Tuesday Tales: We are all things … please don’t cancel – Donna Thistlethwaite

Have you ever tried to avoid the sales people in the centre aisle of the shopping centre? You avert your eyes … sometimes even wonder if there’s another exit to the shopping centre so that you don’t have to navigate the avoidance again. Or is that just me?  

Occasionally I’ll talk to them … it depends on things such as how much time or money I have and their energy. 

Recently I was accosted by a ticket seller representing one of the wonderful Australian charities that makes our community safer. Sean had a beautiful smile and a cheeky manner. I tried very hard to walk past and had he not said “Dwaine is a newby, can you just let him have some practice”, I probably would have.  

“Ok I thought, I can see it would be useful to have people hear the spiel and say no”. 

Sometime during the conversation Sean said to me “Where is your twang from?”  

“Twang I thought … interesting.” I said “Often people ask if I’m English … but people said that even before I lived in the UK.” 

“No, it’s more of a twang”, he said. 

“I think I take on people’s accents … I just seem to start talking like them … it’s pretty weird”, I responded. 

“I do that too … we’re like chameleons”, he said. 

Hearing the world chameleon instantly took me back a conversation in my mid 20s when I shared house with another young woman. I cannot recall the context in which she said that I was a chameleon but I always knew, or assumed, it was a negative trait. 

Sean shared his view that it was positive … that we are really flexible and fit in with other people. 

Eventually I forked out for some raffle tickets and went on my way. 

Later I shared the experience with a friend of mine, Christian. Christian had this beautiful view that different people bring out different aspects of our personality and experience and he really believed that we fulfil different roles … personas even … depending on the situation and who we are with. He even suggested that different people bring out different strengths in us. 

The conclusion I subsequently drew is that we are many personas … we are not just this part of our personality … not just this role … not just that trait … not just this mistake or not just this achievement, right?  

We are many things and we sometimes make poor choices … OMG, I am seriously the queen of poor choices. You would be so shocked if I told you some of the less than ideal decisions I’ve made I life honestly … so so many … the fact that I’m even alive now aside from my suicide attempt, is close to a miracle. Many risks could have gone horribly wrong. I’m lucky to be here right now. 

Anyways, I’ve discovered that life is not binary. Like it’s seriously not binary. For this reason, I feel really frustrated with the fact that people are apparently disowning some people in their lives. Sure, I understand the decision not to continue to invest in certain friendships, that’s all fine. But I’ve heard of this thing called Cancel Culture. Apparently, it’s particularly an issue amongst our young people. 

From what I understand how it works is … if you do something that someone doesn’t like, or they don’t like something about you, they cut you off … cut you off social media … cut you right out of their life. I heard this from one of my Mental Health First Aid workshop participants who listened to this podcast on the subject. 

I find this mortifying. My mind comes up with … how can that even happen? And how could anyone think that is acceptable and what happened to them that they are like that, but seriously, take some personal responsibility as well.  

I am very concerned that that sort of stuff can be going on in our community because what we know is that connection is a protective factor for mental health problems. And if you exclude people deliberately … sure I used to feel like a cry every time I didn’t get invited to a party … What’s wrong with me? Why didn’t they invite me? Well, I just wasn’t meant to go to that party and they’re maybe not my people. And that’s okay. Because there’s a whole bunch of people that are my people, and it’s about finding our people.  

Sometimes you find your people in the weirdest place like my new friend Christian who I met on a plane to Adelaide. Whoever would have thought, but we just have to believe in ourselves. Someone I had a meeting with recently told me that he often uses a Shakespeare quote with his children when they are going through challenges “To thine own self be true”. This feels relevant and very useful. 

So if anyone ever tries to cancel you, that’s their issue and it’s their loss. You don’t need them in your life, or at least right now. And your new best friend is probably just around the corner. There will always be more friends because there’s more nice people like you in the world. 

Let’s all be kind to each other … know that life is not binary and that our peeps are out there waiting for us.

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Donna Thistlethwaite is a Brisbane-based speaker and trainer specialising in mental health and resilience. She is an accredited Mental Health First Aid Instructor and Resilience at Work Facilitator with a passion for suicide prevention and for helping individuals, teams and organisations to THRIVE. You can find out about her next Mental Health First Aid courses here.

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