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Stripping Labels: Leading By Living

Stripping Labels: Leading By Living

Seeing the world through rose-colored glasses is an idiom often used to express an optimistic perception of life. But the sad truth is, optimism is a disposition rarely extended to others. Instead, we tend to look at others and decide what color glasses to wear when viewing them, based on our judgment of them.

Humans have a natural inclination to favor certain sects of society while believing there is justification for harboring caution (at the least) if not outright hatred (at the worst) against certain groups of society. Generally, those biases are formed to include themselves and people like them.

Despite recent trends, I believe women more than men are pigeonholed in their careers and their relationships. Women still don’t receive equal pay for equal work (especially minorities). Women more often than men are trapped in abusive relationships. Women are sexually assaulted more than men. Women are forced into human trafficking more than men. Women are forced into underage marriage more than men. Women are forced to endure female mutilation. I can go on. The topic of bias relates to me both personally and professionally. I face huge biases – not just due to my gender but also my race, which is stereotypically associated with my tendency to speak up. From what I’ve experienced, there is an overt and obvious difference between me and my white, especially male, colleagues and friends. When I speak up firmly, I face resistance from certain people and am made to feel discounted as a nuisance. When my white friends and/or colleagues, male or female, behave in the same manner, often more frequently and more blatantly, they are taken so much more seriously, and their opinions are valued. It got to the point, where I found myself having to confront the dilemma of whether to lighten up or stop speaking up altogether. It felt to me as if I was never heard, and I didn’t want to be labeled as the so-called “Angry Black Woman,” (ABW). I didn’t want to be viewed as unintelligent or bitter either. Talking while black and female proved to be quite the double-hurdle for me. I have personally had other colleagues tell me they have had to face some form of negative labeling in their career. One woman was told by a manager that she “did not fit the corporate image” when she was being considered for an advancement opportunity. She asked for feedback regarding how she didn’t fit the corporate image but then asked for the interview anyway. She got the interview. It went well and she was offered the position.

Humans also have a natural inclination to form biases. I sincerely believe one must consciously will themselves to not behave in those undereducated, underdeveloped ways of thinking. How do you inspire humans to think for themselves?? To break away from their norms and their beliefs? In this climate and in what I see happening in this country, it seems virtually impossible. The answer for me is to live it. Show others in my own behavior and choices. If you want to see an improved environment, be an improved environment all the time – without exception.

In order to be compassionate and try to help others remove filters, my path lies in Christ. By showing others that they can look at the world through the lens of Christ,  they can free themselves of preconceived ideas, biases, and bigotry against others; they can, instead, open themselves up to love. And like so many others, I believe we must love as Christ loved.

 

Stripping Your Label: Going Beyond Stereotypes

Stripping Your Label: Going Beyond Stereotypes

When I was asked to do this blog my first thought was, I don’t want to strip my label. I don’t think labels are always bad.  I am a librarian, a wife, a mother, a grandmother, a 29-year breast cancer survivor- all labels I am proud to have. Each one defines a part of my life.  Some labels I wouldn’t mind losing, like being a procrastinator, judgmental, or stubborn. I am working on those.

It is a normal human behavior to label things and people to help us understand them.  If you consider how a child learns to talk or read, the first things she learns are labels for people and things.  Mama, Dada, milk, cookie…. As children have more experience they get a more complete understanding of each thing. In some ways, it’s the same for adults.  When we meet someone new, we ask them for their labels. “What do you do for a living?” “Do you have any children?” “Where do you live?” We are looking for a connection or a way to know the person better.  The problem comes when we think if we know the label that is all there is to know.

We need to be willing to take the time to get to know the real person we have just met.  The labels we identify are just a starting point. Find out what other experiences or feelings have shaped the life of your new acquaintance.  You may find you have made a lifelong friend.

Many labels are rooted in stereotypes. I am proud to be “The Library Lady”. My license plate even says, “SHHH”.  As a librarian, many people think they know what kind of person I am just because of the profession I have. I am thought to be a quiet person who reads all day, and who is really interested if you have overdue books.  I can’t count the number of times when I mention I am a librarian that the first thing a person tells me is that they have overdue books or fines.

I can be a quiet person sometimes and I do like to read when I have time, but you might be surprised if you saw me at a party.  I am usually the first one on the dance floor and often the last one to leave. I am a country music fan, which surprises some people who know me. I love cars and often go to car shows with my husband. I prefer driving a car with a manual transmission, but they are hard to find anymore.  

Labels can be limiting, not only in our relationships but also in our own minds.  I am happy to be a breast cancer survivor, but when I was going through treatment I decided I wasn’t going to let this change my life any more than absolutely necessary.  I continued to work and care for my young children. I wore a wig cut to my regular hairstyle so it wasn’t obvious to those who didn’t know me well that I was undergoing cancer treatments. I did as much of my regular routine as I could, with a lot of help from my husband.  I didn’t want cancer to define me to others or myself.

Labels do help others get to know us, but we have to get beyond the stereotypes to really get to know one another.  To make a true connection we have to have real conversations that explore our values, our feelings and how we see ourselves and each other.  We need to be willing to let others see us as we are.

It is difficult to be open with others, especially those who are new to us.  We feel vulnerable when we don’t know how someone will react to what we reveal of ourselves.  But we have to be brave enough to be vulnerable if we are to live authentically. We also need to examine our own values and live in accordance with them.  Do we act differently because we worry about what a certain person or group will think of us? If we try to live consciously, working toward the person we want to become, we can be open to others and let them see our real selves.  It isn’t easy and it takes time and work, just like any worthwhile endeavor.

 

The Power Of Owning Your Story  

The Power Of Owning Your Story  

Confession time: I used to be kind of a snob about journalism.

When I was earning my degree at The Ohio State University, social media was just beginning to take off. I only made a Twitter account because it was a requirement in one of my journalism classes. We were only just starting to understand the impact of “citizen journalists” with access to post whatever they wanted on their personal profiles and declare it news, and yet we had no idea what was to come (the term “fake news” hadn’t entered the national lexicon yet).

The idea of “citizen journalists” was incredibly offensive to me. Here I was spending thousands of dollars on an education to learn how to practice this craft, and some random person on the street could post a picture and dare to call themselves a journalist, and no one would know the difference.

I’ve had a passion for storytelling since childhood – I can still remember creating “newspapers” on yellow legal pads at my grandma’s house. She worked at a newspaper in her youth, and so did my uncle on the other side of the family. I guess you could say it’s been in my blood. That kind of deep-seated passion can make you pretty defensive.

All that ego led to dreams of being some hotshot writer at a national news organization. I mean, let’s be honest, if I got a call from one of those places I definitely wouldn’t hang up the phone right away. But my journey in life since college has shifted the way I see the world, and my place in this industry.

I still have a fierce passion for journalism. But I no longer believe journalists should live in ivory towers preaching the news to listening ears below. Instead of believing I alone can change the world, I believe in casting a wider net and empowering others to tell their own stories.

The industry as a whole is starting to shift, too. News organizations are starting to realize their audiences don’t need to be preached at, they need to be brought alongside the reporting process. We’ve started to listen more to readers and what they have to say, and we’ve been rewarded with content that our audiences actually care about.

When I think about an individual’s potential for social impact, I’ve stopped thinking about it from the perspective of myself as a superhero saving the world with my words. Real change can only happen when you bring others around you along the same road.

I’ve also stopped thinking I could only make an impact in this world if I rose to a certain station. For a long time, I thought this season of life was only a stepping stone to the next, better opportunity – which is a good way to miss out on the beautiful things happening right now.

I first moved to Richland County in 2012, and the past seven years have cemented my belief that local journalism is perhaps the most important type of journalism. Only your local news organization has its finger on the pulse of the community you live in, reporting on the issues that matter to you in your daily life.

In addition, solutions journalism has really opened my eyes to the possibilities for a local news organization to be a facilitator of that conversation, not just standing on the sidelines. Not to mention it makes my soul a lot happier to report on solutions, not just problems.

I was recently promoted to the position of Engagement & Solutions Editor at Richland Source, and I’ve quickly realized it is truly my dream job to work with our community to make our slice of the world a better place. Not only do I want to tell you all about the amazing things people are doing to find solutions, I want to empower you to be a part of that solution. This isn’t my story – it’s yours.

Gone are my days of scoffing at citizen journalists and pining for a faraway job because of the vague sense it’s what I was obligated to do. I’ve accomplished more than I ever thought possible because I decided to bloom where I was planted. I took a look around and realized the grass under my feet was just as green.

And now, I want to hear from you. If you could affect change in our community, what would you do? What stories do you have to tell about your hometown? Feel free to send them my way at brittany@richlandsource.com.

I’ve always had a passion for storytelling. This is just the beginning.

Embracing Positivity Through Digital Media

Embracing Positivity Through Digital Media

Hey there! I’m Emily Parsons, a digital marketing guru and lifestyle blogger. I believe that everyone has influence and the power of consciously influencing those for the better. It wasn’t that long ago that I left Atlanta, Georgia and moved back to Ohio. I had worked in Corporate America for long enough and needed a fresh start.

I realized pretty fast that the hustle and grind of Atlanta wasn’t what I wanted long-term. I moved back to Ohio, without a set job and two months worth of savings to get me by. Fast forward two years and I’m now living my dream, helping small businesses and women entrepreneurs lead consciously through this fast-paced digital marketing world. I started sharing tips & tricks for blogging, social media and creating an authentic brand. I had no idea that these topics would lead to such amazing changes in companies and myself.

Social Media has completely changed the way we perform, how we run a business and can take your circle of influence from 2 people to 200,000 overnight. It might sound cheesy but my current life and career are exactly where I want to be. I am able to live out my passion for helping people, growing businesses and positively influencing individuals on a daily basis. What more could I ever ask for! If I could effective one aspect of our society, it would be that everyone allows themselves time for daily personal development. Taking time to invest in ourselves, opens us up to a whole new world of opportunity.

You might be asking why you should embrace the new digital marketing millennium? Well, 97% of US adults under 65 are on social media at least once a month. The vast majority are on it every day. 57% of Millennials say that social media has made the ads they see more relevant to them. 48% of people say they made their last online purchase as the direct result of a Facebook ad.

Digital marketing allows small businesses to compete with a much smaller advertising budget. When managed effectively, it gives them laser-focused control over where and how they spend their money. When you have this kind of control and the data to support decisions, you make smarter ones. How amazing is that?!

My goal through digital marketing and social media is to reach as many people as possible in a positive way. If I’m able to spark a sense of joy and excitement for life with one person then I am living out my passion. Social Media gives us the ability to influence so many people, let’s make it a consciously positive one!