Monica Lewinsky was a 22-year-old unpaid intern when her relationship with President Bill Clinton began. The young woman was dragged through newspapers, courts, and even friends. yet, decades later she looks back on her time kindly and with a new perspective.
The infamous 18-month affair lasted throughout her time working in the Oval Office and stretched into her tenure in the Pentagon.
When the affair seemed it might be discovered, President Clinton faced the threat of impeachment. The President’s staff instructed Lewinsky to keep quiet. She was interrogated and threatened with jail time – and was pressured to deny ever having a relationship with President Clinton.
And while she never saw repercussions from a court of law, the court of public opinion wasn’t so kind to her.
Public Perception of Monica Lewinsky
The media depicted Monica Lewinsky as the face of the scandal. (Even though the President had more power than her, was much older than her, and was married at the time of the affair.)
In her own words, she became “a social representation…on which anybody could project their confusion about women, sex, infidelity, politics, and body issues.”
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The media’s unforgiving rhetoric in the ’90s may have overlooked the male-dominated power dynamics that drove the affair. But now, Lewinsky is taking back the narrative.
What Monica Lewinsky Learned After 25 Years
On the 25th anniversary of the day the new story broke, she shared 25 things she’s learned about life since then with Vanity Fair.
Lewinsky’s musings not only inspire us to shift our points of view but reflect the incredible way Lewinsky has reclaimed her power. She’s spent the last two decades transforming disparaging conversations into an impactful career in social advocacy.
“You can make the right decision and still have regret. Also, don’t judge your insides by other people’s outsides.”
In today’s culture, it’s easier than ever to pick up your phone whenever you feel sad. You start scrolling on social media and see countless people living seemingly perfect lives.
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We don’t often see TikTok reels about how hard it was for someone to leave the wrong relationship. We rarely see Instagram posts about missing toxic friends.
It’s easy to compare the highlights of someone else’s life to the darkest moments of our own – and feel even worse for it.
Monica Lewinksy reminds us that it’s okay for the right decision to be the hard decision – and it’s okay if the shame we feel inside feels overwhelming compared to what we see in other people.
“One thing everyone has in common is that we have all made mistakes. It’s inevitable. Get comfortable with the Art of the Mistake.”
Some of our mistakes stay within the privacy of our own homes, and some are broadcasted for the world to see on a public stage. Either way, they can feel impossible to overcome.
Lewinsky is no stranger to feelings of shame. She even founded a production company, Alt Endings, where she produced a documentary called “Fifteen Minutes of Shame.”
While our mistakes can feel overwhelming, our shame only grows when we suffer in silence. When we embrace our mistakes and recognize that others make them too, we can share their weight together.
In forgiving each other, we learn how to forgive ourselves.
“You cannot run away from your narrative … You can only try to integrate your previous selves with as much compassion as you can muster.”
When we learn to forgive ourselves, we also learn an important truth. We can’t erase the people we used to be, but we can move forward into someone new.
Monica Lewinsky reminds us we have the power to approach old versions of ourselves with compassion instead of belittling ourselves for what we’ve done wrong. And it can help us move forward rather than hold ourselves back.
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When we learn to stand up for ourselves against the voices of our inner critics, we learn how to stand up to others who don’t treat us the way we deserve.
What Monica Lewinsky Teaches Us About the Power of Kindness
Monica Lewinsky embodies the value of treating others with decency and kindness. From her anti-bullying advocacy to her public speaking career, she shows us the power of treating others with compassion.
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If we truly want to see positive changes in the world, we have to be kind to others – but also be kind to ourselves.
As Lewinsky says, “The power of one kind word is extraordinary. In the deepest, darkest moments of the soul, a simple act of human kindness is a powerful thing.”