Important Message: #StopSocialBullying in the #WLS Community.
So I’m going to weigh in on this in a fashion I usually don’t. Mostly because I have to be true to myself and my message to this community. I stand up in this community and I tell people, “I will fight for you,” If they try to knock you down I will be in your corner. I will fight against weight bias, weight shamming, weight stigma, bullying and obesity. If you’re a part of #TeamSlenderSeekers I’m in your corner.
When I have been the target of bullying in this community I have done what my Father and Kenny Rodgers taught me, I have turned the other cheek and understood that sometimes I didn’t have to fight. But as that Kenny Rodgers song says “There’s someone for everyone and Tommy’s love was Becky,” my love, my passion and my heart really lays with those who are affected by obesity. And right now, I’m going to prove my word is good… I will stand up and fight against the bullying that I am seeing taking place….
This is going to be long, I am going to tell it like it is, that’s what most of you read my blog for because you know I will always shoot straight with you. Here we go….
These are people I want to help take back control of their lives and often times, the people who are affected by obesity, also deal with issues that deal with body image, lack of self-confidence and lack the courage to stand up for themselves. I’ve always said when I was big; I was really good at being the biggest invisible person in the room.
The transformation that occurs as we start to regain our self-confidence through weight loss is very evident if you go back through the archives of my blog. There was a time I wouldn’t post pictures of myself at all, just little gingerbread type figure pictures that started out big and progressively got smaller with me.
This transformation occurs in our minds as well. We start to gain back that self-confidence, we start to think we’re worthy again; this is evident in how many of us pull away from relationships that we once settled in because we didn’t think we could do any better.
The transformation that occurs in how vocal we are about our feelings is a good thing and is also very evident. For so long so many of us stuffed our feeling down with food and avoided feeling them. Once food is removed from our tool box as an emotional outlet, we are forced to find other coping skills and that opens up the door for us to also learn to communicate our feelings more.
Now let’s talk about Bullying for a moment. According to StopBullying.Gov Bullying is defined as: Unwanted, aggressive behavior that involves real or perceived power imbalances. The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated over time. They go on to define “Social Bullying” as: relational bullying, involves hurting someone’s reputation or relationships. The behaviors they list include: Teasing, Name-Calling, Inappropriate Sexual Comments, Taunting, Threatening to cause harm, leaving someone out on purpose, telling others not to be friends with someone, Spreading rumors about someone and embarrassing someone in public.
Now let me say, I’ve been a part of this community since I attended the OAC #YWM2012 Convention and I have witnessed these sorts of behaviors first hand ever since I attended a became involved with the #WLS Community on Facebook. This issue has been the purple elephant in the room that most people were afraid to talk about. Afraid is a very big word there, people were afraid; they were scared that if they stood up against the behaviors they were seeing they would become the next target.
And I was one of them. I was in the process of a complete career change, trying to start my own business as a Weight Loss Coach and Personal Trainer, I had aspirations to help others fight obesity, the last thing I needed was a lynch mob after me because I had upset the wrong person.
But it happened none the less. Strangely enough the first instance was right after it had been announced that I had received the Sponsorship for the first “How do you Celebrate Success” contest and was giving away to one of my readers a trip to Disneyland to run a Half Marathon that included airfare, hotel accommodations, park tickets and race registration fees. Just a few days after that the OAC invited me to speak at the #YWM2013 Convention on a panel regarding reconstructive plastic surgery after massive weight loss. This was right around the time that I had been generously gifted by my godfather with the money needed to go forward with another round of reconstructive plastic surgery to assist in my own struggle with body image issues. As these things happened, guess what else happened, I was targeted. Suddenly the topic of “Plastic Surgery as a Transfer Addiction” was what all the cool kids in the community were talking about. My inbox was flooded with “concerned” folks who had read about this in their Facebook Group and felt the need to let me know that they felt I was a prime example of what was being discussed and that perhaps I shouldn’t be accepting my godfather’s gift, or that I needed to be more honest with the OAC because I probably wasn’t a good selection as a speaker on this topic.
The next time I was targeted strangely enough came right after the announcement of the sponsorship of the next “How do You Celebrate Success” contest, where one of my readers had the chance to win a trip to Walt Disney World. The prize again included all of the expenses involved other than food and souvenirs. I had also just moved all the way across country and taken a brand new job following my dreams and had just been hired by a women’s only gym facility to design their weight loss and wellness program. Dreams I had been working towards for the better part of three years were coming true because of my courage to pursue them and suddenly, a post that I made on Facebook that mentioned no names and said“You can’t tell your coach you are adhering to a program and then post pictures of pizza, beer and cheesecake on Facebook.” was twisted and presented to the public in a post intended to incite them that read…
“I promise you – if my personal trainer publically shamed my fitness, body shape or eating habits of Facebook – I would publically shame them in a very different way.”
The first comment was by the poster herself “Unemployment checks” was all it said, though it hinted encouragement that if it were up to them I’d be fired. Guess what happened next? My employer was getting messages on Facebook along the lines of “It is highly ethical for a Trainer to be discussing their clients on their Facebook page; you should be more careful who you choose to represent your company.”
When my employer got the message, doing what a good employer does they researched it and they next day when I came in they talked to me about it. However when they didn’t respond to the message, the author, a member of the WLS Community, took it to the next level, they published a review of the gym, a gym they are not a member of on Facebook where my employer can’t use administrative rights to remove it, but can only respond to it. The review reported the incident drastically different from what actually happened.
“It’s highly unethical for a trainer to be posting on her FB about her clients! Social Media is not an appropriate place for someone to publicly shame a paying customer while announcing they are a representative of your company on their same page. #pandorawilliams #slenderseekers”
Luckily for me my employer understood the situation and what was happening and their response to the review wasn’t to fire me, but to post that they didn’t agree with the assessment of the situation as shared in the review.
Later that same day another member of the WLS Community wrote in about it too. The sentiment was the same;
“It’s disgusting that you would support a trainer who publicly shames a customer on a social media site. The hope is that this post spreads and it has an adverse effect. Maybe then, you will find it unethical and immoral to support this type of behavior.”
The bullying that has been going on in this community for the last few years; the behaviors where you get unfriended by people you thought liked you because you commented on something or responded in a way they didn’t approve of, attended an event they didn’t want you to go to, we’re friends with someone they don’t like. That is high school drama and if you choose to participate in it you do yourself a disservice. But really, other than a few hurt feelings, well, everyone shows their true colors eventually and the only person you really hurt in the end is yourself.
The problem is, things tend to escalate when it comes to this type of behavior and pretty soon it’s not petty little things like being unfriended on Facebook, now it’s using the power of a group of people who you have influence over to encourage interference in people’s lives. I’ve used an example of how it happened to me above to illustrate this for you.
Forget about the name calling folks, that’s high school too, but when we start seeing posts where people are trying to get someone fired over a post on Facebook, threatening law suits because the name or initials of a group are similar, threatening to call the police to report someone for drunk driving days after you heard it might have happened, sticking your nose in other people’s financial affairs, contacting other bloggers and implying that you’ve lost sponsors because they under sold you on advertisement; is it any wonder that you are losing friends, supporters, sponsors and people willing to fight in your corner? And whether you are actually the one saying these things or not only protects you from libel and slander, it doesn’t change the fact that you are the source of where it is coming from. People get wise to that behavior really quick.
With the recent drama that has flared up in this community, one of the women who felt bullied in this fashion finally stood up for herself and said something. She took what was behind closed doors bullying and brought it to the forefront so that people couldn’t turn a blind eye and ignore it and you know what, good for her. Because we should not be ignoring it, we should not be tolerating it, and we should not be supporting it.
This community should be about supporting each other, not tearing each other down. Many of the people in it have been torn down and torn apart, abused, bullied and picked on for a large majority of their lives; those are some of the very things that lead them to unhealthy weights, unhealthy relationships with food and unhealthy habits. You all have so much in common that there really is no reason to have to focus so much on thing things you don’t and there is certainly no reason to exhibit behaviors that could so negatively impact people’s lives.
If we continue to let this sort of behavior go on behind closed doors and we don’t do what this brave woman did and shine a light on the dark little crevice as a community we stand to lose some of the wonderful people who would be so damaged by this behavior that they’d give up and no longer try to do all the good that they do because they don’t want to be target.
I encourage each and every one of you in this community, the next time you see that vague little post that is meant to incite you and stir the pot and get you react, think for a moment about how manipulative that is and ask yourself, do you want to be that person whose name is out there in the public because you fired a verbal bullet at someone who had the potential to seriously hurt their lives? Do you want to be a part of the social bullying? What you put out there can’t be taken back you know. People might be able to delete posts and hide comments and try to make things go away, but you can’t ever take back the damage you’ve done.
In my circumstance, the woman who shot that bullet when her friend incited her, her name is still there on our Gyms Facebook review page for the entire world to see. And while she was ready to tear me apart over something I didn’t do, she sure wasn’t very vocal about saying thank you for the free registrations I had gifted her and her friends with for a fitness event just a few months earlier. Strange how certain sects of the community only want to talk about what they perceive you do wrong.
So I encourage you not to let it happen in private, public or any fashion. #StopSocialBullying in the WLS Community in its tracks before it takes something really tragic to show you that it’s gotten out of hand. Don’t participate in these sorts of threads. Don’t encourage them. Don’t like them. Don’t comment on them. Don’t be a part of Social Bully in the WLS Community.
This has been a message from your neighborhood Pandora.
Now back to our regularly scheduled program.