My business launched in September 2019 and took off immediately. It felt so easy I wondered why I hadn't done it earlier.
Things changed by the summer of 2020, when it all started to feel a little heavier. It wasn't due to pandemic fatigue, or lack of interest in the rich conversations I was having. It was because I had watched a handful of women I admire be harassed online for their opinions.
It wasn't just a few dissenting comments on their social media accounts. There were long, sober hit pieces in national magazines (written by women, incidentally) and social media accounts dedicated to embarrassing, trolling, and bullying these women.
This is what's coming for you, my subconscious decided. And it took me a while to realize it, but it had completely taken the wind out of my sails.
The Great Cosmic Mother is a painstakingly researched tome of a book that provides an alternate history of the world as we know it, inclusive of the female influence on global religions. It has an entire chapter on the witch hunts, and to believe the authors, these were not isolated incidents. It was a three-century long, Catholic Church-led genocide of all people (not just women) who defied a slippery and ever-changing list of rules. If they had suspicious moles, or sang too joyfully, or picked herbs for their children's health, or owned cats, or even looked sideways at the wrong person, they were tortured and killed. Frankly, the chapter is so disturbing to read, I'm not sure I even recommend it, except to open our eyes to history so we don't repeat it.
Now, we weren't there. We can't be sure whose account of this time period is correct. And it's a dramatic parallel to draw between that kind of systematic torture and today's online cancel culture. But you could argue we have the traumas of our forebears in our DNA. So anything that hints at our going down that path again is going to feel uncomfortable.
Anodea Judith writes in her book Eastern Body, Western Mind of our fear of expressing ourselves clearly and its impact on the throat chakra. For the unfamiliar, the seven basic chakras in some Eastern traditions are energy centers throughout the body. The fifth or throat chakra is related to our throats (physically speaking), and our communication, creativity and self-expression (emotionally speaking). It gets knocked off balance when we're exposed to verbal abuse, excessive criticism, and authoritarianism. Basically, when we learn that what we have to say and how we feel don't matter. Or worse, when we learn there will be consequences if we express ourselves. Sound familiar? It may be no coincidence that problems with the thyroid (located in our throat chakra) have become epidemic. I used to suffer from Hashimoto's thyroiditis myself.
Some will argue my voice just doesn't matter right now. The world needs to hear from a certain set of people and I should step aside. And to an extent I am sympathetic. We'd all benefit from listening more and talking less.
But I also know this: we came here because there is something unique we each have to deliver. It's my belief if we don't deliver this, we get very frustrated toward the middle and end of our lives (even, perhaps, in the afterlife). There are individuals we are meant to inspire. Think about your favorite teacher, service, or product. What if she had not stepped up? What if she had remained quiet? Would your life be better or worse?
I've seen firsthand how people light up when they're working on their unique thing, in their unique way. They become better people to be around and more engaged family members. Everyone around them benefits.
So we have to keep creating and doing our thing. Not everyone will need to hear our message or experience our product, and isn't that a relief? MOST people won't care about it. You can reach a half of a half of a half of one percent of all the people on this planet and have a thriving business. The rest can simply move on. Your reach may be very wide or it may go deep with just a handful of people. We can't know ahead of time. We simply have to continue to live deeper and deeper into the reason why we came.
So what is this? A call to cancel cancel culture? I'd love to see it happen, but my purpose in writing this isn't so lofty. Maybe the cancelers have to cancel. Maybe that's their mission. That's fine. I can simply move along.
Rather, I'm sharing this to provide a little insight into the topics an entrepreneur in 2021 will naturally come up against and have to explore. And not just entrepreneurs. With social media, we all have a platform. What will we share on it? How much time will we spend judging and calling others out for what they share on it? And what will we speak up about at work? Where will we stay quiet? It's up to you.
As all challenges are, this one was a growing experience. While I wouldn't say I'm completely on the other side of it, I will say my energy and enthusiasm is back and I'm willing to live the questions.
I've had many months now to sit with who I want to be and how I want to respond to the fear I can't ignore around how my message will be received. Will people find it “privileged” to hear me talk about how you can be fulfilled at work during an economic crisis in which just having a job makes you fortunate? Do I want to speak to the experience of women in the corporate workplace during a time when many would prefer we move away from gendered language? How will it be received if I talk about how I healed chronic illnesses naturally, when I was told I'd have to be on medication for life? Some people don't want to hear that. What do I care enough about to hold the line on, and where is my thinking due for expansion?
Many of us are wrestling with this. Yes, it would make for a kinder, gentler experience if we were allowed to publicly make mistakes, muse aloud about the messy concepts we're wrestling with, or simply disagree without fear of serious retribution. But whether or not that changes at a societal level is largely outside our individual control.
Expressing ourselves doesn't mean screeching out an opinion on every single topic and metaphorically pinning people down, forcing them to listen. It can be a very quiet, confident way of simply focusing on what we need to be focusing on, and not apologizing for it.
You came to deliver something. How it's received is not up to you. But if you don't do it, both your soul and your body will start to break down.
If you do it, you'll bring astonishing amounts of harmony and creativity into a world that desperately needs both.
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