Their conversation stirred me in a really deep and defensive way. The example they set has now been forever etched in my memory as an illustration of who we can all become when we forget our own worth. On Sunday, in the Virgin Airlines terminal of Las Vegas, I overheard five women engage in a colloquy of criticism. It began with one voice sighing, "ugh, you know who I hate? Oprah. Who does she think she is?" and spiraled into ugliness at such an alarming rate. Apparently her weight, lesbian rumors, amount of money made, career choices, fame and personality were all somehow offensive to this group just shooting the breeze while waiting to board their plane.
Five adult women, presumably ending a girls weekend in Vegas, spent ten minutes spewing venom and anger toward someone I'd venture to guess that none of them have ever met. There is no need to repeat all the insults, only to say that it was eye-opening and heart-exhausting to witness them all participate in the hate-fest as though adding to the conversation made them each feel better somehow.
We Devalue Others-- Revealing Our Own Insecurities
As a student of relationships, I have long witnessed that we tend to devalue anything that threatens us. We push down on others; hoping it raises us up. It's almost as though we think life is a see-saw where only one of us can win.
I see it in break-ups frequently: the person that was most cherished only weeks ago is now criticized in an attempt to comfort us that we are better off without that person. As though we can't admit their worth and hold ours at the same time?
I see it in friendships where two women make different choices: the one who had the baby, took the job for money, decided to move away, chose a private school for their child-- both women, to hold the belief that they made the right choice, are tempted to devalue those who make an alternative decision. As though we can't hold the belief that we could both be making the right choice for our lives, even if they look different?
I see it where there appears to be an inequality that provokes our jealousy: the person who seemingly has the fame, the power, the money, the happy family or the good looks receives the most criticism. Ironically we secretly want something they have, but instead of using their success as our inspiration, we attack them with our insecurities disguised as complaints. As though it's their problem for having what we want?
And therein lies the toxicity of devaluing: it says more about us than it does about them.
We Devalue Others--Heightening the Conflict in this World
If someone gave me a magic wand to make one wish come true, it would be to give us all the ability to see our own worth so clearly that we never had to treat people from our own fears and insecurities.
Think about it... What problem does this planet hold that couldn't be solved from our ability to see the value of each other? Of not needing to prove our worth? Attacking so we don't look weak? Devaluing another to justify our own choices? Putting up walls so we don't risk not being liked? Not knowing our own worth and bestowing that gift on others is the cause of wars and political battles, inequality and injustices, suicides and bullying.
Ladies, I may sound dramatic. But I'd argue that I have good reason to go there. We don't have control over bombing other countries or solving all inequalities against gender, religious, sexual identity and race differences. But we do have control over doing the hard work of holding a healthy self-esteem so that we can offer it to others.
We Devalue Others--Risking Significant Relationships
In a community committed to healthy friendships, it is important to me to challenge you to show up differently than those women.
- I invite you to engage in conversation that ensure that others leave feeling better about who they are.
- I invite you to own your insecurities. When you see someone who has what you secretly want choose to be inspired by it rather than threatened by it.
- I invite you to refuse to engage in any conversation that puts others down. Whether those others are people you know (i.e. your ex's, your family, your work colleagues) or people you may never meet (i.e. Charlie Sheen & the Kardashian sisters).
- I invite you to do the work of holding firm to the belief that you are fabulous, talented and perfectly prepared to do your life calling. You are enough.
- I invite you to not see life as a see-saw, where someone else has to fall before you can rise. There is room enough for all of us to be our best.
- I invite you to give the freedom to others, including Oprah to do life her very best way even if you would do it differently.
- And, I invite you to realize that if you want to bring change to this world, more people are transformed by affirmation and grace than by criticism and shame.
So, to the women in the terminal who felt they were in any position to judge Oprah, I say to you:
I'm totally okay with you not being an Oprah-fan, but I invite you to cheer for her as another woman doing the best she can. I hope for you that you someday step into your own power and offer the world what you think she's missing. But cheer for her as she does her thing. And I cheer for you as you do yours. You are amazing. You have worth. As does she.
I'd love to hear your comments ladies! Am I overreacting? Do you see your own tendency to step into devaluing others? What have you done to build your own self-esteem?