What would your day be like if you forgave yourself?
There was recently a dust up about non librarian bloggers and the number of ARCs they were taking at ALA. I’m not really going to get into the nitty gritty; but, one post caught my attention. Go read that post and click to your heart’s content to get caught up on the issue if you are interested. For this post, all you need to understand is that a librarian who happens to write a blog I read regularly, tweeted something that upset people and that she most likely regretted. She apologized on her blog and then I’m guessing there was a pile up of chastising and shaming.
We’ve all done, said, written, tweeted, and/or reacted in a way that we’ve sometimes instantly, sometimes later regretted.
This is how to handle it:
Take deep breaths. I mean it. Try to think calmly and rationally and deter any panic you feel. When you feel that you can make a calm and rational statement, apologize without excuse. Just apologize sincerely. Have a friend look it over if you want it double checked before you send it.
Now is when the fun begins because humans love to pile on in a big shaming scrum. It won’t matter that you apologized. Especially in the digital world, folks will weigh in on why you are mean, stupid, insensitive, wrong or a horrible person. If you can, try not to read and respond to any of it. If you have a trusted friend/colleague have them review the responses in case there is one that is insightful or worthy of response.
Some folks would think because perhaps you ignited the fire, you should stand in the flames. I don’t agree with this at all, especially when there is little value coming from the response. I think it is a completely legitimate and reasonable choice not to read it.
Next: forgive yourself. If you are spending energy going over and over and over in your head what is happening and feeling shame and regret, you really need to forgive yourself. You need to have empathy and compassion for yourself and accept that you did it, reflect on how you would handle it differently next time and move on. MOVE ON! One technique for this “letting go” is to mentally label. When ever you feel tempted to read the flame war or your mind starts fueling the shame, create a label you can say in your head that will trigger you to move on to thinking about something else. You could follow up your label with a question: what would I tell my friend if she were in this situation? Whenever I suspect I’m judging myself too harshly, I always wonder what I would think if it happened to someone else. I catch myself having more compassion for others. I would never subject others to some of the judgey thoughts I think about my own behavior.
I think Jenica Rogers, author of the post in question, handled this quite nicely. She apologized, took some heat and then wrote a post officially ending her participation in the discussion. This second post is an excellent idea and her example is a good reminder that you are in control of how long you participate in the discussion.
Shame is only a powerful force if we allow it to have power over us. One of my favorite TED people is Brene Brown, a researcher at University of Houston who studies, writes and speaks about vulnerability and shame. She has created a shame resilience program that is being adopted by mental health practitioners. She has spoken, what I consider to be brilliant words about vulnerability:
“Vulnerability is the core of shame and fear and our struggle for worthiness, but it appears that it’s also the birthplace of joy, of creativity, of belonging, of love.”
And on the flip side, remember this: People do things, say things, write things that they regret. Let them apologize and refrain from shaming. Shaming is the modern day stoning. It is hurtful and divisive to all parties involved.
Participate in discussions that create and build connection, inspire ideas and heal wounds. I guarantee that you will find more joy in life and work.