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Susan Ann Darley: What Whitney Houston Taught Us About Character Assassination

We need to serve as each other's bodyguards to protect our inner worth

Last month at Whitney Houston’s funeral, Kevin Costner said, “It was the burden that made her great and the part that caused her to stumble in the end.”

He was referring to her doubts. You know, the questions that gnaw away at all of us — the ones that wear us down and keep us fragile. “Am I good enough? Do they like me? How do I look?”

No matter how accomplished you are, sometimes there’s an underlying feeling that you are an impostor. Perhaps what you do feels too easy or you think you don’t really measure up, so you dismiss genuine compliments, even though there is overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

Carrying the burden of haunting doubts that tell us we’re “not good enough” can be devastating as our inner critic leads us down the abyss.

What impels us to belittle and criticize ourselves — or another? We know all too well the potentially devastating results of bullying, which uses harassment and intimidation to weaken another. But what happens when we participate in gossip? Do we do it to bolster our own lack of confidence or feel “in the club” as we laugh or ridicule another behind their back? Do we feel it’s just idle chatter?

Think again.

Character assassination has become a national disease. We mask our own insecurities by covertly or blatantly tearing others down. We like to believe that it’s just harmless water-cooler talk — a bit of light gossip. The truth is that it’s mean-spirited and part of the level of destructiveness that is weakening our nation.

Washington is currently mirroring the worst in us by looking for and exaggerating the worst in others. Millions of dollars are spent on political ads that purposefully have the intention of destroying the character of an opponent instead of presenting constructive ways the politician can approach the multitude of challenges this nation is facing.

By the vast number of crime scene shows on TV, we as a nation are fascinated with murderers and bullies who wear their victims down through mental, emotional and physical torture until tragedy occurs. We classify them in a far different category from ourselves. But are they?

When we degrade ourselves or others, our thoughts become poisonous, creating a deadly venom that kills what we love the most — our spirit.

When we criticize ourselves and others, our world becomes small and restrictive. Innovation, expansion and creativity are choked off. Solutions lie behind the wall of blame and ridicule. It’s up to us to knock it down, and there is only one way.

We must develop an inner security that can’t be toppled or undermined by others and possess such a strong sense-of-self that there is no need to put anyone down — only a desire to lift another up. Then, and only then, will we work together for the good of all. So how do we get there?

It begins with the courage to do it differently. It means having the fortitude not to participate in back-biting behavior. It means to stand up for someone instead of tearing them down in order to please your peers. It requires an inner strength to respond from your highest sense of right instead of going along with the group.

Wise words were spoken at Houston’s funeral by Ray Watson, her bodyguard for nearly 11 years. Referring to entertainers he said, “Treat them with dignity. Treat them with love and stop ridiculing.” It is a powerful message for all of us, regardless of profession or status.

It’s a well-known fact that when you treat children with respect and focus on the best in them, they act and perform better. Appreciation and acknowledgment nurture their inner worth.

It’s time to become each other’s bodyguard so we can deflect the poisonous arrows hurled at us and protect our inner worth beyond the shadow of any doubt.

— Through her business, Mindset Management, Susan Ann Darley coaches and writes for businesses, entrepreneurs and artists from all disciplines. She offers a complimentary coaching session. For more information, click here, email her at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or call 805.845.3036.

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