Jesica Hanley Vega

Sing Your Song


November 2014

5 Lessons From Speaking Up

There's much growth to be found by digging in the shadows
Some things grow in sun. Some grow in dark.

Last week’s Facebook post about rape (reprinted here) garnered a lot of comments, most of them favorable and many from women familiar with experiences of abuse and intimidation.

But it inspired some push-back as well. As I should have remembered, not everyone supports survivors of abuse coming forth with their stories and, in fact, some are immediately suspicious when a woman says something that may “take a good man down.”

Just thinking about these comments still makes my heart pound and my adrenaline rush. I do NOT like expressing anger in public and I do NOT like debate – and yet certain criticisms tempted me to both and left me feeling  torn between wanting to destroy my opponents and wanting to change their minds. Getting so worked up, I also feared losing control over my worst impulses and revealing a side of myself that I didn’t want people to see.

And yet, as I step further into leadership and self-expression, I will inevitably confront further criticism and disagreement,  some of which – like last week’s – will come from people I know. And I may feel angry.

So I had to do some hard thinking this week and learn myself a few lessons about bearing the brunt of other people’s disagreement:

  • Being questioned or criticized, and feeling angry about it, doesn’t make me wrong, stupid or powerless.
  • On occasion, it’s appropriate to block someone from Facebook. It doesn’t mean I can’t tolerate other opinions or am a bad person. It simply reflects a commitment to the kinds of conversations I value.
  • I can feel angry and still remember my higher intentions. While it’s easy  for me to get triggered into a debate and want to win it, my higher purpose is never to be right. My higher purpose is to create a space in which others are safe to express their highest selves, share their truths and discover authentic power.
  • I can separate myself from the cause of my anger, i.e. the person who criticized me. Ultimately, what someone says is more about them than anything else. Whether they’re trying to shut me down, disprove what I’m saying or just being a jerk, I don’t have to take it personally. I can just let it (and them) go.
  • I’d rather make a difference in the lives of people I care about than waste my  limited energy trying to change the minds of people who don’t like what I have to say.

The fear of criticism causes many people to step back from their own best selves. Don’t let it stop you. Much of my work is dedicated to supporting others in doing what is risky to their sense of security and stability but which nevertheless offers them the most vitality and power.

There is life in speaking out, whether it’s against injustice or for something you believe. But if it was easy, everybody would do it. Your voice is needed and your voice is important. Be brave. Speak up and don’t let the F’ers get you down.

You Don’t Have To Let The Mother F’ers Break You

Don’t put up with society’s bullshit. Jesus wouldn’t.

This morning I wrote on Facebook:

I’m so glad that that raping motherf’r Bill Cosby is getting exposed. There are SO many rich and powerful men who go untouched as they abuse and silence young women. It is the culture behind our culture and I am so happy the facade is being torn off. Things will never be the same for guys who rape whomever they want and then just put on a happy face. I don’t usually tirade but I lost my first job out of college because I rejected my boss’ sexual advances and almost got raped on a job interview when I was in college. So I was one of the LUCKY ones. When people talk about glass ceilings and why women don’t thrive in male-dominated professions, all I have to say is…ahem! There’s a lot more to women’s “lack of success” in the world than often meets the eye.

It was out of character to express that much raw emotion for me, but I’m feeling raw.

In contemporary culture, spiritually guided people are often characterized (or characterize themselvs) as soft-spoken and gentle, all-is-well folks. And frequently, I probably come off that way myself. But just as frequently,  I’m  called upon to tell a friend or client that there is also a place for well-directed anger, rage or sadness in a well-lived, heart-directed life.

Too often, I’ve felt as if my own inability to tolerate the compromises of contemporary culture is a weakness. While it’s  an increasingly common experience to hear about a lawyer who leaves a six-figure career to start a non-profit or a wealthy family who sells their McMansion to live on less – what’s less common is my story.

I left my career in entertainment before I hit it big, before  I had some credibility to show for it, before I had leverage. When someone leaves at the top – once they’ve reaped the rewards of acquiescing to social demands –  it’s easy to call them courageous.

But when I left entertainment because I couldn’t stomach the stupidity and emptiness of working nights on a reality show…couldn’t stand lying to people to make deals for the films I was working on…because I was sick of being associated with the trash on movie and tv screens….it was easy for me to think that I just didn’t “have what it takes.”

But I am tired of feeling weak because of what I don’t tolerate: because I say no to sacrificing closeness with my children due to stress at work, because I say no to pursuing money in favor of nourishing relationships, because I say no to medicating my child rather than giving her the opportunity to thrive at home and experience an unconventional education.

The simple point is that I say NO to a lot of the bullshit everyone else thinks they have to deal with it. But let me tell you…you don’t have to deal with it. You CAN walk away. And you will survive. You may be on food stamps. You may go to a food bank. Live in a small apartment. Be uncertain about your future. Rely on the kindness of strangers and friends. Not always be sure how the kids will get winter clothes.

But you will have your soul. And you will become strong and unafraid.

Because you don’t have to let motherfuckers like Bill Cosby break your spirit and dim your light. I didn’t.

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