I've read a number of posts recently that have hit upon some nerves.
General lack of understanding, compassion or empathy, often combined with humour in a way that shames or humiliates people who don't seem to fit into someone else's idea of how they're supposed to be in the world.
Let's be honest. public shaming is hardly a new phenomenon and unfortunately I'm sure that all of us have played into it in some way at one time or another.
Shit has been on overdrive ever since the birth of online viral media and Monica Lewinsky becoming a household name the world over. So much so that she gave a TED talk on her experience last year, and there are actual books on how to deal with life after public shaming.
This isn't exactly what I wanted to highlight with this post.
What I wanted to amplify is the message that's been resounding throughout my newsfeed all day, and something that I hope we see more of.
It's a message of resilience and solidarity.
I want to highlight responses like this one from Wentworth Miller who handled photos of him being turned into a body shaming meme with so much integrity and grace. Sharing his experiences with depression and suicidal ideation in a deliberate attempt to break down the stigma surrounding mental illness, and to reduce the intense levels of shame we often heap onto people with no freaking idea of what's going on for them.
"... Long story short, I survived.
So do those pictures.
Now, when I see that image of me in my red t-shirt, a rare smile on my face, I am reminded of my struggle. My endurance and my perseverance in the face of all kinds of demons. Some within. Some without.
Like a dandelion up through the pavement, I persist.
Anyway. Still. Despite.
The first time I saw this meme pop up in my social media feed, I have to admit, it hurt to breathe. But as with everything in life, I get to assign meaning. And the meaning I assign to this/my image is Strength. Healing. Forgiveness.
Of myself and others."
While this post has been going viral for all the right reasons today, awesome body positivity activist and all round badass Anastasia Amour shared another post made by Lindsey Anne who was shamed at the gym. Her experience and response echoed a similar theme: one of strength, resilience and claiming her right to enjoy and move her body without shame or apology.
"At the end of the class I turned to her and I said, "What you said before wasn't very kind." ... I have thought about his for a few days. I'm not angry anymore, but instead I'm glad. I'm glad she made that statement in front of somebody who could handle it. I'm glad she couldn't shake someone who is confident in themselves. I'm glad she didn't say that to a woman putting herself on the spin bike for the first time that day just hoping no one would notice her. I'm glad she didn't say it to someone she could break."
This is essentially the sentiment I want to highlight and share.
None of us have any fucking idea what any body else is going through.
We don't know their trauma, their insecurities, their mental or emotional health, we have no idea about the state of their physical health or abilities just by looking at them - and to be absolutely clear, we have no right to judge others one way or another.
When I first created the little card in this photo, it was to remind myself not to take other people's words or opinions personally - their words and actions about or towards me are really a reflection of what's going on in their internal world, and all that 4 Agreements jazz.
And today a very good friend of mine embraced the words, sharing this photo with the world as a positive and constructive way of letting people know how her anxiety manifests in social situations - as well as the challenges it can present.
".. if I don't say "hi", it's because I'm too focused on not having a full blown panic attack, not because I hate you.
Just say "hi" to me and move on. If I haven't fled, I'm probably using some exercises to bring myself back to somewhat normal. No need to make a big deal of it. Just let me be and move through it at my own pace.
If I seem to be really struggling, helping to take me out of the situation can be useful.
Other than that, just remember that although people can and do do things to trigger my anxiety, the underlying realities and issues are almost never about them.
Be gentle. Be kind. And remember - everyone has deeply intense and complex internal lives - as intense and complex as your own."
Something else that I've been reflecting on, beyond the principal of just being kind, is how we can minimise and heal the potential hurt we've caused - regardless of whether it was intentional or not, simply by accepting responsibility for our words and acknowledging that we can do and be better in future.
The sincere use of the words, "I'm sorry, please forgive me" probably won't go astray, and saying them cost us nothing when we do slip up - which ultimately we all do at some point.
None of us are fucking perfect after all.