Even after spending the past six years working on myself by uncovering my kindness, embracing forgiveness, finding my authentic voice and sharing it with others, I am still ever-so-slightly uncomfortable with the fact that there are some people who just don’t like me. I am aware that their opinion of who they think I am is none of my business, but it doesn’t always lessen the blow. My initial reaction is to make it right, to explain my why, my who, and my how – to bare my whole soul so that they can see that there is more light and Love, rather than whatever-it-is-that-they-see. But this reaction only puts energy into their decision and makes me feel lonely, confused and kind-of stupid.
When I first started this blog and was bedridden from my body’s reaction to intense cancer treatments, someone sent me hate mail. She wrote, “You are such a snob. You think you are so much better than everyone else. Good luck on your authentic path!” Oooof. Of course, it stung. Her words made me feel like a complete and utter idiot. I took a screenshot (obviously) of her comment and sent it to Petey in LA. He wrote back, “Welcome to showbiz!” He went on to explain that once I put myself out there, I opened a vulnerability gap for people to publicly pass judgment. I sat with his words. I sat with her words. I questioned if I thought I was better than anyone or if I would ever consider myself to be a “snob.” My answers were no. I didn’t respond to her. A day later she wrote back and apologized for her original message. She told me that she had been through a similar trauma and that everyone handles these things differently. She wished me and my family luck with my health. I was thankful for the apology but I was still itchy and irritated from the bite, and I didn’t have a response, so I just left it.
Last year, on a Saturday morning mid-winter, I was teaching a regular vinyasa yoga flow. About 10 minutes into class, a student who had never taken yoga with me packed up her mat and abruptly left without making eye contact. I texted the owner to let her know what happened. The owner reached out to the woman and received a VERY long message with “feedback” about me. It was awful. Thankfully the owner (lovingly) shared it with me, had my back, and even checked in with me the following day to make sure my ego wasn’t too bruised. Everything that this woman wrote was true, but her perception was clouded by her own judgement. She claimed that I never introduced myself to the class (I knew everyone in the class by name, and I had already introduced myself to her when she had walked into the studio), she was upset that I was on my phone (I was at the desk signing people in and texting with the manager about a question I had pertaining to the computer system), she was angry that I sat on a bolster in the front of the room (ehem… cancer card – my energy level is lower than the average 30something’s), she said I was texting DURING class (I use my phone to play music and check the time), that I screamed poses at them (I articulated the T of “boaT” pose because it’s often confused with “boW” pose), and lastly that my music was something she would find her 13 year old niece listening to (true). Oh. And she also implied that I needed more training and life experience. (Big inhale, cringe, close my eyes, pucker my lips in a grimace and a long exaggerated exhale). It took two weeks for the “I’ve been wrongly accused and I need to explain myself!” feelings to settle. Its taken a full year to see that woman as Love. To see her as someone who is worthy of MY positive energy, even if she doesn’t like the way I teach a yoga class. Even if she doesn’t like me – regardless of any misunderstandings. She is Love.
A few months ago, my friend Jackie asked me for advice about making a friendship work. She said that no matter what she does, what she’s wearing, how nice and accommodating she is to Ann, Ann refuses to give her a break and cut her some slack. Jackie said that she and Ann have been in several “fights” where Ann is mad at her for some reason and it’s always Jackie’s job to apologize and remedy the situation. We laughed about how Junior High the whole thing was, but I could tell that it was really hurting her. Their kids are friends, their husbands are both coaches, and it complicates the dynamics of several relationships. I had to tell Jackie the truth: “She doesn’t like you.” Jackie started sheepishly giggling in disbelief. “What?” she asked. “Yep. She doesn’t like you. If she liked you, then there wouldn’t be so much drama. That being said, it could be that she finds something about you to be threatening, doesn’t like how bright and happy you are, maybe you bring out something in her that doesn’t feel good (jealousy?!), or maybe she has the wrong perception of you. The bottom line is that you have to just let it be. You have to acknowledge that she’s doing the best she can, that she is Love, and that there is nothing to fix; she doesn’t want a relationship with the real you. The real you pisses her off.”
I follow a woman on Instagram who beats to her own drummer. At first I (wrongfully) judged her because she is so outspoken, vibrant, has a different approach, and opposing opinions to my own. She wears flamboyant and sexy outfits that show off her body while she cooks daily feasts. She’s attractive, thin, and muscular. She speaks into her iPhone camera as if she is a news anchor reporting live from the scene. Legit. Her profile picture is of herself posing like a model while wearing a leopard bikini, holding a glass of wine (that is as large as her head) in one hand, and cradling a 50lb whole bass fish with her other arm. She is wildly entertaining. I find myself smiling each time I scroll by her. Sometimes I pause and make Mike take a look at what she’s doing. She is strong, thoughtful, and has an authentic voice that is HER OWN. I really think she may speak like a news commentator in her regular life. I don’t know. But what I find inspiring about her is that she puts herself out there without trying to knock anyone else down. In fact, part of her shine is to encourage others to do the same. She is a one-woman show. She subtly addresses “her haters” with grace. She isn’t anybody’s punching bag. She reminds followers to be respectful or they will be blocked – and she leaves it there. Then she crosses a naked leg, bares her high thigh, and carries on into a 10 minute monologue about how to properly grill a lobster… all while wearing a French maid costume. She and I have created a friendly and simple relationship over social media that is one of encouragement and consideration.
When I view people as Love, and whole-heartedly believe that they are doing the best they can (because I don’t share their life experiences, their genetic make-up, their up-bringing, brain chemistry and heart beat) I soften towards them. It makes me want them to succeed and to be happy. I can now see the woman who called me a snob as Love. She was just taking her own frustration and hurt out on me. In fact, I see her as a role model because she apologized for her mistake. When she wrote that she was sorry, I should have responded and told her that I saw her, that I heard her and that I wish her the best too. She deserved my acknowledgement of her own grief.
In December, Comedian Sarah Silverman replied to troll, Jeremy Jamrozy after he randomly called her the C word on Twitter. She wrote back, “I believe in you. I read ur timeline & I see what ur doing & your rage is thinly veiled pain. But u know that. I know this feeling. Ps My back Fucking sux too. see what happens when you choose love. I see it in you.” According to The Washington Post, Jeremy wrote back, “‘I can’t choose love. A man that resembles Kevin spacey took that away when I was 8. I can’t find peace if I could find that guy who ripped my body who stripped my innocence I’d kill him. He fucked me up and I’m poor so its hard to get help.’ Silverman empathized and suggested he try out a support group: ‘Good. I want to kill him too so I can’t imagine your rage. All I know is this rage – and even if you could kill him – it’s punishing yourself. And you don’t deserve punishment. You deserve support. Go to one of the best support groups. You might meet ur best bros there.’ He told her he is antisocial, does not trust people and does not have any friends. But he said he would try a support group, and then he apologized for trolling her. Silverman responded, ‘Dood I don’t care. I’m fine. I see something in you. My gut tells me you could have a great life. My shrink says we don’t get what we want, we get what we think we deserve. I’m telling you, you deserve so much more than you know.’ He replied, ‘Lol how? And wut do u see?? I’m jus confused how u can see that I can do better. I have multiple problems a big hole to crawl out of. And usually I choose not to express it or its hard to articulate my emotions.’ Silverman responded with, ‘welcome to the human race, Friendo. You are not alone.’” After several more exchanges, a day later, Silverman put out a Tweet to help Jeremy find a doctor with his severe back problems. A week later, Jeremy wrote, “Thank you to all the support financially, emotionally and donations. This is more that I could have wished for… U showed me a lot within a few days. Love u all.”
Not everyone is going to like the real, authentic me. And that’s ACTUALLY ok. It may make me a little uneasy to hear and accept at first, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what they think because I like me. The people who are closest to me like me. I’m immediately reminded of the movie, Planes, Trains, and Automobiles in the scene where Del tells Neil, “You wanna hurt me? Go right ahead if it makes you feel any better. I’m an easy target… but I don’t like to hurt people’s feelings. Well, you think what you want about me; I’m not changing. I like… I like me. My wife likes me. My customers like me. ‘Cause I’m the real article. What you see is what you get.” Ahhh… it’s so good. I can look at myself in the mirror and say, “Yes, you have more to learn but I am proud of this version of you.” And I don’t think we are supposed to be friends with every human who crosses our path. That would be ridiculous and it makes me exhausted just thinking about it. But I do think that we can be nice. I know we can be honest and we can be kind all at the same time: the two can co-exist. We can have the courage to stand alone and be human beings that we are proud of. We can accept others for who THEY are and see them as Love even if we have nothing in common with them. We can be strong about who WE are, what we stand for, and continue to stay soft in our hearts. We can acknowledge the sting and send Love to the pain.