One time, years ago at a super fancy dinner, I made an entire room of rich people UNBELIEVABLY uncomfortable. The beginning of the dinner was great. Until…
I’m entertaining those around me with a story about an avalanche in the Himalayas when I hear someone saying, “What are black people complaining about anyway? Slavery ended over 200 years ago. It’s not our fault anymore. It’s time to get over it.”
What the whaaa????
I stop mid-sentence with the person I’m chatting with. I turn around and say, “I’m sorry – what was that?”
“Oh, I was just saying I didn’t know why black people are still blaming slavery for all their issues when it ended 200 years ago, you know?” He was smiling. He was expecting me to smile back and agree.
There’s an uncomfortable silence… I turn my chair to face him fully. I pick up my glass of wine and take a large swig.
“Actually, segregation only ended in 1964… legally. That’s less than 40 years ago.” (at the time)
I take another sip of my wine along with a deep breath, smile, and wait for a response. Nothing – except for his smile disappearing and an awkward silence from the entire table, punctuated by a few uncomfortable laughs.
I continue, “Also, institutionalized racism and de facto segregation is still happening. Like in hiring practices, school segregation, and residential segregation due to things like ‘white flight’ among other issues. You see, it’s all very real and it’s totally happening right now.
So why people are still ‘upset’ makes sense to me. But I can get how that might feel uncomfortable to think about.”
I try not to seem angry. But I’m confident, knowledgeable, and carry myself in such a way that it’s clear I can take on any kind of argument with grace. I’m actively trying to be welcoming, hoping he will engage and maybe even evolve his thinking.
I’ve learned many people don’t open up their minds when they feel attacked.
I’m not saying there isn’t a place for outright flame throwing (sometimes it can make a difference). But many people are more willing to listen when they aren’t feeling under fire. When we open by giving them the benefit of the doubt instead. So I always try to educate before throwing flames.
He takes a deep breath… “Well, Ana… Thank you for letting me know. I didn’t think about that part. It’s always nice to learn something new. I’m sorry if that offended you.”
How polite. How… uneventful. How… lacking in curiosity about how to evolve. How…patronizing.
I say, “I understand. It can be hard to remember that it’s the ‘land of the free’ for only a select few, especially when you are the one with all the freedom. But hopefully it’ll be easier to remember now. I know you’re a good guy and will do the right thing.”
I don’t know if he shifted his actual beliefs as a result of what I said – or if he even meant what he said – but I acted with integrity. At least I could sleep better. I also gave another human the benefit of the doubt. I was in alignment with my values, inside and out.
No regrets! It’s a pretty shitty emotion, but it’s also one of the reasons I do what I do!
What does it take to live a life without regrets?
- Confidence, courage, vulnerability and compassion (toward ourselves AND those we disagree with).
- Being able to hold our ground when challenged, undermined, or harassed.
- Overcoming our culturally-conditioned default to freeze – to go silent, to shut down.
- Being willing to disappoint others if it means not disappointing yourself.
Which brings me back to that story. In this, one of my most über-uncomfortable (but proud) moments, I could tell my boyfriend at the time wished I hadn’t said that. Even though he knew it was the right thing, he mostly was hoping I wouldn’t do it again. And it was then that I knew he wasn’t my person.
Alignment. Inside and out.
Who are you willing to disappoint so you can honor your truth? Suggestion: anyone.
Honestly, all of this, especially for women, does not come easily. We’re conditioned to “behave,” and “good girls” don’t upset the status quo, create a scene, or speak their minds. They keep the peace instead, even if that means losing their own.
I’m not here to make you feel bad about the times when you didn’t speak up when you really wanted to. Shutting down is not a weakness – it’s a stress response caused by generations of cultural conditioning in a patriarchal society.
Living a life without regret takes practice, skills, and commitment. And especially for women, it also takes retraining our brain.
I also want to encourage us all – when we find ourselves triggered and just want the other person to believe different things or to go away or just be quiet – to ask ourselves:
“Why is this causing so much suffering? Why do we want them to just be silent?”
It’s really important that we answer those questions. Because taking back our power, reclaiming our voice, and standing up for what’s right is about learning to hold space and cultivate curiosity. It’s about learning to let people be wrong without silencing ourselves in the process. It’s about learning to disagree, without either getting riled up or shutting down.
We sometimes think we have to hate to create change in the world. On the opposite end of that spectrum sometimes think we only have to meditate on love and light to change the world.
As usual, there is a Middle Way.
To love is not to condone. To hold space is not to approve. To listen is not to promote.
If we want to tap into that power, we have to learn to stay when we’d rather run away, to play when we don’t know what to say.
Take back the power that was always yours. Reclaim your voice. Use it to create a better world..
Get out there, make a scene, and be naughty naughty!
Topics in this episode:
// The role of culture and patriarchy in our response to uncomfortable situations – especially for womxn
// How to stay in integrity during difficult moments
// Finding the Middle Way in conflict
// The importance of alignment, inside and out
// Why we want to freeze or shut down when someone harrasses, minimizes, or makes inappropriate comments to us
// Learn about how to stay in your power during uncomfortable situations instead of shutting down. Sign up for the free Speak Out Masterclass by clicking here. You’ll also receive a free resilience training to build a foundation before the class starts. Go to NaughtyBuddhist.com
// Ever want to work with me privately? I’ve opened up some rare spots for consult calls. Head over here to snag one and let’s chat
// If you’re new to the squad, grab the starter kit I created at RebelBuddhist.com. It has all you need to start creating a life of more freedom, adventure, and purpose. You’ll get access to the private Facebook group where you can ask me questions! Once you join, there’s also a weekly FB live called Wake the F*ck Up Wednesday, where you can ask questions that come up as you do this work – in all parts of your life.
// If you’re interested in finding out more about how to free your mind and free your life, join Freedom School. Enrollment is open, and we are diving DEEP into ways to cultivate clarity and courage so you can create your best life. There are also some sweet bonus courses for you there. It will set you up to live the best version of you in the year to come. Learn more at JoinFreedomSchool.com