What Bullying Looks Like As An Adult

_DSF5680I was on Facebook recently, and a friend shared a meme with a large chested woman in a dress that barely covered the basics. It looked like a wedding dress. My friend tagged someone else, and captioned it, “Don’t wear this to prom!” The rest of the comments were things like “trashy” and “she paid so much for her breasts that she couldn’t afford the rest of the dress.”

And all I could think was: that’s someone’s moment that other people are ripping to shreds.

Picture this: you’re surfing the internet, and an embarrassing photo of you comes up. Maybe you were actually doing something embarrassing. Maybe it just was an unfortunate moment where you had a wardrobe malfunction, or it looked like you were doing something you weren’t. It’s bad lighting or a bad angle.

Or maybe it’s not you. Maybe it’s your daughter. Your brother. Your best friend.

You look at the comments because you can’t help yourself, and they’re things like “trashy,” “don’t wear this!” and “she couldn’t afford the whole dress.”

What do you do if it’s someone you care about who’s being ripped to shreds?

In the case of the woman and the dress, one of the comments was from a “wedding designer” who said that the top was supposed to be higher, but had folded under the weight of her breasts. Maybe the dress came defective or the straps broke. Maybe it wasn’t supposed to look like that. Maybe she had a wardrobe malfunction, and someone snapped a photo at that moment.

Or, maybe she looked in the mirror and thought that dress was the one that made her feel pretty. Maybe she thought she looked like a princess. Does it matter?

She’s a person, just like the rest of us. And while I wouldn’t wear a dress like that, and maybe you wouldn’t either, why do any of us have the right to judge her? To bully her?

If she goes online and sees that picture of herself, how do you think she’ll feel about it? Most people, no matter how confident, can’t ignore bullying. No matter how brave we feel, something in us crumbles when we’re told, especially repeatedly, that there’s something wrong with us.

So, the next time you see a “funny” meme, think before you comment or share. Remember that it’s a real person, and if that were you, how would you feel about it being shared?

In case you’re interested, here’s a few real life stories where people found that they’d become memes.

Lizzie Velasquez was called the “world’s ugliest woman” when she was 17.

Danielle Ann is a troubled young lady who appeared on Dr. Phil, and one fake news site joked about how she’d committed suicide.

Balpreet Kaur is a Sikh, and as such, forbidden from changing her appearance. A man took a picture of her, and posted it on Reddit. This woman’s response makes me admire her endlessly. She’s the epitome of the person I’m striving to be. She gave a really great TED talk on kindness.

 

Sharing the Positive

IMG_8227This has been on my mind to write for awhile.

I’m a member of several Facebook groups, like Humans of New York and the Kindness Challenge. But I also click any link that promises a happy story, one that highlights the positive things my fellow man does.

While most of the comments on these positive posts are encouraging and loving, I do sometimes see people ask why the person filmed and shared what they did instead of just quietly and altruistically doing it.

While I understand the sentiment, I also know that we’re in a world where, if it’s not captured by a cameraphone or on social media, it didn’t happen.

The news inundates us with all the worst stuff that people do to one another. I don’t care if the people who share these videos are looking for attention. I don’t care if they wouldn’t do this nice stuff if no one was watching.

I care that they did something nice for another human being, and I get to see that good stuff happens in the world. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like it. Good deeds are good deeds, no matter the motivation. Spreading positivity is always better than the alternative.

We’re in an increasingly connected, visible world. I can’t imagine what it must be like, as a teenager and young adult, to have all the stupid things you said and did preserved in a public forum. So when someone shares a video of some kindness they did, don’t look at it as vanity (though it might be). Look at it as a product of the times, and be glad you got to see someone doing something nice for one another.

The world can always use more kindness.

Book Shopping at Goodwill

IMG_8237My local Goodwill has these old metal shelves holding the books. They’re jumbled, in no particular order. I can tell that someone has tried to put them in order (the cookbooks are separated from the fiction), but it’s probably a losing battle.

One time, as I stood there, looking over the shelves, a man came up to me and asked if he could help me find anything. I politely declined, but asked me again what I was looking for. I said, “I don’t know. Just whatever I feel like buying.” He then asked if I was looking for fiction or nonfiction, any particular authors. I admit, I was getting a bit annoyed by this point. (My default setting is to be antisocial… I’m working on it. Sort of.) Finally, I said that I was looking for classics, and other books I don’t have.

The man’s eyes lit up, and he said, “I pick the books that get put out, and no one ever wants the classics! If I know that’s what you’re looking for, I can start to put them out.” And then he showed me where a few of them were.

I firmly believe that sometimes people come to me to teach me lessons. This man reminded me to slow down, and instead of being annoyed when people ask me seemingly random questions, to figure out what they’re really asking, then answer.

Often I forget that most people like to be helpful, and I was really doing this man a kindness by letting him help me. He was genuinely enthusiastic about books, and excited to help me find what I wanted.

In a world full of bad news, it’s nice to make a genuine human connection, even if only for a minute. Thanks, Random Goodwill Book Guy.

Judgement Free Zone

There aren’t many judgement free zones these days.  Facebook has become an excuse to post all kinds of judgements that come in the form of complaining about others, commenting on articles, and other things too numerous to list.

This morning, a friend of mine posted a picture of a sports car parked in a handicapped spot, and a lot of people commented that the friend should park too close to it, that if someone can get in and out of a car like that, they don’t need a handicapped space, that the person who had that car was probably “lawsuit-happy,” and other things.

I want to encourage you to try to make your brain into a judgement free zone, free from judging yourself, and free from judging others.  I con’t know how many times I’ve heard people say some variation of “don’t judge me until you know me.”

Well, guess what?

We all have stories.

I get it; it’s easy to jump to conclusions about people.  It’s easy to say that if a person is handicapped, they shouldn’t be getting in and out of a sports car.  But there are a lot of handicaps that don’t show.  People sometimes have muscle disorders that make it difficult for them to move.  Or maybe they’re moving just fine now, but can’t predict if they’ll still be moving fine five minutes from now.

I know someone who’s had 3 or 4 cervical spine surgeries.  This person has struggled with walking.  Some days she can walk a mile.  Some days she falls a lot.  She used to have to ride a motorized cart around the grocery store, and it embarrassed her because she thought people would think she was using it because she was “fat” instead of because of medical issues.  These days, she doesn’t need the cart, but parking lots continue to be tripping hazards.  She still parks in the handicapped spots because she is handicapped, and she never knows when she’ll struggle with walking.

She’s relatively young looking, and most of the time, she walks fine.  She doesn’t limp or stumble, and you can’t see the scars on her neck because they’re covered with hair.  It would be easy to assume that she parks in the handicapped spot because of her weight or because of laziness.

Don’t judge.

If you want to make an assumption, assume that everyone has a story.  When I first started trying to change my mindset from judgement to acceptance, I found it easier to make up stories about someone.

That person who cut me off in traffic isn’t a jerk; he just got the news that his child is sick and he’s rushing home because he loves her so much.  That person who was rude to me in the grocery store was up all night caring for her mother, who has cancer.  That 20 year old who parked in the handicapped spot and appears to be in perfect health actually has multiple sclerosis.

It doesn’t matter to me if these stories are true or not.  What matters is that they could be true.  How horrible would I feel if I found out that one of those things was true, and I hadn’t responded with compassion?  I’m okay with being wrong in the opposite direction; I was compassionate and kind, but the person was really a jerk.  I can live with that.  But unkindness to someone who’s struggling with something?  Wouldn’t I want people to be a little kinder to me if I were trying to manage a heavy burden that day?

None of us is going to be perfect at this.  There are days when I just want to growl at everyone and everything.  But I would hope that on those days, someone out there who has to deal with me, thinks, “I bet she’s not always like this.  She’s probably just having a bad day, so I’ll be a little nicer.”

Kindness costs nothing, but judgement is expensive.

Lessons in Kindness

Ladybird Johnson Wildlife Center, Austin TX Photo Credit: Doree Weller

Ladybird Johnson Wildlife Center, Austin TX
Photo Credit: Doree Weller

On Wellness Wednesday, I try to post on a topic related to wellness.

On Monday, I posted quotes about kindness.  I try to be kind, to live my life in a way that spreads kindness, but I’m only human, after all.  And sometimes the Universe presents me with lessons to remind me that I can always be kinder.

I try to be kind both in action and thought.  Being kind in action means taking a moment to listen to someone, even when I don’t feel like it, saying “please” and “thank you,” smiling at others.  Being kind in thought is often harder for me.  It means not judging other people.

I walk a fine line with being kind in thought and wanting to watch real life drama.  Part of the problem is that I like gossip, not to judge necessarily, but because I like stories.  It doesn’t matter to me if they’re true or not; I like hearing them.  I like seeing bickering on Facebook because I like the story aspect of it.  I have to constantly remind myself that there are real people potentially being hurt by gossip and bickering, and that even though I might not spread it, just by being a listener, I’m complicit in negativity.

My lesson this week came from driving.  I was in a parking lot and about to pull out and make a right onto a throughway of the parking lot.  A man in a pickup was coming from where I couldn’t see him (there were bushes).  In all fairness, I wasn’t paying as close of attention as I could have been.  I wasn’t texting or anything like that, just sort of in my own thoughts.  I almost hit him.  When I say “almost,” I don’t mean that it was a close call or anything like that, just that I almost pulled out and hit him, but I slammed on my brakes with plenty of time to stop.

The man passed where I was, and then stopped in the middle of this throughway.  He was making rude gestures, and I was a little afraid that he was going to get out of his pick-up and come back to yell at me.  I was about three seconds from backing up and going the opposite way when he finally continued on his journey.

I was angry, and thinking things like, “Who does he think he is?” and “Everyone makes mistakes.  That jerk is acting like he never almost pulled out on someone.”  And other stuff too.

Then, I realized that I probably startled or even scared him.  When people get scared, they get angry.  The man probably didn’t know how to manage his anger and fear, so he stopped in the road, took a moment to compose himself, and basically blew off steam in a safe way.  It’s not like he came back to confront me or slammed on his brakes to “get even” or followed me.  He just stopped and was angry.  In all fairness, he was probably upset about the incident a lot longer than I was.

I hadn’t been thinking very kindly toward a man who had an upsetting thing happen in his day.  Yes, I was only unkind in my thoughts, but unkind thoughts can lead to unkind actions.  If I had stayed stuck in my self-righteousness, I could have taken it out on someone else.

Not long after that, I had an opportunity to practice the lesson.  I went to Goodwill to buy some picture frames, and I found way too many cool ones.  So as I stood at the checkout, heavy frames in my arms (of course I didn’t get a cart), the cashier was chatting with a male employee.  The two of them stood there for far too long as he bought some small item, gum or candy or something (I’m guessing he was on his lunch break).  My first thought was that they should notice me and move faster.  This time around, I caught myself and reminded myself that any retail establishment is fairly stressful work, and they were under no obligation to notice me.  I could just as easily open my mouth and ask to put my frames down, but I didn’t want to do that, which was not their fault.

When I got up to the cashier, she was not happy to see me.  She made some comment about being past her shift, and that her relief hadn’t shown up yet.  I smiled and validated her, and as we talked for a few minutes, she became more and more relaxed.  I could tell by the way she started smiling at me and calling me “hon.”  By the time she was done ringing me up, she went and held the door for me so that I could carry my heavy frames out more easily and returned my encouragement to “have a good day!” with “you too!”

Would I have been justified in responding to her as grumpily as she responded to me?  Maybe.  After all, the customer is always right… right?  But sometimes, being right isn’t worth the aggravation.  Because I decided to be kind, we both felt better when I left the store.

Remember that everyone you meet has a lesson to teach.  It’s up to you to figure out what that lesson is.

I’m going to work to be kinder today than I was yesterday.  And tomorrow, I’ll try to be kinder than I was today.

Have a beautiful day, everyone!

Be Kind Today

On Motivational Mondays, I share a quote to set a positive tone for the week.

Sunset, Ft. Lauderdale, FL Photo Credit: Doree Weller

Sunset, Ft. Lauderdale, FL
Photo Credit: Doree Weller

“For beautiful eyes, look for the good in others; for beautiful lips, speak only words of kindness; and for poise, walk with the knowledge that you are never alone.”

-Audrey Hepburn

“A warm smile is the universal language of kindness.”

-William Arthur Ward

Be the most beautiful and kindest version of yourself that you can be this week.

Feel Good Friday

On Feel Good Fridays, I post good news stories. Remember that you find what you look for, so if you look for the good in your fellow man, you’re likely to find it.

Oh look, a fish! Photo Credit: Doree Weller

Oh look, a fish!
Photo Credit: Doree Weller

This is seriously the best thing I’ve ever seen on the internet.  If you haven’t seen the Unworthy video of skeletons dancing, you should take a look at it.  It made me cry and gave me a feeling of wanting to hug my fellow man.

Here’s a bunch of fun pictures with cops acting goofy.

7 positive trends with teens.  We all hear about all the bad stuff kids do, and how selfish they are, but studies indicate that teen drug use and pregnancy is down, and volunteering is increasing.

Seniors “prank” the school principal by giving him letters of gratitude.  Saying “thank you” to someone is seriously the best gift you can give anyone.

This is a true story about the power of noticing others.  I love the point that it makes, that taking a few moments to notice someone else, especially when you don’t have to, can have a powerful impact.  Take a few minutes and read it; you’ll be glad you did.

I generally only share 5 positive things, just to keep it manageable, but I see far more than that most weeks.

What kind of things do you see that warm your heart?  Has someone done something kind for you?  Have you gone out of your way to show kindness to someone else?  I know you’re out there, so tell me in the comments.

And as always, go forth and be kind today.  Have a great weekend!