Wed, 8 March 2017
Two weeks ago I wrote about how YKAL is evolving, maturing, and what this means for you and for me. If you haven’t read it or listened, you can find it here.
As I mentioned in that post, we are currently in a time where the U.S. (and other parts of the world) is extremely politically polarized. Social media was noisy enough before and now it’s been taken to a whole new level. And what I’m experiencing over here as an online business owner with a platform-- a community of people who listen to what I have to say via my podcast, blog, and social media-- is that I have a choice whether to talk about about this or not. I can continue to just go on “business as usual,” or I can implement my voice on these matters. There’s different ways this can look, but the choice is pretty black or white: Either I talk about it or I don’t.
Several months ago, a colleague of mine, Racahel Maddox, posted on Facebook about this. This was before the election, even before the real messiness of it all. She was calling us out-- us being privileged people with online platforms. She was specifically calling out life coaches and those in the wellness industry with online platforms who were choosing to stay quiet about social justice issues.
Who the hell does she think she is telling me what to do and how to run my business? I thought to myself. My belief was that no one can tell me how I speak out. No one can tell me what is right and what is wrong. No one can tell me I am a bad person because I choose to take my sweet ass time to decide what to do about this (that’s not what she said, but what I made up she said). In other words, I was personally offended and taken aback.
After my ego left the room (it took a couple of weeks), I thought about why I reacted that way. And the conclusion I came up with was this:
I was embarrassed because she called our asses out.
I was scared because deep down I knew she was right-- I knew it was my responsibility to talk publicly about these social issue, but I didn’t know how.
I felt guilty because I hadn’t spoken out sooner.
I was worried how this would affect my reputation and my business, both I’ve worked hard on building over the last 10 years.
All valid (and common) feelings, but feelings that are a) laden with privilege and white lady tears and b) don’t change the world.
Then, the election happened, then the inauguration, then the whole country got flipped upside down and set on fire.
And I thought about what Rachael had said. She was right. What I had to admit and knew in my heart all along, what I know now deep in my bones is this:
As people of privilege-- as a white, straight, able-bodied, upper middle class person in the wellness industry with an online platform to spread a message, it is my responsibility to speak out about social justice issues.
If I was a realtor or a hairdresser or a mechanic, I don’t think it would necessarily be my responsibility to integrate it into my business. But, this is the wellness industry. We teach people how to be better people. How to “change the world.” For fucks sake we teach people how to empower themselves, stand up for what they believe in, and speak up. To use their voices even if they are scared. To do what’s right even if it’s unpopular.
And as facilitators of this work, we cannot teach these things, take money for teaching these things, and not do them ourselves. We need to both model what this looks like as well as spread the message that what is happening all around us is not fucking okay.
Andréa Ranae sums it up perfectly,
“TO THE COACHES, HEALERS, GUIDES, MENTORS AND OVERALL DO-GOODERS OF THE WORLD WHO DON'T WANT TO BRING "POLITICS" INTO YOUR WORK, CONSIDER THIS:
Your work could bring massive sustainable change to many lives, families, and communities, but it won't if you don't critically look at the social context that you're working within.
The problems you help solve for your clients are most often symptoms of a much deeper and widespread systemic problem that we must get to the root of. You say you want to change the world, but what is it, in the world, that you want to change? You've got to name it to tame it.
Our socioeconomic and environmental issues affect every single one of the people you work with either actively or passively.”
So, what is it that we, as life coaches, healers, whatevers, want to change for our people?
I know many of you reading this care a lot about marginalized people, the LGBTQ community, Planned Parenthood and women’s reproductive rights, the refugee crisis, feminism, black lives matter, the ACA, dismantling patriarchy, rape culture, sex trafficking, the list goes on and on. And I know many of you take action in your homes and communities, maybe even speak out on your personal Facebook pages sometimes.
But, you guys. When we do this-- when we don’t speak out at all, or when we only do it quietly in the echo chamber of our personal Facebook page or with our friends in real life-- we’re sending a message. The message is: these matters do matter to me, but only if it doesn’t risk my business. Only if I can take action behind the scenes, quietly and not create any liability that people may disagree, unfollow me, not sign up for my online classes, etc. When quiet, the message being sent is clear: Social justice matters to me but not at the expense of my bottom line.
The message also tells your followers that to say nothing is also okay for them too. That if you’re staying quiet in your privileged little bubble, by all means, they can too.
We can’t go on with business as usual. Things have changed. THE PARTY IS OVER.
And to be frank, I don’t think many, if any of us were excited this has happened. “Oh yeah, I can’t wait to risk losing people in my audience. I can’t wait for these uncomfortable conversations. I can’t wait to sit down and figure out how I’m going to approach these subjects and be a leader now that everything has changed.”
But, we are being called upon to lead. We are being called upon to show up. We are being called upon to be courageous and show what it means to take care of each other, walk our talk, and actually “be the change.”
So, what do we do?
That’s the question I’ve been asked, I’ve been asking everyone, and tossing and turning at night trying to figure out. As I said in my last post about this, there’s no guidebook for this, no step-by-step process. But, when you’ve been called upon for something like this, you just jump. Standing around trying to figure out which angle to take, being scared, agonizing over how to do it, isn’t making the world a better place. I know, I did it for months.
First things first, think about why you haven’t said anything, or why you’ve decided to not. Some experts in the self-help field say that when we make decisions, we are making them either out of love or fear. I think this applies here. Have you made the decision to remain silent out of fear? Fear of losing followers? Fear of saying the wrong thing? Fear of being asked questions you don’t know the answer to? Fear of not knowing where to start? Fear of losing business?
Or, are you making the decision out of love? And if so, love for whom? Love for what?
I’ll give you a place to start. Write a blog post, an e-blast, or make a video of you telling your people honestly that X, Y, and Z social justice issues matter to you. They matter to you and you’re feeling this and that, and you don’t know where to go from here. Tell them the truth. That you’re uncomfortable. Because they probably are too. You don’t have to even mention names of government officials. This doesn’t have to be about politics, this is about people. This is about us.
Tell your audience whatever you’re feeling. Fear, guilt, confusion, whatever. You know yourself and your audience best.
Then you have options. You can ask them what they want. You can help them sort through their feelings in order to help them take action. You can tell them where to take action. You can educate them on the different social issues that mean the most to you. You don’t have to pick them all. What’s most important to you? The environment? Women’s issues? Pick one or two and make it your go-to. Information and education is KEY in changing the world.
You can take pictures and show yourself in activism. That is leadership. (If you’re in a place where you don’t know where to start, do some reading and following other activists. I’ll put some links at the end of this post.)
We are going to rock the boat. We are going to lose followers. We are going to get people who are not willing to listen to why you support Planned Parenthood, Black Lives Matter, or oppose the Dakota Pipeline. But, I think my friend Leela says is perfectly:
Friends and colleagues, consider this a “calling in.” My intention is not to publicly embarrass, offend, or humiliate anyone. My intention is to call attention to this immensely important topic, to make you think, to ignite a bigger conversation, and to encourage you to massively step out of your comfort zone (like we tell our clients to do). Also, consider this a call to arms. An invitation to stand up; an invitation to speak out and invite your people to do the same. Consider this an invitation of leadership.