A few months ago, I put myself out there, big time, on accident. I had just put my notice in at work, had just taken a much needed breather from my family, and something came through me that pushed me to come out of the closet quite publicly about my struggles with addiction - like on LinkedIn and Facebook. Like to everyone I knew or had ever known personally and professionally. Like to 1,500 people.
It was one of the most successful and surreal things I've ever done. Successful in terms that it took me to that place I never thought I could go. Surreal in that all of the sudden, every single person I knew was aware of how much alcohol, drugs, and food I had pumped in and out of me behind closed doors.
For the most part, 95% of the feedback was beautiful and beyond what I could have dreamed. The words were supportive, kind, and reinforced that the path I was walking was going in the right direction. 3% of the feedback was pitying projection of other people's shit - AUGH, no. Please not that. And 2% of it was the stuff I did not want to hear. The judgy, downright mean shit. I quickly found myself out of sorts. Like, 95% high on ego, 3% defensively shamed by pity, and 2% fuck-you angry. I found myself singing My Way on blast in the mornings as I got ready for work, beyond egoed out, my mind on repeat "fuck you, I'm right." I found myself counting the ticks on my blog page minute-by-minute. I found myself, essentially, completely grasping. Grasping to be liked and validated. Grasping for an outcome of which I had no control over. I also found myself avoiding. Avoiding the painful parts of the outcome of putting my naked imperfect self center stage in front of an audience of my peers.
Grasping and Aversion, two sides of the same coin, both rejecting what just IS, obscuring and distracting from reality.
I was brought back down to earth by one of my spiritual teachers. I went to her, unbalanced, unsure. Angry, attached, longing, avoiding. Mid-rant about how right I was and how wrong those dissenting fuckers were, she interjected with the smartest three words possible, and the solution to my total spin into unreality.
Her: "Reject all feedback." Me: "Wait I can do that?" Her: "Um, yes. You can totally reject the bad things people say. But you have to reject the good things, too. Otherwise, you become a crazy unbalanced person. Like what we have here." Me: "OHHHH."
Like a ton of bricks, it hit me that I'd been doing the opposite of that. I'd been drinking the positives through a straw and slapping the negatives down with all my might. And I'd become deeply unbalanced. And quickly.
Tonight, I got my first piece of hate mail, of which I'm sure there will be so much more to follow since I haven't even begun to open my mouth about how I really feel about many things in the world of addiction - a space that is full of high emotional charge to begin with. It was from the leader of a buddhist meditation group about one of my meetups. "Hmmm. So you stopped drinking and doing drugs. Too bad you're an ageist smug bitch. Should be interesting to see how many 'like-minded' show up. It would make the meetings much more effective without you."
The thing about feedback is that if you sit quietly, and sit with it without at all applying it to you, sit with it without avoiding, without attaching - just sit with it - you realize a very important thing. Feedback is never about you. Feedback is always about the person giving it. The part that is about you? The part that counts? Is your reaction to it. Is what you do with it. I sent him a nice note and signed it Namaste. I gracefully stepped forward. Because guess what? Only I get to write the story of my worth, and only I get to call myself a smug ageist bitch. Feedback read, feedback NOT avoided, but feedback firmly rejected.
The same goes this way. If Buddhist had written me and said I was the most beautiful, brave, badass thing he's ever laid eyes on, I would HAVE to apply the same principal - only I get to write the story of my worth, only I get to call myself the most beautiful, brave, badass thing I've ever laid eyes on.
The path to speaking your truth and living your truth is not easy. People are going to say shit. Don't reject what IS. Don't avoid the bad or attach to the good. Just move through it, let it be, and reject that it's personal to you. You know your truth. And that's what counts.