This one hits home.
This is going to piss some people off,
and rightfully so; because it’s going to make multiple people uncomfortable.
As a matter of fact, I hope this pisses you off.
We usually don’t create change until we are angry enough or tired enough, anyway.
Right now, it’s too quiet and the quieter it gets, the bigger and the more powerful the elephants become. Imagine if an actual elephant were in the room, taking up space. I imagine it would trigger discomfort. Now, imagine more than one...and your first instinct is to get out the room as fast as possible.
Elephants in the room mean heavy topics that have a great impact, yet go undiscussed as multiple people suffer in silence. Topics that require necessary discussion but that still end up off the day's agenda. The elephants are the tension that is present even though we try to “act” like it doesn’t exist. The tension and the awkwardness have the most powerful presence in the room.
As a Black Athlete...
As a Clemson Tiger...
As a Black Athlete who led Clemson to winning its first championship in decades...
As another Black Athlete (who brought Clemson its first championship in decades) that is on the wrong side of the news cycle...
The reasons why we feel muted and lost and confused about the predicament of a prominent Black QB currently on the wrong side of the news cycle in the current case that he is facing is because we weren’t taught to talk about what all it awakens. We know he’s not the first, and unfortunately, he won’t be the last. This situation awakens:
1. Being Black, Speaking Up, and the Consequences of Such
Although the case is under investigation, we all know we are covered for the mistakes we don't make and make as long as we “play by the rules.”
2. The Crossing of Sexual Boundaries and Bodily-Related Shame
These types of experiences are not gender-specific. Depending on where and how we are raised: the topic of sex, our bodies, our relationship with our bodies, the objectification of our bodies which hold marginalized identities, and anything related to it is not openly discussed. We are shamed for even asking questions.
3. Being Praised one minute, then ridiculed the next
After making a decision in his best interests, this situation hit the news cycle not long after. “What profits a man if he loses his soul?” Money doesn’t cover up the fact that an organization is trying to mute its members and cause them to lose themselves. Regardless of the truths that have yet to be fully exposed, we are still waiting for the same support, because regardless Deshaun needs support. This is a character destruction, as well as a signal for help.
4. Shame of Sexual Trauma
The stories are very detailed. Whether they have truth or coercion written behind them, it’s still a play on the reality that many don’t come forth because credibility is often questioned. The societal implications of the shame present whether information is disclosed or kept secret in the season of #MeToo movement creates a level of vulnerability that can be easily manipulated. Again, sexual trauma is not gender-specific. The shame can go "both ways."
5. Creating Our Own Narratives
By not just owning our wins and triumphs, but also owning our flaws, mistakes, bottom moments, and insecurities, we integrate and create whole narratives. We validate all of ourselves and all of others. It’s takes healing to get to a place where your highlight reel isn’t the only part of the narrative you release. This is a part of being whole and authentic.
6. Isolation while waiting
All the people involved in this case have a level of hurt and brokenness that they are going to need healing from. Hurt people hurt people. The ones who are accusing need just as much help as the accused. This is troubling on so many levels. All parties have narratives that got them to this place. The PR moves on both sides are just imitation bandaids for the level of healing that is going to need to take place. If not protected by healing, we each have the chance of getting cut by the level of brokenness being displayed in this whole story.
We may feel a sense of confusion regarding who all are innocent and who all are guilty; yet we are all responsible. We are all accountable for not normalizing the discussion of difficult conversations. We are all responsible for sweeping these conversations under the rug. We are all responsible for what has contributed to the standstill that we are all in. Regardless of what is true or not, what is shameful is that we still aren’t talking about these things.
Our responses to trouble or crisis are either to fight, to flee (flight), to please, or to freeze or a mix of multiple actions. Not talking about it is a combination of fleeing, pleasing the system, and freezing. Not talking about is reinforcing what we want to change, what we need to change. Let’s confront, let’s fight:
You can create change by:
1. Speaking up in your families, friend groups, and team environments and getting used to sitting with discomfort: Talking about stressful, shaming events is how we shine a light on shame instead of keeping it hidden or in the dark. Shame gains power and festers in the dark. Sweeping it under the rug is another survival mechanism that has lost its function, because we’ve taken it too far to the extreme.
2. Learning how to have uncomfortable conversations: Become such a pro at it that it becomes more natural than foreign
3. Normalizing feeling uncomfortable; Feeling uncomfortable is a sign that a conversation needs to be had. Feeling uncomfortable is mandatory for growth.
4. Remembering we grow from discomfort. How much can we gain from talking about these deep, meaningful topics above? In the words of 21 Savage, "A lot."
5. Journaling, Visualization and Meditation exercises: having internal dialogue that provokes purpose, power, and meaning. Our relationship and interaction with our individual selves are what ignites how we relate and interact with others.
6. Having the support of a therapist: Having difficult conversation is in and on the other side of trauma recovery, cycle breaking, and creating healthy relationships. We are creating blueprints every time we venture into and navigate difficult conversations.
7. Remembering this is how we heal and transform: We heal and transform through and because of our experiences.
8. Improving self-awareness: When you know better, you do better...sometimes. Even reading this, gives you a level of awareness that you are now responsible for: a duty to create change end expose the people looking up to you to do the same. Yet, knowledge is not application without action.
I inserted the pronoun 'we' throughout this blog article, because there are elements of the systems that we are embedded in that we resemble. Being quiet about the things that matter is one of them, because if this made you uncomfortable, you are accountable and you are a part of the We.
Conflict breeds opportunity for growth and change. Creating healthy dialogue around dysfunction is a way to dilute the power, the strength, and the cycle of dysfunction. That cycle can invade what we believe about ourselves and others, what we think, as well as how we feel, what we do, and how we relate.
What we believe about ourselves matters and holds a lot of value and weight as it is the catalyst for functional or dysfunctional decisions. You can feed the elephants in the room with your silence or you can starve them with your voice.
Is there anything uncomfortable you have to add?
Control what you let in your bubble.
During the primitive aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the NBA and WNBA demonstrated the ability to create an environment in a short amount of time, so that their players can succeed in finishing the season. Although professional basketball leagues embody a different culture than other leading sports systems, like the NFL and college football/sports, I question if other leagues were even open to learning from what the WNBA and NBA did to adopt healthy, practical solutions.
The whole bubble metaphor reminds me of our own bubbles. We have to be mindful of what voices we let in, what feelings of others penetrate our emotional capacity, what thoughts and ideas we allow to take root within us. The bubble was just a metaphor for boundary. Boundaries are the rules, the systems, the standards that we get to choose that keep us safe, that allow us to have fun and enjoy, that provide us with the ability to grow and learn. Boundaries are lines we create to distinguish who we are from others and the rest of the world. Boundaries define how we interact with others and the world around us.Healthy boundaries help us run our own race in our own lane while providing healthy access when necessary and limiting the potential power of unhealthy interference.
You get to choose your boundaries.
Lessons on boundaries can be taught early, but those lessons are often undervalued until one finds their voice or one experiences pain. Sometimes boundaries are undervalued until we learn and find clarity in our identity and values through learning what we will NOT tolerate and what we will accept. After learning these lessons, we then have to learn to be open to lessons on different types of boundaries (ie. time, sexual, physical, emotional, mental, and financial boundaries) and on different boundary structures (ie. rigid/inflexible, flexible, loose, nonexistent). Often times boundaries of any extreme (rigid or nonexistent) are initially created from what we have been taught, and sometimes from our pain or the pain of others. Some extreme boundaries only become unhealthy when used for extended periods of time. Often times, flexible boundaries are established after we reach levels of healing in different areas.
For example, mental boundaries can be set when you notice that an opponent has gotten in your head. Nonexistent boundaries create opportunity for opponents to get in your head and trigger feelings of inferiority, disempowerment, or hopelessness. Establishing a flexible structure when it comes to mental boundaries may be more helpful so you can be intentional about keeping your opponent out of your head, but allowing other more supportive voices in like the voices of your coaches, teammates, family, and other chosen and identified healthy supports.
Rigid boundaries are similar to having strict tunnel vision and not having room for non-sports related interactions or relationships. Engaging in strict tunnel vision for too long can lead to loss of exposure to other parts of your identity (hence, where it starts to become unhealthy). While flexible boundaries can be how you interact with opponents in-season vs. offseason. You may be more friendly when not in competition, yet have a more serious tone when playing against each other.
What type of boundary is important to you in this season?
Which boundary structure will help you implement that specific type of boundary?