Written By: Parvati Shallow
When I was 25, I competed on a little game show that some of you may know called Survivor. For those of you who somehow missed it...or if you have just gotten swept up in the incredible world of Netflix, Survivor is a show where 20 castaways are stranded on an island and have to compete with one another to win the ultimate title of “Sole Survivor” and the million dollar check that comes with it.
The craziest aspect of the game is that the people with whom you are competing and voting off will ultimately have the power to select the winner of the game. To win, you have to vote people off in such a way that they still like you and respect you enough, in the end, to give you their winning vote.
On the island, we’re stripped of every comfort. We have no food, no shelter, no warm clothes, nothing to protect us from the elements. Daily life is consumed with the basic tasks of surviving— gathering wood, starting a fire, boiling water, opening coconuts.
As if this isn’t grueling enough, we are placed in a group of eccentric people who come from vastly different backgrounds. We are huddled together at night for warmth, working together to survive and joining forces as a team to win challenges. Some of these people are cool, and some are seriously annoying.
But at 25 years old, I was a competitive beast. With every beat of my heart, I heard the words, “Win it...Win it...Win it.” Yeah, you could say I was in it to win it. I knew that, in order to win the game, I needed to create relationships with all of these people.
But one person on my tribe really got under my skin. I mean this girl was Annoying with a capital “A.” You have probably encountered someone who makes you feel this way — whenever you hear their voice, you just want to run far, far away. And no matter how far you run, they always seem to pop up just around the corner. Well, this girl popped up around every bush and palm tree that I tried to hide behind. She talked incessantly. She was completely paranoid and jumpy. She was always watching me. On top of all of that, she wanted to vote me out!
Because I wanted to win so badly, I knew I needed to try to be nice to her, but I could not get past how much she irritated me. So instead of trying to get to know her to understand more about why she was so unsettled or why she was targeting me, I was mean. I made fun of her and talked about her behind her back with the other girls. I kept her out of the group and isolated her.
When the show aired, I watched my mean girl behavior on national TV. It was brutal.
I felt horrible about how I had treated this girl. It’s rare in life that we get an opportunity to see our actions and words played back. I got to see myself as an outsider. I didn’t like what I saw.
About a month later, the whole cast gathered at the live finale where the winner was announced.
I won! Do you want to know why I won? Because the girl I had been so nasty to — she voted for me. She had the power to ruin me — and instead, she helped make my dream come true. I was in shock. I was humbled. I felt like a total jerk. I knew I didn’t deserve her vote, but she had given it to me anyway. Wow. Why?
This experience taught me so much. I learned that everyone matters. You never know when you will be in a situation where you will need the kindness of another. It’s important to value everyone. Be kind to everyone.
Live your life like you’re going to have to watch yourself replayed on national television. Will you like what you see?
When you find yourself in a situation like mine — where you are put in a place with someone who you don’t understand and you may not like very much — take a moment and remember that everyone matters. Choose kindness. Treat each person well. Who knows, that person just may become your biggest supporter. Maybe someday they’ll be in a position to make your biggest dream come true. And when that day comes, be sure that you are worthy of their vote.
P.S. - To be clear, after taking the time to get to know this girl, my perception about her evolved. Now, I’m glad to consider her a friend.
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Here are some CharacterDares to Foster Connection With People Outside Your Normal Sphere:
1. Think of someone who you see regularly and that you typically avoid talking to — seek out that person to engage in a conversation with the goal of finding an area of similarity with them. When you have discovered how you are alike, acknowledge it, and notice if/how that changes how you feel about the person.
2. At lunch, look for someone who is sitting alone (either a student or colleague). Ask if you can sit next to them. Pay them a compliment and then share something about your life with them.
3. Give the lunch server or the custodian a high five and a compliment. Thank them for always showing up, and let them know how much you appreciate the great work they do. Take it one step further by sticking around for a few more minutes and asking them about their lives. For example, “Hey, I’ve always been curious, what do you love to do outside of work?"
Parvati Shallow is a Life & Business Coach, speaker and yoga teacher. As a three-time competitor and winner of CBS’s hit series SURVIVOR, she learned that kindness can coexist with competition. Her adventures since then have shown her that we are all far more powerful than we think, and her speaking career has taken her to universities and college campuses throughout the United States to spread the message of courage, resilience and how great life can get when we dig deep and take care of each other. On sunny days you’ll find her cruising the streets of Venice, California with her husband John and her new baby girl Ama.