Be Kind Anyway
A few weeks ago, I underwent probably the worst social media attack I've ever experienced. I've been in plenty of situations where people felt it was okay to make comments about me on social media (when you're in a public position like Miss Rodeo America, people think it's completely normal to comment on every detail of every outfit you wear!), but this was the first time I was truly attacked. I was shocked. A woman who claims to lift up others wildly misunderstood and made outrageous assumptions about a post I made. And get this, the post was specifically crafted to align with what this person does on social media. I went through a total range of emotions and tried to figure out why she had taken what I said and turned it into something so negative. I sent my post to some of my closest friends, knowing that they would be completely honest with me. The thing is - I didn't get a single "I understand how she took it that way" back. The only feedback I received was similar to what I was thinking and feeling - complete confusion, hurt, and disappointment that someone was choosing to frame me and my words in order to seek attention by stirring up drama and framing themselves as a victim. When I was eleven years old, I compressed three vertebrae in my back. To this day, my family jokes about how I broke my back and didn't even cry. But this made me cry. At first, I was so upset that anything I may have said or done could've hurt another person. My goal in life is to uplift others and make the world a better place for those around me through my God-given gifts and by treating everyone I encounter with kindness. So, I sent her a direct message. I explained my post and how I loved her message and had crafted this post in such a way to align with and bring more awareness to what she was doing. I apologized if it at all came across in a negative way to her and emphasized that was the last thing I had intended. A few hours passed, and no response. Days passed, no response. She had plenty of time to make comments that further aligned with her victim narrative, but not enough time to try to understand my perspective or open up a dialogue. You see, I don't think she wants to understand and I honestly am not sure she actually cares what I meant or that I was cheering her on. She wants to be the victim and wants to use the opportunity to draw attention to herself on social media. The more I realized that I had been taken advantage of and manipulated for her benefit, the angrier I got. How could someone who claims to be advocating for women in the Western industry so blatantly put down another woman. Not only that, how could she do it purely for her own selfish benefit? It made me mad, sad, and I truly cannot believe that she can sleep peacefully when her actions so directly contradict her message she is sharing on social media. And you know what? My inbox started reflecting that I wasn't alone in feeling this way. People saw her post and not only were they outraged and offended, they understood my pain. A bully, it seems, does not choose only one person to pick on. Social media can be such a positive space, and has so many benefits! But we all know it is a double-edged sword. I knew there was bad and negative aspects of social media, but this is the first time that it truly, fully reared its ugly head in my life. This was the first time I fully realized the blatant manipulation and lies that people are willing to post to their audience to gain "likes" and "followers." I put those in quotes because let's be honest, social media likes and followers are not the same as likes and followers in real life. There are definitely those that can become real friendships, but popularity on social media is not as important as what is in your heart and how you treat others. I wrestled with whether to share all of this on my blog, but I decided that it was important for me to share it. I don't want anyone to feel sorry for me. I've moved on - I don't allow negative people like that to steal my time and energy. It's too valuable, and I have too much that is wonderful in my life to let someone like that hurt me. What I want is for all of you who may have a similar experience to know that you are not alone. This issue isn't confined to social media, unfortunately. You are not alone, and you are the only person you can control. People who are unkind will take advantage of your kindness. My mother often reminds me that even the most kind and worthy people in history have been treated poorly. I'm a people pleaser and care deeply about others, so I often struggle when people treat me unkindly and tend to place the blame on myself. In a Catholic family, we remind each other that Christ was denied by his own apostles. But my mother also likes to remind me that Mother Teresa, one of the most kind, selfless women, was also treated poorly (actually, she usually says "Katherine, do you really think everyone was always as nice to Mother Teresa as she was to them??"). I could only dream of being half as selfless and serving as that amazing woman, and yet people were still unkind to her. Which brings me to one of my favorite quotes that I want you each to read and remember. In the end, what matters is that you do your best and treat others the way that you would like to be treated. You can only answer for your words and actions, not theirs, and you are not accountable for how people respond to you when you have truly done your best to act out of the kindness of your own heart.
People are often unreasonable, illogical and self centered; Forgive them anyway. If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives; Be kind anyway. If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies; Succeed anyway. If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you; Be honest and frank anyway. What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight; Build anyway. If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous; Be happy anyway. The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow; Do good anyway. Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough; Give the world the best you've got anyway. You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and your God; It was never between you and them anyway.
I'd like to leave you with the Rotary Four-Way test. I encourage you to use this test not only before you post anything on social media, but in all areas of your life. No matter how "cool" or important you think you are on social media or in real life, kindness is truly what matters.
Is it the truth?
Is it fair to all concerned?
Will it build goodwill and better friendships?
Will it be beneficial to all concerned?