We’ve probably all heard about instances of some celebrity or other getting “canceled.” Besides being a dramatic social-media call-out, what does “cancel culture” say, and how can we respond to it?
First, we have to understand the basic assumptions that underlie “canceling”: X person has shown that they will not change their harmful behavior (often harming people with less power and influence than themselves). Therefore, the only recourse is to publicly shame them—a reaction that’s not unique to this age of internet.
As we look to the dream of creating a more just, equitable world than we’ve ever lived in, grappling with this trend is surprisingly helpful. Because our feeling of personal okay-ness is innately tied to feeling we are liked and accepted by others, realizing that some aspects of how we show up in the world actually do harm others can be deeply painful. It might even feel like who you are has been canceled. Cue emotions of panic, denial, guilt, groundlessness.
It’s a lot to process. But here’s the response part. You can accept all of those stormy emotions, honor them, and still not “cancel” yourself. In other words, don’t accept the belief that you yourself are beyond the ability to grow through this moment.
As the visionary author and Afrofuturist Octavia E. Butler wrote, “The only lasting truth is Change.” Whatever critique you get, who you are is a person capable of resilience, learning, and aligning more deeply with compassion. That, friend, is the polar opposite of canceled.
Responding to Criticism with Love
1) Release the fear of making mistakes (and of being held accountable). Yes, even when mistakes feel like such a big, guilt-ridden deal. Mindfulness helps us un-learn the pervasive belief that perfection is required. By letting go of perfectionism, Mark Bertin writes, we can “get back to doing our best without extra layers of self-judgment.”
2) Practice getting more comfortable with uncertainty. Many of us are unsure how to show up with kindness while surviving the pandemic, fighting white supremacy, and facing environmental destruction. As Elaine Smookler writes, “floundering with grace and openness is the next big skill we must learn, to be resilient in the face of uncertainty and distress.”
3) Don’t go it alone! We often isolate ourselves in difficult times, pandemic or not. Rhonda Magee reminds us that “we don’t live our lives individually. We are always engaged with others, in communities of all kinds.” Strengthening our accountability in connection with others, in COVID-safe ways, can relieve much of the stress we’re feeling. This 13-minute practice led by Rhonda helps us visualize ourselves as vibrant members of community.