Woman Against Negative Talk: What We Can All Learn From Miley

My new M.O. is officially following my heart in every single decision I make, from what I write to how I act to where I go and what I do. Life is too short for choices that don’t compel you on a soul level (especially when there’s proof that your heart has always known best. Take a few minutes and think back – you’ll find your heart was always right).

So yeah. This week’s WANT Woman spotlight is a little different.

Today’s post is about Miley Cyrus.

Last week, like most everyone else on the internet, I learned about the Happy Hippie Foundation (in case you don’t know, HHF is Miley’s new non-profit, which aims to fight injustice facing homeless youth, LGBTQ youth and other vulnerable populations. The official launch happened just last month, on May 5th, with the release of THIS video with Joan Freaking Jett.)

I don’t know her personally, but I do know a handful of people who have worked with her. And the general consensus is that Miley Cyrus is a rad human being. But there are photos; there are quotes. And after the six-degrees-of-separation that is the media, all the rest of us really know – or latch onto, at least – are images and heresay. In the good times and the bad. Around August 2013 was a “bad time.” This one’s a “good time.”

This young woman is a phenomenal example of our ability to not only make snap judgements, but change our opinions just as quickly.

What does this say about us?

Why are we so quick to judge?

Organizations like The Happy Hippie Foundation fill me with hope, and not necessarily for the reasons you’d expect. The HHF is making a difference by partnering with other organizations to ensure their mission is not only heard, but it comes to fruition. That’s AMAZING. But for me, organizations like Miley’s are proof that someone else notices. Their followers show me that people care. Celebrity philanthropists are proof that if you’re passionate enough about something, you can spin your visibility to work for something bigger than yourself. As Miley said to Ryan Seacrest after THIS, “If I’m going to be given this loud of a voice and this big of an image and this big of a platform and this huge of an opportunity to talk to young people in America right now, what am I really trying to say?”


Two things come to mind when I think about Miley’s phenomenal new non-prof:

DON’T JUDGE A BOOK BY ITS COVER. As a pop-culture entrenched society, we prooobably wouldn’t expect that starting a non-profit aimed at helping some of our nation’s least fortunate youth would be Miley’s next move – but it is – so what does this say about us? It says that we’re not digging deep enough from the get-go. It says that we take snapshots of life as truth, and we equate a decision or photo or story with all kinds of assumptions we believe fit the part.

This is a young woman with an enormous heart and passion to give to something greater than herself. Why is it that some can’t get over the superficial, brand-related images or decisions just because they’re not necessarily images or decisions we’d choose to make? Isn’t it our hearts that matter most?

This judgement doesn’t stop with celebrities, obviously – it infiltrates our lives. We snapshot-judge each other like wild, especially as women. Arms too thin? She must have an eating disorder. Waist size too large? She must eat a lot of fast food. Waitress? She must not want to “live up to her potential” or even have potential at all. The way we infer from the exterior view is like choosing a hotel to stay in based on the doormat. How about the bedding, the amenities, the hospitality, the comfort?

EMPATHY FOR PRESIDENT. This part of the HHF Manifesto really struck a chord with me: “We know that the people sleeping on the sidewalk could have been us or our closest friends if our lives were just a little bit different. And the people we see sleeping on the sidewalk COULD be our friends if we gave them the chance.”

At the beginning of this year, I had the honor of being a mentor for a program run by Chrysalis, a local organization that helps empower those down on their luck by finding them employment. The program, aimed specifically at women, changed my life and changed the way I look at the people lingering down my street. I met girls who hand’t even hit their 20s yet and women who were well over “retirement” age. Some had homes. Some had families. Some were living on the street or out of their cars. I bonded with a few of the women on a pretty deep level. Once the program ended and they all graduated, it was I-kid-you-not like seeing a whole different set of women than two months prior. The difference in confidence and authentic expression was unbelievable.

One of the biggest takeaways I walked away with? We really are ALL the same. We all want to connect, we all want to love and be loved, we all want a sense of feeling safe being ourselves. Everyone has a unique voice and truth to add to the world, regardless of background, religion, race, “social status” or life experience. We are all so worthwhile. Sometimes people need a reminder of that.


photo credit: rolling stone

photo credit: rolling stone

How does this fit into the negative self-talk equation? It’s one and the same. Just like giving compliments can help us rewire our brains to speak kindly to ourselves, judging others builds up those self-talk muscles in our brains that talk down and judge ourselves.

To compare and not what’s dissimilar is in our nature as humans. It’s survival instinct – we are wired to take note of what’s not like us. Trouble is, many of us judge reactively. Judgement, just like Casual Negativity, becomes engrained in our vocabulary and our language.

That doesn’t mean that the judgement has to be the truth or the norm. It’s how we respond to that initial judgement and rework it – and eventually minimize it – that really matters.

photo credit: hhf facebook page

photo credit: hhf facebook page

When you find yourself in judgey mode, here’s how to check yourself and get in a better place. Ask yourself:

Acknowledge your thoughts and your words. Make it a habit to actually listen to yourself and your words/thoughts throughout the day. Many times, we’ll think or blurt out judgmental thoughts without realizing what we are saying. Just like Casual Negativity, judgement becomes automatic. And just like the H-word, judgement creates a fire inside you – it’s an easy way to feel something. When you catch yourself in judgey mode, recognize it – and then forgive yourself. Mistakes happen. You are only human.

Is what you’re saying actually true of this person or group of people? Do you know for a fact, or are you making assumptions because of previous behavior or even just “something you heard?” Try and distinguish if the opinion you’re forming is really yours, or one that you’ve picked up from someone or something, somewhere along the way.
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Maybe that person is being quiet not because she is a bitch, but because she is introverted or used to being talked down to and has accepted that as her truth. Maybe that person cut you off in traffic because he is racing to the hospital to catch the birth of his first child. Maybe someone made a certain decision because that is there way of trying to help, or solve a problem, or bond and connect.

Someone once told me that when it comes to road rage, to just imagine the person in the other car is my grandparent. How would I want my grandmother to be treated by others on the road? Her senses are dulled and she’s not as alert as she used to be, but she is just trying to get to where she needs to be the best way she can. Maybe that person you’re judging just has a different way of getting where they’re going than you would choose. Rack your brain for ways they might be just trying to figure things out their own way.

Did you know that 25% of homeless youth were previously physically or sexually abused? Did you know that nearly one in three transgender people have been turned away from shelters? Did you know that 40% of homeless youth are LGBT – and family rejection is the most common reason they experience homelessness? (all stats from The Happy Hippie Foundation site) Every single person has a story, and many, MANY circumstances, disorders, and differences are judged simply because people don’t take the time to practice empathy and read up. If you find yourself starting to judge, ask yourself if you know the full story. Then be the one who sets the example. If anyone can be one, WANT Woman, it’s you.

The incredible Brené Brown said, “We’re hard on each other because were using each other as a launching pad out of her own perceived deficiency.” Instead of focusing on the judgement of others, what can you do in your own life to proactively move yourself into the YOU you know you want to be? Again, just like negative self-talk and Casual Negativity, judgement of others is many times a placeholder, a distraction to focus on instead of achieving real growth within yourself.

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In the time I started to write this until now, I’ve seen/heard more and more articles, tweets, and soundbytes than I can count. Miley is being a force for good, and the world is getting on board. And I think…I honestly think those who judged her harshly in the past are right there with her. The people who might have judged the homeless teen might now be seeing him a little differently. I hope so.

Like I said, judgement of others and judgement of yourself is all interconnected. The more you start to recognize the nuances of others and appreciate their story and truth, the more you’ll do the same for yourself.
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You don’t have to agree all the time and you don’t have to like it – lordy knows we won’t always agree with or like what goes on with ourselves.

But I truly believe we can change the world with kindness, authenticity, and empathy. Inside and out. The way you do it is up to you.

You be the judge. 

We know that the people sleeping on the

To get involved with The Happy Hippie Foundation, click here.

Featured image credit: Rolling Stone

What’s one thing you can do TODAY to show kindness and empathy towards someone who crosses your path? Do it, then come here + leave a comment reporting back. I can’t wait to hear…


  1. Jen Smith

    I love this so much. Great post. Thank you, Katie.

    I like parts of Miley Cyrus.

    I like parts of myself.

    I like parts of my friends.

    My love kicks in when I decide that beyond the flaws, mistakes, betrayals, I can see these people, including myself, as imperfect and making good and bad choices. We are all children in this experience, learning as we go.

    I don’t like Miley’s tongue sticking out all of the time. Nothing personal toward her – more about a similar behavior I had in my youth that I now recognize comes from an attention-seeking place. It doesn’t back up what I am working hard to hold onto today – a grounded, peaceful, fulfilled place. The place of “enough”. When I express judgement on Miley’s silly tongue pics, I am really expressing a gratitude that I am no longer in this place of “look how much I don’t care” or whatever it is.

    I like Miley’s organization. Well done, Miley. This reminds me that I need to think of the greater picture, the people suffering that could use my help if I have have the help to give. I guess this means that it’s inspiring. I am grateful that Miley is adding to the many out there who are showing me how to make the world a better place.

    So I can say that anytime I am venting a judgement, I promise, it’s about me and what I am either ashamed of or celebrating. Nothing personal.

    • Katie

      I’ve now read your comment three times over…it’s so rich. You are so on point. Per usual. “We are all children in this experience, learning as we go…” We don’t all have to like everything about ourselves or others all the time – and we’re going to butt heads. It’s when aggression kicks in that it no longer becomes about the other person but about ourselves.

      I don’t relate to some photos/decisions Miley or other people in the spotlight make. But they’re humans, not characters. Rarely does anyone wake up and think…you know what…I’m going to consciously try NOT to do my best today. We’re figuring out life our own way, discovering what works for us and what doesn’t via engagement, not just daydreams. They’re not choices I’d make, but if ever I find myself going to that judgmental place, it is always about me. About how I’m living my life, or not living my life, or wish I was living my life.

      Love when you comment. Love your writing. Love you.

  2. Melissa Burton

    Miley Cyrus was supportive of a great organization in LA called “My Friend’s Place” that helps homeless teens in the area. I’m glad to see that she is continuing her support via her own organization.

    I’m thrilled that she’s using her celebrity in a smart way.

    Thanks for profiling in an honest way and provoking curiosity about the way we think and see the world.



  1. The Women Against Negative Self-Talk – The Old Soul Project - […] “Woman Against Negative Talk: What We Can All Learn From Miley” by Katie Joy Horwitch […]

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