choices would certainly reflect many of her customers’ fashion choices, making her a very savvy businesswoman, as well.
So, I decided to support her, well, because women need to support each other. And that’s when some of the negative came toward me. The naysayers called my statements about giving support rather than demeaning someone for their looks and fashion political. The attacks of me included the old put-down often made toward women of not being “smart, no matter how many achievements, whether academic, business, or otherwise, we might have. While I know that some stranger behind a computer screen doesn’t get to decide my worth or intelligence, and as much as those types of comments reflect on the person making the comments and not on any truth about myself––that attack on my intelligence exhausted me.
When do women get to have a seat at the table without the demeaning of our looks or smarts by men or, even at times, by other women?
This has had me thinking about the much bigger issues we are facing right now and how we can navigate the obstacles of those who choose to attack. There are many of us, no matter our gender, who want progress, rather than regression. And, in order to keep moving forward, we need to maintain our own inner peace and self-compassion, so that we can calmly follow this path of progress, of living with passion, joy, and self-compassion, and of bringing compassion and positivity into the world, in spite of the angry, vitriol, put-downs of those who try to stand in the way.
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Having Our Sisters’ Backs
In March 2020, I wrote a blog called, Women Standing Up For Each Other. “Support,” I wrote, “means standing up for each other. If we don’t accept our sisters being demeaned for the way they look, for being “too old,” or for being women, we can change our culture toward one that respects what women have to offer at any age and for our expertise when we have the benefit of years and experience behind us.
Let’s remember that every bit of progress we have made in our own lives, as women, toward living out loud, in our power, and in the light, has been made possible not only by our own hard work and perseverance, but on the backs of the pioneering women before us, who literally put their lives on the line for us to be able to do so. It is our responsibility to our foremothers to continue their work, be good role models for the generations of women who will follow us, and to have the backs of our sisters as they share their voices in the world.
Having said that, I will add that it’s important for both men and women to support each other, as we all have important gifts to share, and we will all benefit from sharing with each other.”
Detoxing From Venom Thrown Our Way
In November 2017, I wrote the blog, 9 Tips to Detox From a Toxic Person: How to Transform the Venom & Expand Your Mind. Here are the nine tips modified for slings and arrows thrown by someone on social media. That person might not be a “toxic person,” but might just be caught up in the toxic behavior encouraged on social media in these very divisive times.
1. Sometimes, people put others down in order to feel superior. As I mentioned, people are caught up, more and more, in the toxic atmosphere and the mob-mentality of social media. Even on platforms that are supposed to be different, such as LinkedIn, which doesn’t have algorithms that promote divisiveness, the participants on these forums bring anger and divisiveness, often cultivated on other social media platforms to generate profits of those platforms. Without even realizing it, these individuals get caught up in rhetoric that they might not necessarily agree with, if they were thinking more clearly.
Social media algorithms have been shown to cause all of us to see a very skewed view of the world, that is more delusion than it is reality, and we don’t even know it. (See, for example the research study: Algorithmic bias amplifies opinion fragmentation and polarization: A bounded confidence model.) This does not make the behavior O.K. But, having that understanding helps us to have compassion and to not take what is said personally.
“Don’t take anything personally,” writes bestselling author, don Miguel Ruiz. “Nothing others do is because of you. What others say and do is a projection of their own reality, their own dream. When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.”
2. Practice mindfulness meditation. When we practice mindfulness, we can take a step back, away from the venom, and see it more clearly as being more about the other person than it is about us. Mindfulness also gives us the ability to calm down and to better think through our response, rather than reacting in a more harmful way. “With mindfulness we can see clearly, free ourselves from reactivity, and respond wisely,” writes Buddhist psychologist, Dr. Jack Kornfield, in his book, A Lamp in the Darkness.
3. “When you come to the fork in the road, take it.” My dad used to like to repeat this Yogi Berra quote. At any moment, we have the choice to get back on track if we have lost our bearings, no matter how long it’s been that we’ve been wandering. If we have the intention of living with an expansive mind and heart, knowing we have a purpose, and keeping our eye on the dream of sharing our gifts with the world, we won’t want to stay off-track for too long. We’ll be called back by our inner voice, our higher self, to follow our path once again. We can do this by asking ourselves, when we first wake up in the morning or at any time when we feel lost, “What can I do to serve humanity right now, today?”
As I mentioned earlier, my purpose, my dream, or, as the Buddhists refer to it, my dharma, has served as my North Star through the most difficult and darkest of times and has brought me great joy at the other times. I owe it to my dream to keep my focus on it, as it has done so much to bring me deep happiness and peace. I’m now committed to honoring it, in return. That makes me remember to not allow someone else’s toxins to cause me to lose my footing. “In any moment — even in this one — you can realize your own vastness. With mindfulness of the dharma, you shift from the small sense of self to infinite freedom and presence and timelessness,” writes Jack Kornfield.
4. Unplug and smell the flowers. Getting out in nature, unplugging from technology, and just focusing on the most natural thing of all, our breath, can really help to clear our mind and start the detox process. Nature has the power of reminding us of the vastness of our life and the world we live in. One powerful example of this is when I was working in a nursing home just north of New York City right after 9/11. The parking lot where I parked my car was on a cliff overlooking the Hudson River. From that spot, there was a spectacular view across the river of the colors of the changing leaves along Palisades of New Jersey. Every day, I would get out of my car and walk slowly to the building, looking out at this view. Often, a flock of geese would fly overhead. While gazing at this miracle, I would think, “See, this is proof that not everything is bad or sad in this world,” and I would stop to breathe it in. I remembered this again, as I looked at the same view when my beloved dad spent his last days in that same nursing home just two years ago.
5. Ground and detox. When Dara Kelly was a guest on my radio program, she gave the directions to a powerful “grounding” and detoxing technique. (You can hear her interview, with the directions, right here.) I use that imagery technique whenever I go out into the world, whenever I listen to the trauma of another, and whenever I feel there is something toxic given to me from another person from which I need to “detox,” such as an unkind comment.
In addition, every morning, I silently recite a self-affirmation that I created, using Jack Kornfield’s meditation, “The Earth is My Witness” as a guide. “Let my body be solid like a mountain and my mind open like the sky. May I rest on the Earth like a Buddha and become acquainted with my capacity to witness all that arises and to remain centered and stable and steady in the midst of it all.”
Imagery and affirmations can be quite potent in helping us to pull the lens back and expand the picture in front of us, rather than getting caught up in the small mind of feeling victimized.
6. Cry. After exposure to toxins from another person, cry about it. Tears are cleansing and can be a detoxing release. Also, release might be found by telling a close trusted friend about how you feel, someone who can help to put things into a better perspective and view the bigger picture.
Holding it all inside creates more intense energy but talking about it over and over again actually also does the same thing. So, don’t keep talking about it once you’ve released it. Also, choose your confidantes wisely. Not everyone has your best interest at heart and others may offer well-meaning advice that might create more problems. Sometimes, speaking to an objective mental health professional is your wisest option.
Or you can do what I like to do, and that is, turn it into a positive and use it to inspire creativity, such as writing, singing, drawing, dancing, etc.
7. Surround yourself with positive people who treat you with respect and love. This helps us to see that we are worthy of love, and it reminds us of how we want to be treated by others. It also increases our own self-love when we are around people who model genuine, not narcissistic, self-love for us (see my blog, 9 Ways to Be Good To Yourself — Starting Today). In addition, showing kindness and compassion to others, rather than taking out our sadness or anger on others, is extremely powerful in transforming negative energy into healing energy (check out The Benefits of Kindness and Generosity). And it serves our greater purpose by increasing the kindness in our communities.
In addition, opening our hearts and having compassion, is one of the essential keys of expanding our minds. Writes Kornfield, “Your experience of being human in this way—opening to the ten thousand sorrows and joys of yourself and others—becomes a kind of salvation.”
8. Set good boundaries. I understand that detoxing from poisonous words is much easier when the person spewing them is not a significant part of our life, a stranger behind a computer screen. What about when this is someone who is a major part of our life?
Here is a tip from a friend who recently left an emotionally abusive marriage. She told me, whenever her husband would tell her that he knew her better than anyone, even herself, and he would then launch into a tirade of hurtful statements about her, she would think to herself, “He doesn’t know me better than I do. For example, he doesn’t know my favorite cookie.”
This sounds funny, but it was very powerful for her. It was a comforting memory from childhood and a reminder that no one can take her deepest knowing about herself away from her. As she stated, it pulled her out of the “crazy-making abuse.” (And she eventually left him.)
9. Journal about the problem. Include any lessons you’ve learned from it. This can be extremely beneficial. It helps, not only to release difficult emotions, but also to put things into perspective, unearthing those lessons embedded in the situation.
For me, being able to pass these lessons on, so that you might benefit from them, makes me feel inspired and more positive about the experience. Also, journaling about what we feel grateful for is one of the most powerful tools that we have to transform a negative event into a healing one.
Research conducted by Dr. Robert Emmons, at the University of California, Davis, found that people who kept gratitude journals felt better, physically, and had a more optimistic outlook. Try writing down what you’re grateful for every day for one week and see how you feel by the end of the week.
When we let the mudslinging of others become our reality, we rob ourselves of the expansiveness of our lives and who we really are. Freedom comes from knowing that our true self is the open-hearted observer of all that is and that we don’t need to be pulled into the mud all around us in order to be fully alive.
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