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Stop judging Monica Lewinsky

By Mel Robbins
May 7, 2014 -- Updated 1214 GMT (2014 HKT)
Monica Lewinsky embraces U.S. President Bill Clinton at a Democratic fundraiser in Washington in October 1996. Lewinsky, the White House intern who had a sexual relationship with Clinton during his time in office, has finally <a href='http://www.cnn.com/2014/05/06/politics/lewinsky-clinton-affair/index.html'>broken her silence</a> on the affair in a Vanity Fair article. Monica Lewinsky embraces U.S. President Bill Clinton at a Democratic fundraiser in Washington in October 1996. Lewinsky, the White House intern who had a sexual relationship with Clinton during his time in office, has finally broken her silence on the affair in a Vanity Fair article.
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Monica Lewinsky: Life in the spotlight
Monica Lewinsky: Life in the spotlight
Monica Lewinsky: Life in the spotlight
Monica Lewinsky: Life in the spotlight
Monica Lewinsky: Life in the spotlight
Monica Lewinsky: Life in the spotlight
Monica Lewinsky: Life in the spotlight
Monica Lewinsky: Life in the spotlight
Monica Lewinsky: Life in the spotlight
Monica Lewinsky: Life in the spotlight
Monica Lewinsky: Life in the spotlight
Monica Lewinsky: Life in the spotlight
Monica Lewinsky: Life in the spotlight
Monica Lewinsky: Life in the spotlight
Monica Lewinsky: Life in the spotlight
Monica Lewinsky: Life in the spotlight
Monica Lewinsky: Life in the spotlight
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Mel Robbins: Monica Lewinsky writes in upcoming Vanity Fair about affair with Bill Clinton
  • She says aftermath of affair left Lewinsky humiliated, almost suicidal. She was brave to go on
  • She says media exploited news of consensual affair; cashed in. Story put Drudge on map
  • Robbins: Real story here is Lewinsky taking back narrative, helping others bullied on Internet

Editor's note: Mel Robbins is a CNN commentator and legal analyst. Mel is the Founder of Inspire52.com, a positive news website and author of "Stop Saying You're Fine," about managing change. She speaks on leadership around the world and in 2014 was named Outstanding News Talk Radio Host by the Gracie Awards. Follow her on Twitter @melrobbins.

(CNN) -- We could all learn a few things from Monica Lewinsky, and when you read the essay she penned for Vanity Fair, "Shame and Survival," you undoubtedly will—maybe even about yourself. That is, judging by the excerpts of her article, which the magazine released Tuesday, ahead of publication.

Most of the world will be looking for the salacious details of her "consensual relationship" with President Clinton. As many will recall, that affair began in 1995 and when news of it broke in 1998, it became a global story. It almost took down the President—he was impeached-- and sent Lewinsky into such an isolated state of hell, she writes, that she had suicidal thoughts at times and a "fear that I would be literally humiliated to death."

Frankly, when you consider just how intense, relentless and abusive the Lewinsky bullying has been for the past 16 years--by the media, the politicians, the public and trolls on the Internet, it's a wonder she had the psychological stamina to resist those suicidal thoughts. And thank God she did.

Lewinsky on Clinton affair: 'Time to burn the beret and bury the blue dress'

Mel Robbins
Mel Robbins

You can't underplay how huge the news of the Lewinsky-Clinton affair was at a time when the Internet wasn't only used for trolling celebrities; it had such an impact in the public arena that there are people who are still making money off it. The founder of the Drudge Report, Matt Drudge, broke the story of the affair on his then mostly unknown website in 1998; the story put him on the map. In 2014 the site averages more than a billion page views a month.

When Barbara Walters interviewed Lewinsky in 1999 on "20/20," a record-breaking 70 million viewers tuned in. While the media pointed fingers at "that woman," it was taking advantage of the hottest story in presidential scandal history and squeezing every dollar it could out of Lewinsky's demise.

Lewinsky writes about Clinton affair
Lewinsky: Time to bury the blue dress
Bill Maher on the return of "Monicagate"

Heck, when Beyoncé "dropped" her album in December 2013, she cashed in as well -- reducing Lewinsky to a line in "Partition" as a reference to ejaculation. Lewinsky replied in her essay: "Thanks, Beyoncé, but if we're verbing, I think you meant 'Bill Clintoned all on my gown.' "

Sexual affairs are happening all over the world at this very moment--with politicians, world leaders, famous actors and people you know personally. Yes, affairs and other indiscretions are disgusting and immoral, but you can hardly be surprised anymore when you hear about them (looking at you Vance McAllister, John Edwards, Anthony Weiner, Donald Sterling). After all, you don't publicly execute people for these everyday offenses between two consenting adults, and yet that's basically what the world did to Lewinsky.

Last year, President Clinton was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama. In 2014, perhaps the world will give Monica Lewinsky the freedom she finally deserves.

The powerful story here isn't the cigar and the blue dress with semen on it, it's that after 16 years of relentless bullying and a past that won't go away, Lewinsky has figured out a way to use the experience to help others by taking ownership of it.

Lewinsky writes that she may be the first person ever at the center of an Internet cyberbullying event, and that it was the case of another recent victim of similar bullying, Tyler Clementi, that made her own suffering "take on a different meaning".

Clintons' relationship with media still testy after all these years

"Perhaps by sharing my story, I reason, I might be able to help others in their darkest moments of humiliation." In the same way that a sitting President can sooth a community struck by a hurricane, mudslide or mass shooting, I have no doubt that Lewinsky could help a victim of cyberbullying get through the pain and humiliation -- and be instrumental in encouraging him or her to stay strong.

One of the most powerful tools you have in life is the truth, and here's the truth: Regardless of what she says, people will judge. Pundits will pontificate, project and wonder aloud about political motivations in the timing. We will wonder if this will hurt Hillary Clinton in 2016 or if Lewinsky was paid by the RNC to unburden herself like this. Go down that road and you miss something way more powerful than politics -- a lesson in humanity and personal power.

She writes that it's time to "stop tiptoeing around my past—and other people's futures. I am determined to have a different ending to my story. I've decided, finally, to stick my head above the parapet so that I can take back my narrative and give purpose to my past."

By telling her story, she's doing exactly that. It takes remarkable courage to confront your humiliating mistakes and painful past, and still hold your head high.

It's in our failures that we often find our strength. Good for you Monica Lewinsky, you found your strength. I for one will be cheering you on.

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