Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Accept no one’s definition of your life; define yourself.
Never be bullied into silence.
For those who follow my writing regularly on Libero Network and on this blog, you may have noticed something; you may have noticed that I stopped writing. Well, I didn’t stop writing entirely, but in the past year I have written far less than in previous years, and my writing changed somewhat.
Now I realize it is common for writers to go through various transformations as they grow and develop; however, this is not the kind of change I am talking about.
I am a person who values honesty, and that has always reflected in my writing. But more than that, I also value openness, and my goal with my writing from day one has always been to not only be honest, but to be open as well – meaning I wouldn’t shy away, I wouldn’t close up, and, most importantly, I wouldn’t remain silent.
But somewhere along the line that changed.
I shied away. I closed up. I became silent.
It all started a year ago on that epic day I decided to take a stand against Fitspiration. From the beginning, the response wasn’t all good; some of it was bad. And then it got worse. And then it got worse again.
It got to the point (and still is at this point) where five minutes on Google (or any social network of choice) and I’ve found someone new misinterpreting, criticizing, or just getting downright nasty about something I’ve written or something to do with Libero Network.
Now I try not to look for it; back then, it was impossible to avoid.
I still remember the day they found out I was behind the original #StopFitspiration article. This was the first (and only) time I’ve regretted having my Twitter handle at the end of my posts. Sitting at Starbucks amidst the week from Hell – when I didn’t think it could get any worse – and my phone buzzes. It’s a tweet. I anxiously open it to see what it says. Confession: I am really not that popular; mentions make me excited – or at least they used to…
So I open the tweet and it’s them. The fitspo people. They found me. And they were on the attack. Now it wasn’t about #StopFitspiration or Libero Network; it wasn’t about business – it was personal.
They called me crazy, they called my article f*cked up, and they called me fat.
Yes, that big, nasty word – add to it a history of eating disorders and body dysmorphia and the word becomes downright terrifying.
The attacks were severe and concentrated during the late summer months of 2012, but as I mentioned, they did not end. Though they have subsided, to this day they are still out there. Look for them, you’ll find them, just please don’t show them to me.
But this post is not about sharing my “sob story” (and I don’t even wish to call it that); this post is about what I did with that story. And that is what I am owning up to now.
As I said before – in the shadow of my bullies I shied away. I closed up. I became silent.
I stopped writing.
In the past year I have written a total of fourteen articles for Libero Network. Doesn’t sound too bad, right?
Well now subtract seven of those – these are my “Notes from the Editor” and contain little more than brief news updates. Harmless, safe, news updates. Now we’re at seven. Already we’ve lost 50%.
Now subtract one more – an article I wrote for my University class that for the most part was sharing other people’s stories.
And then there were six.
Six posts. Compared to the past where I’d write 1-2 posts a month consistently, plus had an active personal blog, this is a meager number.
And, though you may not notice at a glance, if you look at the content of these posts carefully you can see the walls are up. I am writing, but I am not sharing. I am speaking as “we” rather than “I” (a common tool writers use to detach themselves from their writing i.e. “we tend to avoid confrontation” vs. “I tend to avoid confrontation”). And for the most part, humour is laced throughout.
Yes, there are a couple articles that were a bit more personal in nature; however, in skimming over them now, anything I’ve written most recently (since last November) is laced with these “detached” techniques. And when I did write something that related to my personal experiences I kept it vague and metaphorical.
And aside from an interview published on October 17, I have written nothing about Fitspiration. Nothing. And I’m the founding name behind the movement. I don’t say this to brag or to make you think I’m important, I say this to point out the irony. Or maybe it is more tragic than ironic.
At this point I feel like I’ve been rambling. The truth is it’s because I’m scared. Yes, writing this is making me feel uncomfortable and anxious. I have never struggled with an anxiety disorder, but I know when I am feeling anxious and ever since I hit the “Create New Post” button, my throat has been tight, my heart has been fluttering, and my stomach has felt weak.
I’m scared. I want to remain silent. I’m second-guessing my decision to publish this.
I’m hearing the voices in my head now: Why are you doing this? You know they will just think this is self-serving. You know this isn’t going to help anyone. You know no one is going to read it, anyways. They’ll think you’re a bad writer; they’ll laugh at you, mock you, judge you, misinterpret. They’re going to find all the criticism you mention and side with the critics and not you. And worst of all, your biggest fear: they won’t like you. And now you’ve implied having voices in your head – good job. Hit the “delete” button and go back to your safe place.
And it’s true, in a lot of ways silence is safe. I’ve kept silent for a year, and I’ve remained somewhat unharmed.
But I am a writer. I write. It’s what I do. And for the past year I haven’t been writing.
But I ignored it. Why? Because I was busy. I was finishing school. I was spending all my time editing and had no time left to write. I needed to spend time out in the world, not at my computer. And all of these things hold some truth to them. But rather than acknowledging them as truths and working with them to form compromises, I was using them as cop-outs.
Excuses can be a great safety mechanism. But excuses also hold us back.
They hold us back from doing what we need to do, from saying what we need to say, and from being who we were made to be. And all the while they justify themselves – because an excuse is, in and of itself, a justification – albeit a contrived one.
I am writing this post because I want to confess. I am also writing this post because I want to apologize. But most importantly, I am writing this post because I am hoping you will learn from my mistake, or, more accurately, my weakness.
I was not courageous. They bullied me and I shied away. I stopped writing – and do you know how ridiculous that sounds? I am a writer. I am a writer and they got me to stop writing. They got me to give up who I am. No one should do that. Ever.
I had things to say. So many things to say. Some of which I remember, and some of which I don’t. I kept them inside of me, deep inside of me, burning a hole through my being, wanting so desperately to be let out, but being shunned back down into the depths by my fears – fears masked in reasons and excuses.
And it’s not over. Like I said, writing this post scares the hell out of me. Writing “hell” scares the hell out of me. The thought that in writing this post, I am making a public commitment to return to writing about Fitspiration and to being transparent through my words once again scares the hell out of me. I don’t want to do it. I am still afraid.
But I have so much more to say… I feel like Meredith Grey as she is slowly being pulled under by the current:
“There’s more I have to say. So much more. But… I’ve disappeared…”
The only difference is that I haven’t disappeared. I am still here. Right here. Computer in front of me, completely able.
And so are you.
So whatever is holding you back – be it memories, words, people, tweets – don’t let it. Don’t close up, don’t shy away, don’t let excuses justify recoiling into your safe place. Don’t be bullied into silence. You are YOU. And you have things to say. And no one, NO ONE, can take that away from you; no one inherently holds that power. So don’t freely give it to them.