I was scrolling through Facebook today and I came across a photo of a friend of mine, Gia, in a collection of photos she’s posted chronicling her summer vacation.
There is no hiding that Gia is an amazingly beautiful woman. While I am happy to say that all of the comments on her photo were positive and uplifting, many were strictly focused on the way she looked, even in photos that did not have a provocative edge. There was the occasional “have a great trip,” but a hyper-focus on her physical attributes. Gia IS beautiful, but her physical beauty is much more of a testament to her perseverance and work-ethic: She just summited Mount Kilimanjaro and scuba-dived through Tanzania, she is meticulously health-conscious, sure to use food as fuel while training hard. Gia is so much more – in her free time, she helps her aging father run his restaurant, while also teaching calculus full-time to high school and college students. Gia is also one of the kindest, sweetest, funniest, most down-to-Earth people I have ever met. A smart cookie who will whirl you out of Euler while dazzling you with her smile; she is truly the total package. When we take the time to make comments, we need to take the time to empower all parts of the amazing whole person.
Ironically, on this same day, I read an article about a young man named Guillermo Pomarillo who was berated by his dentist for being admitted into Stanford, whose daughter was not accepted into the ivy league university. Without reiterating the article completely, I was frustrated and disenchanted by the dismissive comments of the dentist. Instead of wishing this young man congratulations, thanking him for his patronage, the dentist felt the need to tear Pomarillo down.
Unfortunately, I have also been privy to the negativity of others. It’s no secret that the bath, body, and candle world is a competitive market with major retailers, high-end retailers, and indie retailers all making similar products. Instead of embracing this competition as a way to make yourself stand out, some people choose to knock each other down. I was recently given accolades by Donna Johnson of Indie Business Network and Donna DeRosa of Donna DeRosa Coaching during a blog challenge for the way I utilize graphics. I was incredibly proud to have worked so hard and impressed two women for whom I have the utmost respect, and then I noticed the first few comments were indirectly knocking me down by questioning why there was a mid-challenge winner. I just couldn’t comprehend why there was a need to go out of one’s way to publicly question my “win.” While I didn’t respond to the negativity, I was hurt by it.
I am not above envy. There are people who I wish I looked like, makers whose businesses I wish I thought of, people who could sell ice to an Eskimo; I envy them all. But that’s the key difference: envy. Envy is a far cry from jealousy. Envy is when you wish you had something, jealousy is when you wish you had something and the other person didn’t. I refuse to be jealous of anyone, even if the temptation arises, because it is a waste of time and energy, because it’s cruel.
About a month ago, my husband and I were vending at the Lumen Festival when a woman came over and started scrutinizing our products. After doing over a dozen shows, I could tell this person was analyzing for self and not for purchase; I chose to ask her what she makes. She was initially surprised by my question, and clearly taken aback, but she responded. We got into a small conversation about bath and body products and she asked me a bunch of questions about where I buy my oils, etc; she was admittedly very new at this. She thanked me profusely and said that she couldn’t believe my response. I quoted Buddha, who said: “One candle doesn’t lose its light by lighting another.”
This weekend, my husband at I were at the Summer Holistic Expo as a vendor, and this same woman was there with her display. She walked over to me and shook my hand. She said she never forgot what I said to her, and that she was eternally grateful for the help I offered her. While I am not foolish, and do respect the trade secrets and formulas I have worked so hard to perfect, I saw nothing wrong with helping empower another woman to become an entrepreneur; her appreciation honestly made me feel even better about my choice that day.
Donna Johnson often concludes her statements to us, members of the Indie Business Network, with: “Lifting each other as we climb.” I take this to heart, and I wish the world would, too. There is so much more to people like Gia, Guillermo, all of us, and if we each stopped and tamed the “green-eyed monster,” we would actually be better people for it. Whether it’s in business, in education, in life, it’s time to empower each other. So, the next time someone tries to chew you down, remember that is THEIR problem, not yours; as they say – “you do you.” Keep rising, keep climbing, keep lighting each other’s candles – the whole world gets brighter that way.
*Photo of Gia used with permission. All copyrights belong to her.