[Guest Post] Using a Reputation Crisis to Become Better and Bigger

Erik Bernstein reputation management 1 Comment

[Editor’s note: This post is Part 2 from a pair of contributions by guest blogger Cylvia Hayes. To read her first post, click here.]

Using a Reputation Crisis to Become Better and Bigger…Instead of Just Bitter

If you wind up facing an intense reputation crisis people will ask you about it and then say, “I can imagine.”  Well, that’s BS – no they can’t.  Unless you yourself have experienced a public character assassination you really can’t imagine it.

Do you think anyone who has never given birth or blown out a knee can really imagine it?  Can you effectively describe it?  Nope and nope.

There’s simply no way to be fully prepared for the emotional and psychological upheaval of winding up in the headlines portrayed as someone you don’t even recognize.  Human beings are hard wired to be part of a tribe.  Being ostracized, exiled and bullied triggers some of the most intensely painful emotions we can face.  Scientific research shows that this is such an intense experience it actually causes physical inflammation reactions.

When it happened to me I was terrified and traumatized and went to places of deep despair.  For two and a half years I sat in the middle of ongoing media allegations and a resulting federal investigation.  Although I never actually contemplated doing harm to myself, I did many times wish I just wouldn’t wake up, because what it was going to take to recover was simply too daunting.  The allegations against me were false and eventually I was fully exonerated with no charges ever filed.  Nonetheless my life would never be the same.  As Monica Lewinsky has told me either you’ve been publically shamed or you haven’t.

Getting through it in a way that left me empowered and effective took far more than SEO management; it took deep inner work.  And like so many of the hard challenges we face it provided hidden treasures including learning who we really are and what we genuinely value, shedding insincere people and developing a sense of being enough and good enough beyond anything we could have imagined.

My reputation crisis and public shaming was the most difficult, intense and powerful and positive experience of my adult life.  As a result I now work professionally to help people facing intense identity-challenging ordeals to come out the other side more peaceful and empowered.  After all what good are improved Google results if you’re a broken human being?

Here are a few important strategies for breaking through instead of breaking down:

  • Choose Growth. When life hits hard you can go through it or you can grow through it.  No matter how much else is beyond your control that piece is up to you.  Any time life blows up in a big way it’s a huge learning opportunity, a chance to learn about yourself and close loved ones on much deeper levels.  This is especially true if your own mistakes are even partly responsible for the mess. Research shows people who choose growth and making a contribution to others usually come through intense trauma more healthfully than others.
  • Recognize when you need professional help. Many of us derive most of our sense of value from our work.  When that work is taken away, or even worse, devalued by others it can take us to some very dark places, even triggering old, old wounds.  This is when professional therapy can have tremendous value.  The old stigma has it all wrong.  It’s not the really screwed up people who go to mental health therapists; it’s the people who are sane enough and brave enough to realize they are in deep and need help.
  • Tap into Your Higher Power. This is not just a cliché.  It’s a breakthrough strategy. When our outer lives crack apart there is tremendous opportunity to make deeper contact with our inner spiritual selves.  Surrendering to a Higher Power is not giving up, it’s stepping up to the beautiful responsibility of how much more we actually are.
  • Develop a mindfulness practice. One of the most powerful resiliency skills is learning how to bring your mind and senses back to the present moment, the now.  Remember, most of our stress comes from fear of what’s going to happen in the future, not what is actually happening this moment.  Learning to be present is the best way to get hold of a stressed out racing mind.  This will help immensely in coping with crisis and over time will transform your life.

These are just a few basics.  More on these and other strategies can be found in the free guide, How to Break Through Instead of Breaking Down When Life Blows Up and the upcoming book, Shame on Me.

Having your career, business or personal reputation torn apart in the public eye is intensely painful and stressful.  It is also a profound opportunity to come out the other side bigger, better and more empowered.

Cylvia Hayes is an author, speaker, Empowerment Coach certified through Tony Robbins – Chloe Madanes strategic coaching institute and a Sustainability and Resiliency Strategist.  She is CEO of 3EStrategies and former First Lady of Oregon.  More information can be found at www.cylviahayes.com.  

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