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Archive for Finding your voice

Please Don’t Be That Person

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fat-friend

photo credit – “Fat & Alone at Dolores Park,” Danyaal Rangwala.

You might have thought I meant don’t be that person in the photo.
You would be wrong.

I hope you won’t be like some of the people described in this beautifully written piece on the bullying of “fat” people. The author identified only as Your Fat Friend speaks to many universal parallels of bias.  People find all manner of justifications to bully when they need a scapegoat. Being fat is just one example, but it is sadly the one still too often overlooked as wrong.

The common theme in all bullying is contempt, seeing the person not as a person but as a threatening “object” and the contempt feels justified because the system- in this case American culture – tells you so.

The story referred to about a person being kicked off an airplane for being too large is as horrible as it gets and just like every instance of bullying, the most painful part (in my experience and reported by every single person who comes to my office) is the silence of the witness. The bystander who does nothing.

Please don’t be that person.

Here are some things you can do:

– Stand up – literally – even if you say nothing it breaks the spell
– If it is safe to do so, put your body in front of the target

Say

– “This feels wrong”
– “That is wrong”
– “You are being cruel”
– “That is bullying”
– “That is racist”

If you can speak to the person targeted say;

– “I’m so sorry this is happening it is wrong”
– “You don’t deserve this”

Many times we stop ourselves by what I call the “mental gymnastics” of attempting to figure out what the right thing is. Often bystanders are in shock themselves – it can take a few moments to gather yourself and your thoughts – to even realize what just happened.

The key is to be prepared. To realize that in American culture bullying will happen. Acts of emotional violence will occur right in front of you. Sometimes they are subtle and sometimes they are loud.

But the irony is there is no ONE right thing – there are infinite right things. A million ways you can do or say something that conveys what you know: This is wrong.

You don’t have to be a bully to stop a bully. You just have to speak the truth of what you experience when you can. The more you do, the better at it you will be and the next time you will be ready to act. The next time you will show others how to do it. Then they will be prepared and ready for their next time.

Please DO be that person.

How Facebook helped me find my voice

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Like many people who were well into middle age when social media exploded onto the scene, I joined Facebook kicking and screaming in 2010. I resisted for a long time, joining the complainers that opined about how much time it took away from other things and kept them up late at night.

Truthfully, that is exactly what happened to me but you’ll never hear me complain. The reason is that Facebook helped me find my voice.

  • Before Facebook I didn’t know I needed a soapbox.
  • Before Facebook I didn’t know I cared about politics.
  • Before Facebook I didn’t know many of my friend’s birthday or that I would care that people acknowledge mine.
  • Before Facebook I had never heard of a flash-mob or why it is important to see cute animals at least once daily
  • Before Facebook I thought I only had a handful of friends, now I have many many more and I am glad to know them.
  • Before Facebook I had never experienced bullying online or felt the satisfaction of seeing someone’s mind change and soften after a heartfelt exchange.
  • Before Facebook I had never shown my sadness to anyone that wasn’t my closest confident and then had my feelings confirmed and supported in a few words by a group of people who really want me to know they care.
  • Before Facebook I didn’t really understand the huge racial divide that is breaking my heart and that I am now dedicating my life to heal.

I learn new things every day from blogs, pages and people whose thoughts and concerns I admire. Some of whom are people who I have never met who know me through a friend of a friend connected to an organization I care about. Oh yeah and and some really old friends who I haven’t clapped eyes on in 30 + years.

Before Facebook I would never have imagined that I could comment on something wonderful and enlightening posted by a total stranger from across the world. But now I can and I do. I feel connected to the world in a way I could never have been before and I love more, I feel more open-hearted, more curious and I care about what happens to people I have never met because I see a little more into their lives.

I feel more empowered to act on things because my friends care too.  When I see something wrong and it changes how I see the world, I can do something.  It is not nothing to have changed the conversation, to have planted seeds, to have opened up and let people know what I think and why they should consider thinking about it that way too.

Facebook helped me find my voice. I would not call myself an armchair activist because I am also involved in real organizations that exist outside of social media.   But even if I only spent time on Facebook, who says I don’t really have skin in the game?

Slacktivist is another term that gets tossed around. But I challenge that label and here’s why: Facebook gives me access I would never have on my own. I am more informed about what’s happening around the world and I can speak, write, email and share what I hear with my expanding group of friends.

So thank you Facebook and all the people world-wide who are shaping me and influencing me and who I hope are benefiting from my own unique lens, experiences, challenges, reactivity, appreciation and loves because you heard and felt my voice.