I’ve never met Monica Lewinsky.  But I’ve heard of her.  You probably have too.  And like me, based on a few pieces of information, you probably built a picture.  And it was probably inaccurate at best, and may even have stretched to hurtful or mean.  I don’t know.  All this, yet we have never met her, talked to her, heard about her hopes and dreams … tried to understand her.

I recently watched Monica’s TED talk and was brought to tears.  But that’s a story for another day.  What I wanted to talk about here is the concept of ‘being an upstander’ rather than a bystander.



Monica is currently talking in public forums in line with her goal to ‘take back my narrative’.  To choose how she wants to be defined, rather than allow some poor choices a long time ago to define her forever.  Go Monica, I say.  Brave move.

She talked about the massive difference people have made to her over the years;  from the unwavering support of her family, to the kind words of a stranger.  And she talked about the difference between being an ‘upstander’ and a ‘bystander’.

As we go through life, we sometimes encounter things that ‘aren’t right’.  From bullying in the playground or the meeting room, to a mean comment on Facebook, to an unfortunate series of events that becomes hurtful, to a misinterpretation or a jump to an unhelpful conclusion.  And when we see something, we all have a choice.  We can do something positive to help the situation (from a kind word, to a version of ‘that’s not ok’, to help exploring what happened, or giving a practical helping hand) or we can ‘walk on by’.

I am very lucky to have many people in my life who are ‘born upstanders’.  It is just in their DNA.  For others, it is a learned skill.  But it starts with increasing your awareness and turning your attention outwards a little more.  And then grabbing the moral courage to stand up, speak up, or just give a hand or a handkerchief.  I am always amazed by what a difference a kind word can make.  And you never know when someone in your network will need it the most.

So … be upstanding!  It really will help make the world a better place.

Author: Nicola Deakin