This Sunday, Betty White, notable actress, talk show host, and comedy powerhouse was honored at the 2022 Oscars for her contributions to film and television. White was an amazing woman who we all wish we had just a little bit more time with.
As a woman who lived through the Great Depression and two world wars, Betty White is a testament to resilience through times of struggle, grief, and social disconnect.
The mark she left on us all in entertainment reflects the beautifully stubborn heart that I have made it my mission to continue sharing with others.
I have grown to see the ways that embracing the Betty White Effect in relationships has strengthened my connections to dear friends and loved ones in my support network.
What is the 'Betty White Effect'?
The Betty White Effect refers to someone who is a trusted champion of change. A person whose influence creates a ripple in how others think about progress.
Some other notable individuals who may be described as having the Betty White Effect are Princess Diana and Bob Marley.
We can see how this plays out in the ways that one can demonstrate these skills:
The ability to transcend
To transcend is to go beyond what you know or are accustomed to. When we think of age gaps and idea gaps between different generations, it is clear the divide in what a group may or not be familiar with.
Betty had the ability to link generations, identity groups, and households that may have never been connected before to a shared concept through laughter and love. There may be further explanations needed to describe a seemingly foreign concept. But this was no difficult feat for White.
Through programming such as The Golden Girls and her public appearances, Betty's messages were able to reach a population of adoring fans who could not be segmented by any idea or experience. They all shared a willingness to engage with a concept from their trust in the messenger.
The ability to earn respect
You can't muscle your way into someone else's good graces. Especially if you want their respect. A privilege that can only be earned over time. Throughout her career, Betty made her name known. Her talent spoke for itself, yet hearing her reinforced this level of respect. Betty knew what she was talking about, and she would be damned before she let you undermine that.
The way that you show up overtime informs other how to show up for you.
Are you making your boundaries clear?
What expectations are you setting with others in your relationships?
Do you address when others have disrespected you?
The ability to reserve judgment
I have never heard a negative or judgmental sentence from Betty White. Of course, I am confident that she has them. But that isn't something she made for public consumption. There's a lesson here
When you offer a negative or questionably motivated opinion, you allow less space for others to feel included. Sure, you might not know that there are a lot of secret pineapple pizza lovers in your office. But consider: how can my comments be hurtful to people I am eager to share space with?
If you are able to be present first, and respond second; you offer yourself more time for an informed opinion.
Elevate critical conversation
Being a leader requires a level of courage to clearly communicate about topics that are usually kept at a whisper. In your field, it is essential that you identify issues that currently or in the long run will hurt your industry.
What am I observing? What does this mean?
What misinformation/disinformation is at play?
Who/what is being impacted?
How can I connect with impacted/affected parties? How can I empower them in this dialogue?
How can I disrupt this from continuing?
What support can I offer to those who have been impacted?
As an entertainer, Betty White played a key role in making critical conversations public. Through The Golden Girls, Betty White discussed controversial topics for the 1980s such as marriage equality, HIV/AIDS, immigration, even interracial marriage.
Identify your own opportunities to make change. While there may be information or material support that you require in the beginning, your first job is to get the ball rolling.
The desire to use your platform for visibility
Maybe, you don't have your own talk show. Maybe you barely use your social media accounts. You still have a platform that you are responsible for.
As professionals, it is important to understand the power of your brand. As humans, it is important to understand the power of your privilege.
Where does your voice seem to carry more weight?
How can you safely speak out in comparison to your peers?
What authority do you have to correct wrongs in your circles?
Upon her passing, I learned of a talented Black tap dancer named Arthur Duncan. During White's time as a talk show host (in the 1950s) she decided to have a Duncan serve as a regular entertainer on the show. Arthur Duncan was the first African American regular on a variety show ever.
Think about what change you have the power to push for. With your own privileges and level of power in your everyday life, there are so many ways to leverage this for changing the status quo.
The ability to be relentlessly authentic
You deserve to put your best self forward. The best version of you, is usually the most honest. When you are relentlessly authentic you allow others access to your truth. You show that you are not afraid to share your wisdom.
Betty White exemplified this in her comedy and in her public presentation. She was not afraid to put herself on the map. Whether it was in showing audiences the nuance of being an older woman. Or finding her joy as a certified prankster.
Dare yourself to push the envelope (using your best judgement). The community that will embrace you is so excited to meet you. You have to be ready to show up.
The acceptance that you cannot be everything to everyone
Sometimes who are isn't everyone's cup of tea. You can't force someone to like you. But you can create room for yourself when others may try to push you out. Think of this as a gift in its own way. If you bring your truest self forward and aren't encouraged to stay, it's likely that the people in that room were not ready to receive you anyways.
Know when it's time to walk towards something that can better serve you. It's ok to let go and let yourself grow.
As you continue on your path, think about the lessons that will help you leap forward. There are so many twists and turns that life will take you through, but you don't have to discover all of the answers on your own. If this already sounds like you, then we she definitely be friends! If this sounds like a goal for 2022, I'm so happy to support you in your journey.
We miss you, Betty. We are stubbornly committed to your legacy of change for a progressive future.