When You Are Wrongly Accused
False accusations and gossip can destroy lives, even if the accused is innocent. If your reputation is under attack, Dr. Phil has advice on taking your power back:
- Accept that there is no way you can erase what has happened. Even though the accusations may be unfair and untrue, the situation is real. You need to get out of denial about that in order to deal with it in the here and now.
- Watch your catastrophic language. If you keep saying this is "horrible" and your life is "ruined," you add to the stress. Put things in perspective. An innocent child in a burn unit of a hospital is horrible. Perhaps your situation isn't as tragic. Perhaps your life isn't ruined, but just damaged. Change your internal dialogue, and you will feel better.
- Life Law #2: You Create Your Own Experience. The first person you've got to repair your reputation with is you. Are you a bad guy? Are you a bad citizen? Do you hurt people? Do you commit crimes? The answer if probably no. Stop feeling guilty and being angry with yourself. Own your mistakes, forgive yourself for them but don't continue to beat yourself up. Life is not a success-only journey. Learn from your bad decisions and move on.
- Ask yourself what you would like to see happen in order to clear your name. Is there anything that anyone — the authorities, your co-workers or someone in the community — can do that could ever make the situation better.
- Begin with your inner circle. Start rebuilding your reputation with your family, close friends and neighbors. You make sure they know the truth. When your inner circle knows who you really are, they will go out into the world with the truth, and it will create a ripple effect. And if you are confronted with these false accusations again, you look the person in the eye, and you tell your side of the story. You don't need to bring this up the rest of your life, but in your immediate circle and in this immediate time, you want to step up and tell them the truth.
- Understand that people might come forward to admit they were wrong. And they might not. It is up to you to put this behind you. Give yourself what you wish you could receive from others. You need to say to yourself, "I know I didn't do this. And I will give myself what I wish the community, the authorities, etc., would give me."
- Life Law #8: You Teach People How to Treat You. If you walk into the world, and you're hanging your head, and you kind of don't want to look anybody in the eye, and you're shameful, then people will treat you that way. You have to be your own best friend, and you have to decide who you are at the core. Begin the process of closure by not reacting to what you think people are saying about you. If you allow yourself to be intimidated, feel guilty or shrink away because of what people think, you are putting yourself in a prison.
- Don't try to address every accusation. If you decide to start defending yourself, that will become your full-time job. If you answer every story, every piece of gossip, every allegation in your life, that's all you will ever do. You will be completely consumed by this, and it will take over your life.
- Stop reacting to the rumors. You give it legs by reacting to it. Don't draw attention to yourself defending the rumor. You need to give yourself permission to just live your life. If there are people out there who think something about you that you don't like, then those won't be your friends. There will be other people who will like and respect you for who you are, and they will be your friends.
- Stand up for yourself and say, "I'm taking my power back. I'm not going to give them the power to pick my feelings. They're wrong, and I can look myself in the mirror knowing the truth." You have to decide that you believe in who you are, what you stand for, and what you do, and you just need to go forth and do it. You need to walk forward from the situation. Who you are and what you do, that will win out in time.
- Know that it's normal to feel a twinge of guilt even if you're completely innocent. We always hear about guilt by association. But there is also guilt by accusation. People hear something negative and tend to believe it. If you accuse a person unfairly, he/she still has that twinge — just from having the finger pointed at him/her.
- Don't fall into the trap of acting out with non-directional frustration. The stress that comes with being wrongly accused can lead a person to act out with those closest to them, like a spouse or child. Remember that the enemy isn't your loved one; it's an outside force.