"People throw rocks at things that shine." This quote from Taylor Swift's song, "Ours," is one I love and one I carry pretty close to my heart.
I guess I've never understood why people (females, especially) tear each other down. Of course, I'm not suggesting all women do this. And I'm not saying that even the best among us doesn't slip up from time to time.
But I bet you've known someone in your life for whom "throwing rocks" seems to be a full-time job. I'm talking about the mean girls, gremlins, dementors, whatever name you have for them. I tend to just call them haters.
They're the ones who want to trample all over your every success. They screenshot your Facebook post about an accomplishment or triumph and send it to their mob squad hater group. They actively root for you to fail--and if you do, they tap dance on your grave.
I have encountered a lot of haters in my life. And hey, I'm willing to reflect on my own actions, and consider what my contribution to this behavior could have been. But more often than not, I'm pretty sure it has nothing to do with me and everything to do with them.
My True Tales of Haters
I've always loved dressing up for work, and at a school where I once worked, I would often wear skirts. The dress code called for skirts no shorter than knee-length; I overcompensated by making sure my skirts were at least two inches longer than that. Why did I do this? Because women have had issues with my legs from way back, and I was trying to avoid conflict. (I run 30 miles a week. I've earned these awesome legs, and I'm proud of them!)
Lo and behold, it turns out my fellow teachers had a problem with seeing my legs. So much so, the principal, a dear friend of mine, asked me to change how I dressed because she didn't have time to deal with the teachers complaining about my legs in a cute skirt and heels!
I wish I was kidding about this, but I'm not.
Another time, our local newspaper ran an article about a really cool project my class was doing with the area's animal shelter. My principal was so proud that he blew up one of the quotes from the article to hang in the school hallway. Well, that was a mistake.
You'd have thought I was walking around with a crown on my head with the pushback I received. Other teachers were truly upset. It seems they didn't want to see me get ANY attention for this! Why? Because it made them feel inferior. (Of course, it wasn't all bad. There were plenty of teachers who were happy for me and offered their congratulations.)
Stop the Hate Before It Spreads Further
A colleague and Facebook friend recently reached out to me about her own experiences with haters.
"This year has been, by far, one of my worst with hateful people, specifically women, at work," she wrote. "It all started when I was named teacher of the month, and my coworkers found out that I was nominated by our principal. I never knew people/professionals could be so evil and nasty."
(I hated hearing this. But she also mentioned that attending one of my conferences helped to change her outlook and brought her joy. And that brought me joy!)
I have more stories like this, and I'd be willing to bet that you do, too. I've heard time and again about this kind of poisonous environment in other schools, and I have just one thing to say: It has to stop!
We need to root for one another, celebrate one another's successes, lift each other up, and stand in the light together. If you are ticked off because someone else is succeeding, getting recognition, or is a kick-ass dynamo well, it's time to take a hard look within.
We can and should do better. We should not have teachers in our schools who are afraid to shine, who are afraid the principal will single them out as leaders, who are afraid to be asked to be on committees, or who are afraid to be really good at something simply because there will be retribution from their peers.
I've heard of this happening in all kind of workplaces. But I'm being asked by more and more schools to present motivational talks about this very topic. Because poisonous behavior shouldn't have a place in ANY work environment.
The current education system makes teaching challenging enough. If we want to make a real difference, shouldn't we stand together instead of apart?