Jennifer Livingston, anchorwoman of WKVT in Lacrosse, Wisconsin, found her Grounded Powerful Strength (GPS) when she courageously responded to a letter sent to her by a viewer, criticizing her weight. The writer questioned whether Jennifer should be on TV given her weight issues. Livingston addressed this man’s letter on-air Tuesday, October 2, 2012.
“The truth is, I am overweight,” she said. “But to the person who wrote me that letter, do you think I don’t know that? That your cruel words are pointing out something that I don’t see? You don’t know me…so you know nothing about me but what you see on the outside and I am much more than a number on a scale.”
Livingston continued, “That man’s words mean nothing to me, but what really angers me about this is there are children who don’t know better — who get emails as critical as the one I received or in many cases, even worse, each and every day.”
“I leave you with this: To all of the children out there who feel lost, who are struggling with your weight, with the color of your skin, your sexual preference, your disability, even the acne on your face, listen to me right now. Do not let your self-worth be defined by bullies. Learn from my experience — that the cruel words of one are nothing compared to the shouts of many.”
What I find so refreshing about her response is how grounded she is in her delivery of it. She is not yelling, calling names or being disrespectful in any way to the person who sent the letter. Her calmness, combined with a strong message and said with a confident voice makes her message all that more powerful to hear. She used a Grounded Powerful Strength to guide her through her hurt, anger and upset…and it was impactful.
Interestingly, though, below are several headlines for this story:
• TV anchor Jennifer Livingston blasts viewer who attacked her weight (NYDailyNew.com)
• Jennifer Livingston, TV Anchor, Slams Weight Critic On-Air (VIDEO) (Christian Post.com)
• TV anchor blasts viewer who complained about her weight
Jennifer Livingston neither “blasted” nor “slammed” anyone, as these headlines may lead the reader to believe. Instead, Jennifer stood up for herself in a way that was both respectful and strong. The way she delivered her message was spot on and an excellent example of a woman modeling to females all over the world the way to find their voice and deliver their message in a way that can be heard. She spoke her truth without shaming anyone in the process and without allowing herself to be shamed by silencing. Jennifer stepped in and not only had her own back, but she also had the backs of hundreds of thousands of human targets who can’t find the words to stand up to those who seem more powerful than themselves.
Until more of us learn to stand up for others and ourselves against hurtful comments, mean spirited actions and shaming interactions, we will continue to see these behaviors escalate. I encourage all of us to find our own GPS and not allow the hurtful words and actions of others to be enabled through our silence. I thank Jennifer for modeling this skill so well and for so many.
Challenge: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Take an active role in ending emotional abuse, hurtful behavior and shaming of others. Stand up and step-in calmly, respectfully and without contempt. Find your GPS.