Sometime over the weekend I happened to pop onto Twitter and noticed that Monica Lewinsky was trending.
For a moment my mind diverted to “uh oh, why is she back in the news”, but my thoughts soon shifted after I took a moment to watch the reason as to why she was gaining such attention again.
Unless you were too young to remember, I’m sure you know who Ms. Lewinsky is; and why she’s a household name. And until I watched her Ted Talk, I hadn’t realized just how long she’s been in hiding. Since that infamous White House Scandal, she has been completely off the radar. Silent, as she puts it. I also hadn’t realized just how young she was back in 1998 when this whole thing happened.
Monica Lewinsky’s Ted Talk brings to light a couple of things. For the first time since the late 90’s she has come forth talking about the scandal, the emotional baggage she carries because of it, and the lessons she’s learned. She didn’t use the Ted Talk as a “woe to me” speech. It wasn’t about asking for forgiveness or excusing what happened back then. In fact she comes right out and says “I was a naive 22 year old girl who fell in love with her boss”. What she did do, however, was take this opportunity to take something that has humiliated her for years and turn it into something positive.
Her message is simple: bullying, humiliating and shaming people has got to stop. She specifically focused on the cyber aspect of these behaviors and how it has become almost a “norm” these days to make people feel like crap from behind a screen.
We all see it. And as much as I can, I try to avoid it. And I’m sure you know what I’m talking about.
Someone posts a picture of a “fat” person crossing the finish line of a race and you can guarantee you’ll see comments under the post such as “they shouldn’t be running- it will damage their knees” or “that’s just disgusting.”
Or someone decides to post a video of themselves dancing or singing on Youtube. Again, you can guarantee you’ll be reading comments to the tune of “don’t quit your day job” or “what a dumbass.”
In fact there’s a whole website dedicated to making fun of bloggers and their content. Pages upon pages upon pages of forums littered with negative, belittling, and degrading comments.
The internet has given people the power to say things that most wouldn’t say in person. It’s an unfortunate side effect of this convenient, digital world we live in. And as much as we’d like to ignore this idea, bullying of ANY kind can drive a person to a very, very dark place. So dark, some may never find the light again.
Monica spoke about times when her mother wouldn’t let her take a shower without the door open for fear she may do something to hurt herself. The humiliation of the scandal put her into a very dark place, but with time, she was able to rise from it. And now, she’s using the experience as a way to pay it forward by spreading the messages that it’s NOT ok to purposefully bully, humiliate or shame someone. We all have struggles to endure, walls to climb, and barriers to break down. Why make life more difficult for another person by degrading them? Isn’t life hard enough?
Instead of thinking of that perfect insult, “dig”, or meme that makes a person feel like an idiot or embarrassed, how about digging deep and finding something uplifting to say to them. Something that builds them up, makes them feel accomplished, or even proud of themselves. Why do we feel this constant need to make people feel bad about themselves? What’s the point?
I challenge you to post 3 positive comments online today. They can be on a blog post or somewhere on social media. In addition, I challenge you to say 1 positive thing to someone you cross paths with today in person. Maybe someone at work is complaining about how awful Mondays are. Instead of saying “yeah, I know right? Monday’s SUCK!” pay them a compliment instead. It may be just the thing they need to get through the first day of a work week.
Being mean to someone on purpose is a choice. Whether you’re doing it from behind a computer screen or in person, we all choose our words. No matter how you were raised, where you are from, or what your story is, you can choose to start sharing the love. Nobody says you have to continue this path of negativity. There is no reputation to live up to. There is no one to impress. In the end, what matters most is how you made people feel. That is how people will remember you.
No matter if you’re 12 or 60, it’s never too late to change how your story will end.
“You can insist on a different ending to your story” -Monica Lewinsky