#SWAAYthenarrative

Please Don’t Be Mean. Just Be Extra Kind.

5 Min Read
Lifestyle

On Sunday, my best friend Charli called me from her home in Maryland. "Why do people have to be so mean?" she lamented. "Why?"

She recounted her experience earlier that day getting mobile pick-up from Starbucks. (Oh, how I miss Starbucks.) A man named "Matt" in front of her snapped, rolling his eyes and growling about how his fancy coffee drink and almond croissant weren't ready on time. He did place a mobile pick order in advance after all.

"I told you I ordered it, it's right there. Look at those bags, see my croissant is there!" Matt growled, pointing to the corner section where items were piled up. Belittling the barista who was working in already understaffed conditions. "I want my almond croissant."

"There's no reason to be that nasty over a croissant," Charli shared in our conversation. "People just need to be kind."

Whether it's a Starbucks mobile pick up order that can't be located for "Matt." A work deliverable that wasn't completed. An assignment the teacher asked your child to do over. A team member showing up late to a meeting. An email that was sent to the wrong person. The store selling you expired yogurts. The parent who is loudly on her own work conference call and won't put her kid on mute during Zoom Circle Time. The list goes on and on and on.

We are all under a lot of pressure under COVID-19. And, sometimes, the easiest thing to do or say in the moment… it's also the wrong thing. It's the unkind thing. It's the mean thing. Because in a time where we have very little control, well, being mean gives us some control back for a short time. It's a fleeting sense of satisfaction — to unleash on someone else, to exert control over them, to be in control when you have no semblance of control otherwise — with often lasting and damaging consequences.

We are all under a lot of pressure under COVID-19. And, sometimes, the easiest thing to do or say in the moment… it's also the wrong thing.

Last year, I wrote a column for SWAAY entitled Please Don't Mistake My Kindness For Weakness. I argued that kindness was one of the most undervalued leadership qualities in our world today. The question I had asked was how could we afford not to be kind? Could we afford not to lead with kindness?

Pre-COVID-19, kindness was still a synonym for being a pushover, for being weak, for being ineffective. Now, during COVID-19, it's a synonym for strength, power, and influence.

Now, in this pandemic, kindness, compassion and empathy are the hallmark traits of leaders who will survive — those who put their people first. These leaders know that when you care for your people, your people will care for your business. Businesses don't pivot without people. And great results during a pandemic won't come without kindness.

The question I had on my mind last year was, can women afford to be kind as they lead? I walked the line, the careful dance of being too nice or too witchy, too trusting or too controlling, too compassionate or the ice queen/dragon lady/the Devil who wears Prada. (Disclaimer: I don't actually own any Prada clothing, but that still has a nice ring to it.)

Could we afford not to lead with kindness?

And now, it would seem, that kindness was and always has been my superpower. That, along with finding a vaccine for COVID-19, kindness might just be what gets us through this pandemic to the other side, to life post-COVID-19 and our next new normal.

So please don't be mean. The next time you want to snap, have the last word, or just unleash yourself on someone else, remember this phrase that my father always reminded us of: "If you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything at all."

And if someone is mean to you, you don't need to be mean back. You don't need to match every unkind word for another unkind word, you don't need to keep score, you don't need to bounce your anger back and forth like a ping pong game. Don't forget that silence is a powerful thing — as Michele Obama says so poignantly, "When they go low, we go high."

I am not suggesting that you be a doormat. If people are repeatedly unkind to you, you don't want them in your life. If you have control over their contact with you, change it.

And though you can't always avoid the people you work with who are unkind, you can act as a mirror, reflecting their behavior back at them. "I can hear that your voice is elevated, and I can see that your face is red and tense. And what you specifically said to me was unkind. Is there something else that is upsetting you?"

Pre-COVID-19, kindness was still a synonym for being a pushover, for being weak, for being ineffective. Now, during COVID-19, it's a synonym for strength, power, and influence.

Often times, people don't understand the impact of their words and their actions. Being a mirror can help them understand their impact. And some will even apologize for their behavior.

However, the truly mean people simply don't care, no matter how much of a mirror you try to be for them. And in those situations, I focus on the kindness I can put back into the world to counter their meanness. Because in the end, like any good Disney fairytale, I always believe kindness will win. Afterall, the Disney villain is never the one smiling at the very end as the credits roll.

There's never a good time to be mean, and even if there was one it certainly isn't now. We have no idea what's happening in each other's families or in each other's homes behind closed doors. We have no idea what's happening in our minds. Behind all those beautiful pictures on Instagram of homemade banana bread, inspirational quotes, and drive-by birthday parties, there is sadness, there is grief, and there is pain.

So please just be kind. Be extra, extra kind.

5 Min Read
Career

How Fitness Saved My Life and Became My Career

Sometimes it takes falling to rock bottom in order to be built back up again. I learned this many years ago when the life I'd carefully built for myself and my family suddenly changed. But in those times, you learn to lean on those who love you – a friend, family member or someone who can relate to what you've been through. I was lucky enough to have two incredible women help me through one of my lowest moments. They taught me to love myself and inspired me to pass on their lessons each da

If it weren't for the empowering women who stepped up and brought fitness back into my life, I wouldn't be standing – in the door of my own business – today.

In 2010, I was a wife, a mother of three, and had filtered in and out of jobs depending on what my family needed from me. At different points in my career, I've worked in the corporate world, been a stay-at-home mom, and even started my own daycare center. Fitness has always been a part of my life, but at that point being a mom was my main priority. Then, life threw a curveball. My husband and I separated, leading to a very difficult divorce.

These were difficult times. I lost myself in the uncertainty of my future and the stress that comes with a divorce and found myself battling anorexia. Over a matter of months, I lost 40 lbs. and felt surrounded by darkness. I was no longer participating in my health and all efforts to stay active came to a halt. I didn't want to leave my home, I didn't' want to talk to people, and I really did not want to see men. Seeing my struggles, first my sister and then a friend, approached me and invited me to visit the gym.

After months of avoiding it, my sister started taking me to the gym right before closing when it wasn't too busy. We started slow, on the elliptical or the treadmill. This routine got me out of the house and slowly we worked to regain my strength and my self-esteem. When my sister moved away, my good friend and personal trainer started working out with me one-on-one early in the morning, taking time out of her busy schedule to keep me on track toward living a healthy life once again. Even when I didn't want to leave the house, she would encourage me to push myself and I knew I didn't want to let her down. She helped me every step of the way. My sister and my friend brought fitness back into my everyday routine. They saved my life.

I began to rely on fitness, as well as faith, to help me feel like myself again. My friend has since moved away, but, these two women made me feel loved, confident and strong with their empowerment and commitment to me. They made such an incredible impact on me; I knew I needed to pay it forward. I wanted to have the same impact on women in my community. I started by doing little things, like running with a woman who just had a baby to keep her inspired and let her know she's not alone. I made sure not to skip my regular runs, just in case there was a woman watching who needed the inspiration to keep going. These small steps of paying it forward helped me find purpose and belonging. This gave me a new mentality that put me on a path to the opportunity of a lifetime – opening a women's only kickboxing gym, 30 Minute Hit.

About four years ago, I was officially an empty nester. It was time to get myself out of the house too and find what I was truly passionate about, which is easier said than done. Sitting behind a desk, in a cubicle, simply didn't cut it. It was hard to go from an active and chaotic schedule to a very slow paced, uneventful work week. I felt sluggish. Even when I moved to another company where I got to plan events and travel, it was enjoyable, but not fulfilling. I wanted to be a source of comfort to those struggling, as my sister and dear friend had been to me. I wanted to impact others in a way that couldn't be done from behind a desk.

I began to rely on fitness, as well as faith, to help me feel like myself again.

When I heard about 30 Minute Hit, I was nervous to take the leap. But the more I learned about the concept, the more I knew it was the perfect fit for me. Opening my own gym where women can come to let go of their struggles, rely on one another and meet new people is the best way for me to pass on the lessons I learned during my darkest times.

Kickboxing is empowering in itself. Add to it a high energy, female-only environment, and you have yourself a powerhouse! The 30 Minute Hit concept is franchised all over North America, acting as a source of release for women who are just trying to get through their day. I see women of all ages come into my gym, kick the heck out of a punching bag and leave with a smile on their face, often times alongside a new friend. 30 Minute Hit offers a convenient schedule for all women, from busy moms to working women, to students and senior citizens. A schedule-free model allows members to come in whenever they have a free half hour to dedicate to themselves. Offering certified training in kickboxing and a safe environment to let go, 30 Minute Hit is the place for women empowerment and personal growth.

Through my journey, I have learned that everyone is going through something – everyone is on their own path. My motivating factor is knowing that I can touch people's lives everyday just by creating the space for encouragement and community. It's so easy to show people you care. That's the type of environment my team, clients and myself have worked hard to create at our 30 Minute Hit location.

Fitness saved my life. If it weren't for the empowering women who stepped up and brought fitness back into my life, I wouldn't be standing – in the door of my own business – today. The perfect example of women empowering women – the foundation to invincibility.

This article was originally published September 12, 2019.