“Oh no…. you don’t want to tell anyone THAT…. Coworkers can be catty – Think of the rumors they’ll spread.”
This was the loving support a good friend offered me as we discussed how much and how publicly I share my personal life and history of addiction. To be honest, I’d like to share more – the details are kind of fascinating. But I respect the institution I work for, and I acknowledge that “War stories” or “drugalogs” (as they’re called in recovery circles) while great for shock value, aren’t really effective in the healing journey or the end of shame and stigma. I don’t share for fun; I share with the intent to empower.
Here’s the deal..rumors aren’t even on my radar of problems to worry about it. I’ve got way more practical things to tackle, and really, what’s the point of putting on pretense? If you hear a “rumor” about me, it’s probably true. Instead of acting appalled, or taking it personally, I preempt problems by leading the conversation myself. And if it’s not true, well…. I just don’t have the time.
It is not the gossip that causes the pain – It’s my relationship to the gossip. I choose not to engage in that relationship.
One leading reason humans spread rumors is explained like this (and in my experience it’s true): it makes us feel powerful to “own” and “share” information. I can say for a fact that’s partly why I participate. (That feels kind of icky to say, but it’s totally true.)
When the subject of the gossip sets the tone with transparency and vulnerability -when they own the information themselves, or refuse to be owned by the information – they take back the power.
Here’s an example:
“Tiffany had to go to drug treatment and ended up in the program for nurses who divert!”
Yep. Sure did. And I’ve since sat down with administration and HR and told them a lot more than the ‘Rumormill’ is even aware of. It was a relief and a blessing in disguise, as I continue to work at the same hospital. More importantly, I’m sober, and a willing participant in my own beautiful, messy life.
When I own my truth and arm myself with self-love, rumors can’t do any damage.
Some may think that while I can de-personalize rumors, it’s just not possible for others. Words hurt; opinions matter. Friend…. I see you, and I hear you. I wasn’t born fearless, courageous or unconditionally self-assured. I’ve had a close, intimate relationship with fear. In fact…Fear, Shame and I have been engaged in a ‘menage a trois’ for years (Not to mention my frequent trysts with self doubt, anxiety, and depression.) Ending these unions was long overdue.
I know how it feels to live life based on “shoulds”, social norms, and shame. My 3 wedding dresses are the most glaring evidence; proving my keen decision making based on fear of what others will think, and the distorted beliefs of the path my life “should” take.
But the new me – the SELF that’s been uncovered through adversity- is committed in a long term, poly amorous affair with Love, Acceptance, and Compassion. There are boundaries in this relationship with myself – and guidelines that are no longer dependent on the opinions of others.
This hasn’t always been easy or gentle.
For the first few months after returning to work, I hardly made eye contact. Avoiding public places like the cafeteria at all costs, I placed 99% of my family, friends and coworkers on a “do not tell” list, pretending I could wait out the 5 years of probation as though it never happened. I quickly realized that living in sober secrecy meant living outside my integrity. To become whole, to be comfortable in my own skin, I needed to stop giving power to other’s opinions.
I needed to show up at the cafeteria, buy a piece of pizza, and look my coworkers in the eye when I said hello.
Guess what? It worked. Summoning the courage of those I admire – the women before me that have not only survived but are thriving through their challenges – I bought that first piece of pizza, and made it through the first hard conversation. Hands shaking, I raised my eyes from the floor and showed myself that I believe in myself. It takes deep breaths and a concerted effort, but for the sake of anyone who might need to borrow my strength, I’m going to keep showing up.
Nobody likes to be the subject of a rumor. It’s human nature to crave acceptance, and we are culturally conditioned to care WAYYY too much about “popular” opinion. We all want to fit in and avoid having our name splashed across a tabloid.
What if we all stopped living that way? What if we collectively agreed on our innate worth and stated “I love my SELF, flaws and all. I own my truth, even the broken pieces. Rumors don’t affect how I live my life. Gossip won’t force me to stay out of the cafeteria.” And what if we meant it?
The power would fizzle out, slowly but surely. And each one of us would become exquisitely empowered.
Until next time- trying to watch my own mouth, and the gossip I might be spreading. We’re all a work in progress.
Cheers & Gratitude,
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