“Look for something positive each day, even if some days you have to look a little harder.” ~Unknown
This weekend I hurt more than I have in a very long time.
It all started on Friday, when my boyfriend and I headed out to spend the weekend with friends—two couples, both with babies in tow.
I’ve been trying, unsuccessfully, to get pregnant since the start of the year, yet I didn’t anticipate that it would be emotionally taxing for me to be around two little families. I was just excited to see our friends, who live in the Bay Area, hours away from our home near LA.
A little backstory: I’m less than three weeks away from my thirty-ninth birthday, which means I’m now in the category of “high risk pregnancy,” if I’m even able to get pregnant at all.
My boyfriend and I first discussed having a baby five years ago, but we kept pushing it off because our families live on opposite coasts, and neither of us was able to agree to live on the other’s coast full-time for the long-term.
We finally decided, at the beginning of this year, that I would be the one to visit my family—as often as I feel I need to, with our kid(s), for the foreseeable future—and we’d commit to staying in LA, which makes sense, since we’re working toward a career in film.
But biology doesn’t just fall in line because you finally get over your fears and decide to make a compromise. We’re both open to the idea of adoption, but there are other personal issues—that my fiercely private boyfriend would not want disclosed—that have complicated matters.
So there I was, on Friday, with our friends and their adorable babies—one actually a toddler, since he recently turned two.
We toasted our get-together around 5:00 with our first glass of wine, and the wine continued flowing throughout dinner. After, we all moved to the deck to partake in an at-home wine tasting.
The ladies and I discussed my road to pregnancy, and though I was discouraged, for the most part I was fine—until I wasn’t.
Having lost track of the amount of wine I was drinking, I eventually hit that emotional place I remember from my twenties—when alcohol eventually led to histrionics and tears. It is literally a depressant, after all, and generally not great to imbibe when you’re already feeling fragile.
I don’t remember all the details of that night, but I know I cried about my fears about not being able to have a family (which, as I mentioned, is an issue complicated by many factors).
I woke up at 4:00 in the morning and picked a fight with my boyfriend about our relationship. Then I woke at 8:00 with two things: a hangover and a shame-over. I was absolutely mortified.
I’d gotten drunk, turned a fun night with friends into something heavy and emotional, and had caused my boyfriend a lot of pain and embarrassment. It gave me a little comfort to realize everyone had drunk too much. But I still felt deeply ashamed of having lost control.
Ironically, I received an email that morning that I’d been waiting on for almost a month. My film mentor had just read the second draft of my first feature screenplay, and she said she was blown away by the massive improvement from the first draft.
I had never in my life simultaneously felt immense pride and deep shame, but I did right then.
Fortunately, the friend I cried to was extremely kind and empathetic. And no one judged me or put me down, as good friends never do.
But that day was pretty rough for me, physically and emotionally. And the next day, it got worse.
That night I noticed that a few people had commented on a meme I’d shared on Friday, using clipart with a hyper-sexualized female silhouette. They mentioned that it was demeaning to women to use what essentially appeared to be Barbie to represent the female form. One person called it “offensive.”
Though there were only a few critical comments, juxtaposed against 12,000 shares, I immediately realized I agreed with them. As someone who once struggled with an eating disorder, I’d like to represent women as more than a busty, high-pony-tailed caricature.
This didn’t fully or accurately represent my values or the message I’d like to convey. And I didn’t like the idea of young girls seeing it and concluding, as I may have as an adolescent, that this was what a woman is supposed to look like, even if some women actually look like this. So I decided to take it down.
With a mind still foggy I decided to write something on Facebook, as I wanted the community to know I felt I’d made an error in judgment. I didn’t want to just delete it. I want to make it clear I don’t agree with a society that puts pressure on women to be femme bots and suggests that our sexuality is our most valuable contribution.
I mentioned in my post that some people had pointed out that the image was offensive, and I agreed that it was triggering—and the backlash was swift and harsh.
In retrospect, I don’t think I accurately communicated why I decided to remove this image, since I didn’t address the cultural issue of how women are portrayed in the media, and the fact that I’d like to be part of the solution, not the problem. But I’m not sure if would have mattered if I did, since I’d used the word “offensive.”
I forgot that people often get offended by other people getting offended.
Over the next day, hundreds of comments came in, many attacking me on a personal level.
People called me spineless for catering to “snowflakes.” People said they lost respect for me and questioned my aptitude for even doing the work I do, since I clearly have no sense of conviction or belief in my own decisions. Even more alarming, many people mocked the idea of being “triggered,” and essentially belittled anyone with emotional or mental health issues.
I felt misunderstood, judged, and condescended.
I hid or deleted many of the worst comments, and resisted the urge to defend myself, deciding instead to leave one clarifying comment a couple hours in. But I’m not going to lie; this affected me deeply.
While on the one hand, I reminded myself that my power was in my response, and publicly, I only responded in one calm, clear comment, I also obsessively monitored the feed.
By this time my boyfriend and I were at his parents’ house in Nevada, where we planned to stay for a few days, and I wasn’t even close to present. I didn’t want to delete this new post, since I believed I’d done the right thing, but it pained me to see so much vitriol in a space that I hold sacred.
Then came another blow: I’d noticed a while back that since the start of the year, someone had been sharing every single challenge from my book Tiny Buddha’s 365 Tiny Love Challenges, on Facebook. Though this person tagged my page, none of the posts included the book’s title or a link—and some people actually assumed she was writing these posts, or getting them from my Facebook page.
I’d emailed my publisher a few weeks back to ask their thoughts on this, and they told me they could send an email asking her to stop. At the time, this seemed warranted.
Her Facebook friends didn’t see it that way. After she posted the letter from my publisher’s legal department, tagging my page, once again, the comments turned nasty.
F— you, Tiny Buddha.
You suck, Tiny Buddha.
More like “Greedy Buddha.”
Unbelievable! She should thank you for the free marketing!
For a while, I felt completely numb. And I knew I was doing the “wrong” things by obsessively monitoring my phone and letting these comments get to me.
I knew it wasn’t serving me to dwell in my self-righteousness and how wrong I believed it was for this woman, who enjoyed my work enough to share it, to like comments that attacked me on a personal level. But I did it anyways.
I was angry with the people who were angry. I was triggered by the people who were triggered.
And then something occurred to me: This whole weekend was an opportunity. It was a chance to practice some of the lessons that are much easier to practice when everything is going well.
This weekend was a chance to remember that:
I need compassion most when I think I deserve it the least.
Initially, I beat myself up over several things this weekend: drinking to excess, exploding emotionally, hurting my boyfriend, choosing clipart that I wished I hadn’t chosen, letting my publisher speak for me instead of reaching out to the woman personally, and obsessing over the various challenges I was facing instead of being present.
I told myself I shouldn’t have made any of those mistakes. I should have been beyond this. I was a fraud.
Then I realized something: I was being as mean to myself as the people online. And not a single blow of self-flagellation was helping me move on. In fact, each self-judgmental thought cemented me further into the hole. Because telling myself I was sucking at life made it awfully hard to find the strength to do better.
Every time I criticized myself, I weakened myself, and a weakened person is far less equipped to reframe difficult circumstances and respond wisely.
The only way out was to cut myself some slack. I needed to stop fighting with myself and let go, as if melting into a hug from someone who had finally forgiven me. I needed my own love and compassion.
So I drank too much and cried. I was hurting. It’s been a long journey toward starting a family, and it’s been hard. It’s okay to hurt.
So I made mistakes in my work—who hasn’t? I owned them and publically admitted them. What matters isn’t the fact that I messed up but that I acknowledged it and committed to doing better.
I don’t have to be perfect. Sometimes I will make mistakes, some public, and sometimes I’ll make many that compound. The only way to stop the cycle is to stop obsessing about having done things wrong. The only way to move into the future is to fully accept the past. Once I did this, I felt freer, and better able to be present.
The approval that matters most is my own.
It bothered me that people believed I removed the image because I needed approval from the “complainers,” as opposed to having made a decision based on my own beliefs and values.
But ironically, once the flood of negative comments came in, I did start feeling a need for approval. I wanted people to understand and honor my positive intentions.
It took me a day, but I was finally able to accept that some people were simply committed to judging me, and this wasn’t something to change; it was something to accept.
It didn’t matter if some people derided me or questioned me if I felt in my heart I’d done the right thing.
I eventually deleted the second post because I wanted to put an end to the negativity. There’s far too much of that on Facebook already. But I’m proud I waited and resisted the urge to remove all criticism immediately. For a recovering approval addict, allowing a public character assassination requires immense strength. And I give myself a lot of credit for that.
It’s rarely personal.
Intellectually, I knew this when people were insulting me in both places on Facebook.
I knew that the people who were angry with me for catering to “snowflakes” were really projecting their feelings about what they perceive to be an oversensitive culture. It wasn’t just about this one image. It was about every time someone’s ever said they were offended, and their complex feelings about what that means to them.
I also knew that the people defending the woman who’d been sharing my book online were acting from a place of allegiance to their friend. They were more pro-her than anti-me. Many didn’t even have all the information—they didn’t realize she’d been sharing from a book. So really, I couldn’t take that personally either.
This wasn’t immediately comforting to me because the attacks were so public, but when I was able to fully absorb this, it did give me some peace.
Not everyone will see my side, and that’s okay.
I believe one of our deepest desires is to feel understood—to know that other people get where we’re coming from and that they may even have done the same thing if they were in our shoes.
I didn’t feel that way when people judged me personally based on the letter from my publisher’s legal department.
I left a few comments on that post, trying my best to respond from a place of calm, but I know there are some people who will forever think I am greedy and soulless because I didn’t want my book’s content republished online.
I’ve decided that this is okay. Not everyone has to get me, understand me, support me, be considerate of me, or treat me kindly—so long as I do those things for myself.
Pain can be useful if you share it to help someone else.
I decided to share this post for two reasons:
First, I thought it would be cathartic for me. I felt ashamed for a lot of this weekend, and I wanted to be able to reframe this experience in a way that felt empowering. As I said when I first launched this site, when we recycle our pain into something useful for others, we’re able to turn shame into pride.
And that brings me to the second reason: I thought it might be helpful for someone else to realize that even someone who runs a site like Tiny Buddha can fall into so many self-destructive traps.
If you’ve ever drank too much and fell apart emotionally, know that you’re not alone.
If you’ve ever obsessed over comments online and allowed something as trivial as a Facebook feud to get the better of you, know that you’re not alone.
If you’ve ever failed to apply what you know and regressed to the least evolved version of yourself, know that you’re not alone.
And know that all of these things are okay. They don’t mean anything about you as a person. They don’t define you. And they certainly don’t have to dictate the future.
This is what I needed to hear this weekend when I was despondent and numb, so today it’s my gift to you. I hope someone benefits from something in my experience, but I suppose no matter what, someone has—me.
About Lori Deschene
Lori Deschene is the founder of Tiny Buddha and Recreate Your Life Story, an online course that helps you let go of the past and live a life you love. Her latest book, Tiny Buddha’s Worry Journal, which includes 15 coloring pages, is now available. For daily wisdom, follow Tiny Buddha on Twitter, Facebook & Instagram.