Over a year ago, I was chosen as one of 10 social entrepreneurs who was invited to pitch my idea to a group of judges (and a large audience) at the Cape Town City Hall. The idea I wanted to talk about was VENT! – a project which aims to give permission… and create a platform… for Africa’s disadvantaged and ‘voiceless’ youth – to share their stories using art.
I had 5 minutes to share the concept – and was encouraged (by the organisers) to make it personal… to use my own story to explain the “why’s” behind my idea.
This was pretty easy for me to do. I know what it’s like to feel “invisible” and “ignored”… and I know the desperate longing to have a VOICE – and to have somebody ‘hear’ me… and ‘see’ me… and to acknowledge what I have to say.
And so… I bravely put myself “out there”.
I allowed myself to be completely vulnerable in that hall full of people and cameras. I stood on that stage, in the spotlight – and I shared the story of my own eating disorders and deabilitating self-esteem struggles that I have struggled with in the past… quickly linking those stories to VENT! and the young participants I worked with – who had similar self-confidence issues.
I talked about how I had seen lives and hearts transform – when those who had never been listened to… were given a ‘space’ to create… share… and be heard.
Now…. sharing the stage with me… was a panel of “judges”. They were all very important, wealthy CEO’s from some of South Africa’s top brands including Woolworths, MTN and DSTV. All of them sat, stone-faced, behind a long table…. scrutinising me.
I knew that the judges were going to choose a “winner” out of the 10 of us… and I knew that the winner would be awarded with a cash prize (to be used for the development of their particular idea).
I had imagined that the judges might ask me a few questions after my 5 minute presentation. I thought they’d want to know a few what’s, how’s and why’s about the VENT! project – and I was more than ready to answer those questions…
I could never have anticipated what came next…
The judges seemed to view themselves as Reality TV judges (like Simon Cowell from Idols). And, instead of asking questions…
they tore into my idea… they attacked and ridiculed the idea of VENT! – and worse – they attacked and ridiculed me personally.
I stood there… frozen… rooted to the spot… in the glare of the spotlight… in front of all those video cameras, flashing lights… and the City Hall packed with people… while strangers (who didn’t know me at all) – ridiculed me… ridiculed my “so-called” self-esteem issues… and said things to me that I wouldn’t dream of saying to anyone.
I… was… devastated.
I felt humiliated, judged, embarrassed… and shamed.
I had taken a risk by exposing some very vulnerable truths about myself – in a public space – and… for the trouble… had experienced the worst kind of public shaming imaginable.
I went back to my hotel room – and I cried and cried. Thankfully, I had Jo – an invaluable friend – who offered comfort… and who tried to help me make sense of it all.
But… I was deeply hurt.
I spent the next couple of days in a bit of a daze. I was trying to process what happened… but I could feel myself sinking quickly into the black hole of depression. And all those familiar little voices started niggling at my mind:
- Maybe those judges were right. Maybe you are exactly what they think you are!
- Maybe you should give up on this whole self-esteem-work nonsense… clearly you don’t have anything of value to add!
- Maybe you deluded yourself into thinking that any of the VENT! participants benefitted from your project… maybe they all think you suck!
- Maybe you hurt the VENT! participants instead of helping them! Because you’re selfish – like the judges said!
When you give free-reign to negative, poisonous thoughts like that (as I did)… it isn’t very long before the inevitable happens: you slip into the muddy doldrums of woe… and that’s exactly what I did! For 8 months!
Can you believe that I gave those judges so much power over my life?
Here is a brilliant quote from Cari Corbet-Owen… and please read it carefully (it really helped me to *get it*):
Just remember: you can only be hurt by the judgement of others if you believe at some level what they’re saying. Your worth should not be determined by the words, actions or reactions of another. If what he or she says or does doesn’t resonate with you, then you don’t have to absorb it into your being. You don’t even have to convince the person that you’re not what they think. When we feel offended we’re mistakenly allowing another’s judgement to be applied to us personally. But this should only happen if we can use it to transform and grow. Self-love is refusing to be offended or take things personally.
Wow! Wise words, huh?
And here’s the truth: I was hurt by what those judges said… because I believed – on some level – what they were saying! On some, deep level… I believed that I was a selfish person… a bad person… and the words of the judges only seemed to “confirm” it.
There have been a couple of things that have happened in my life over the past 15 months that have stirred and created some really mammoth changes in my heart and my life… but I’m not going to share about them in this post (this blog is already too long!).
Remember: If somebody says something about you that doesn’t resonate – you don’t have to absorb it into your being!
If this blog was relevant for you… or if it resonated with you… please share the love!
PS: Do you like my piece of art (at the top of the blog)…? Click here and you can download it as a high-res, print-ready PDF. You can print it out… stick it it up… and, in doing so – you’ll be supporting me and my blog for only $3! Thanks a mil!