A friend of mine, having just released an inspiring and best selling book, is getting all sorts of flack, for all sorts of reasons. Most of them dark, none of them exactly life affirming or making her want to put herself out there more. A client of mine, who's just launched a fantastic initiative, is learning that a whole new set of "people problems" come from being successful. This realization has him questioning how big of a game he really wants to play. One of my students, after receiving an award in her industry, is baffled by the "odd vibe" and reserved sense of celebration, bordering resentment, she is feeling from her family. A sister of mine (don't worry, I have many, her identity is safe here, and all my sisters do cool stuff so good luck trying to figure out which one), steps into something a-m-a-z-i-n-g (amazing!) only to find the oddest of critics and critiques in the most random of places.
Dark side, baby. Dark side. Love it up. You are on a spiritual roll.
Here's what I make up about all of this. Regardless of the circumstance; the win, the challenge, the ill-intended critique, the loving helpful feedback, the celebration, or the "bruise"... we're constantly dancing with this life in the realm of light and dark; abundance and scarcity; joy and fear; big and small; purpose and apathy; love and hate; celebration and jealousy, "we" and "me".
When you tell your truth, live authentically, do big things, have an intense inspiring story, or are simply amazing... people are going to get triggered - for the good and the bad. When you step up, along with the inspiration you leave in your wake... it's okay - someone is bound to be a "drag".
Don't get me wrong, all the scenarios I list above, are loaded with way more praise, celebration, joy, positivity, and support, for the people and their projects, than the negative. Far far far more good than bad. The positive impact beautifully trumps the negative - by miles. Many people are benefiting immensely by what each of these individuals have stepped into. All the individuals I speak of are strong, beautiful, powerful, kind kind kind hearted...
Yet, as you know, my fellow human being, the negative often seems to have more... pull. And the negative hurts. Especially if we take it personally, try to "fix" it, "prove" it, or make it "right" for the "hater" by making ourselves "smaller". ("Hater" is a word I've seen used a ton more recently for this kind of phenomenon - there's even a t-shirt and a bumper sticker. While I don't love the word, I'm using it here.)
As painful as it can be, it's actually kind of simple. When you do big things, you're going to "touch" people at their core, and it's either going to hit a "light" nerve or a "dark" nerve. Whichever nerve you hit will highly influence their response. Be ready for it. And be okay with it. And send that response a little love. We get to have the light with the dark. It's part of leadership. It's part of the package of impact. It's part of finding out who we really are, and what we really care about. And it's part of our lesson in compassion - for ourselves and others. Leadership is vulnerability.
Your saving grace when this happens? Your life raft? The more you truly believe in what you're doing, the more it's aligned with your purpose, the more real you are in it, the more positive your intentions are, and the more open you are to learning from it and experiencing it without letting it design you -- the bigger your life raft to cling to (and eventually surf out of the storm with) will be.
The swing and the choice.
I've noticed, especially since the new year (and I'd even say since 12/21/12, though, I may totally be making that up) that people tend to swing hard in one direction or the other - either on the far end of positivity and lightness and abundance, or the other end of negativity, darkness and scarcity. The far end of "we" or the other end of "me me me". The middle ground is narrow - or at least not as wide as it used to be - people seem to be swinging and committed to one way or another.
This is where it gets interesting and where we have a choice in who we want to be and which way we want to swing. This is also where it becomes essential to support ourselves by keeping our own attitudes and health high, our purpose clear, and our dearest relationships close. By operating with a positive focus, being connected to purpose, getting the right support, and being committed to "taking the high road", we have a better chance of being able to lead through the tough stuff.
The most powerful energy wins.
Dark negative energy is powerful. It's "contagious" and tends to pull others in fairly easily (especially if their energy is not strongly grounded). This is where you'll often see the "negative group think" syndrome and "climbing on" happen (even if the "climber" joining didn't feel that strongly about it in the first place). With a void or weakness in their own energetic field, the negative space is compelling; it's an easy place to go to and instantly validated - if even only energetically - by others in that space.
In fact, for many, the dark is much easier to deal with than the light. Much easier. (You've likely seen this somewhere in your life.) Fortunately, the more we connect with our purpose, the more we lead with intention, and the better we take care of ourselves -- the easier it becomes to stay in a positive and strong energetic state. The "light" now becomes the desired norm and state. And from here, the easier it is to block, rebuff, and recover from the negative. (Think of it like your own personal force field.)
Bottom line? The most powerful energy "wins", so the question becomes: Which energy will you let be stronger? The dark or the light?
Your job, for you, and for the impact you're here to create, and the people you're here to lead, is to help the more positive energy be the most powerful.
The way I see it is that part of our greatest work as thought leaders, business leaders, and leaders of self in general, is to take such great care of ourselves that we can "stand in the fire". To build such reserves and such resiliency that even when we get knocked down, we can find our way back to ourselves, and our mission, and fast. That we can activate that "force field" instantaneously. And that we can be compassionate, yet fierce, with ourselves, and others, when needed throughout.
So what do you do when you hit the dark side of leadership and success? What do you do when you feel discouraged, beaten down, heartbroken, disenchanted? And you want to stay in, or get back to, the light?
Realize, release, reboot, and renegade.
Realize and release the negative. Notice what's happening; acknowledge the pain and the hurt you feel in it, learn whatever you need to learn from it, get support, cry, rant, break things if you must, stay under the covers all day, write letters that you'll never send (or maybe you will), and then... release it. Breathe. Release. Ride the wave. Breathe.
Reboot your body, mind, and spirit. Take exquisite care of yourself. Right now it's more important than ever to nurture your body - eat well, hydrate, sleep, move, dance, stretch, get body work done - whatever makes your body hum. Take care of your mind - speak kindly to yourself, focus on all the good that is coming to you and for you (positive impact, support, etc.), guide your self-talk to compassion and championing. Take care of your spirit - reconnect with your "WHY?" for impact (why do you do what you do in the first place?), and love on yourself BIG time. "I love you, me. Truly. I do."
"Renegade" from the norm or what might be expected of you. That norm might be to retreat, go away, give up, shut down, play small again. Renegade (yes, I'm using it as a verb) from the tradition of shrinking when others get "turned off" by your light. Renegade by sending out a little love (even if just energetically) to the "haters", trusting that they're dealing with their own "stuff" and that the learning from this situation will be large and deep for them as well - just maybe not yet. Renegade by being grateful for the situation and the "haters" and whatever lessons they have to teach you (if only to be stronger, have more compassion, keep going). And love. Love a lot.
And no matter what - stay you. Stay true. Keep going. Keep inspiring all of us who learn from you, love you, and wanna be just a little bit like you. Including the "haters". After all, deep down, you're inspiring something in them you may never realize (and that they may not even be ready to step into yet). You're provoking something in them they care a lot about (it may just be the opposite of what you stand for). You're stirring the pot. You're keeping things going. Keep going, take care of yourself, and maybe, if and when it's right, they'll join you in the light.