Long term resolution: "Don't kill my vibe!"

Photography: Ashley Mullins

Photography: Ashley Mullins

Written by Gabrielle Lyons

In the next year or so, I'm expecting my 10-year high school reunion invitation to arrive in the mail. Let me tell you now, I won't be attending. My reasoning does not revolve around the awkward conversations or the dorky nature of ‘walking down memory lane’ of locker room days. You see, I don't yet feel successful enough to face those girls who made life pretty average for my teenage self.

Despite climbing the ranks as a radio producer, reporter, national journalist and even publishing on international platforms, I feel the meek, self-conscious, unpopular teen version of myself would resurface if I were to face the bullies of my past. Whether or not I realised it at the time, these girls were preparing me for the world outside the school ground. The hope when you graduate is to leave those memories of slurs plastered on lockers and unwanted whispers behind. But as I learned, as have many women in the workforce, this is not the case. The only difference, the permanent marker is replaced with a malicious vocabulary and greater blows to your maturing personality.

If I were to count the number of isolated occasions of having been bullied by another female in a workplace both in casual positions and in a professional sphere, eight specific incidents with seven individuals come to mind -  with varying degrees of intensity and psychological aftermath. From being blamed for theft of a bag of $2 coins, to having my age and intellect challenged on airwaves, being criticised for taking a day off to support my mother’s chemotherapy treatment, or the petty act of critiquing the way I make a phone call; the internal voices of insecurity and fragility of knowing who to trust become all consuming.

But here's the thing that catches me off guard every time I have been faced with bullies, why haven't I stood up for myself? Why am I an easy target? The last I checked, there wasn't anything pinned to the back of my brightly coloured blouse! So, particularly after a recent episode of unnecessary intimidation, I started to boil it down… and what was the conclusion? I'm positive! I'm a happy, enthusiastic, bubbly, charismatic young woman with drive! Unfortunately, it is my belief that tormentors treat positivity as naivety.

Well hello there bullseye! Lovely to finally make your acquaintance.

But why should I submit to this revelation? Why should you change, alter or reshape your personality as a method of avoiding scrutiny? Whether it is in a school ground, a workplace, a social group, a sporting team, a friendship, there should be no reason for changing who you truly are. So instead, I suggest using what you are scrutinised for as your superpower.

Enter my new workplace mantra: “Don't kill my vibe.”

I admit, this little slogan has been snatched from a song - “Don’t kill my vibe” by Norwegian popstar Sigrid has become my anthem. In situations full of emotion or which are totally out of my control, as many do, I tend to turn to music for inspiration. Something to pick me up, make me want to scream out of my car windows or dance around my lounge room with the curtains wide open - This is 100% that song.

As I approached my office, my friendships and even my romantic relationships from here on, I carried each counter melody, hit of percussion and crescendo with me, preparing my own confidence for every encounter, but similarly to best accentuate my own strengths! “Yeah, my wardrobe is screaming with colour, yeah I do smile all the time and yes I am a bloody good story teller!”. Whether or not my bullies realised it, I was stronger by simply introducing a new narrator that sung, danced and screamed louder than the meek and insecure voices bouncing around upstairs.

As a result of this changed energy and perception of self, let alone the workplace and world around me, I was able to see others with a different aura. I formed stronger friendships, surrounding myself with equally positive and passionate women, one in particular that I now hold dearer to my heart than a sister. What’s more, after growing from these experiences, controlling my emotions and compressing them into one string of words has allowed me to stand on my own to feet, now telling the stories of inspirational people from across the world. I knew that passion was buried in me; I just had to block out the rest.

Of course this is just a page pulled from my story, for every woman out there your story will read differently. You can be strong, you can be kind, you can be humble, you can have sass – when used positively - no one has the power to tell you these are negative traits. For me it came down to self-confidence, but what’s most important in any situation is understanding that protecting yourself is not selfish, it’s survival.


Sarah Fritz