How the presidential campaign showed me I am hiding. Four steps to getting back out there.
"It hurts." Michelle Obama spoke those words last week and my breath caught.
One thing is clear after HeWhoShallNotBeNamed’s video leaked - we all have experienced demeaning or misogynistic treatment.
We have all pushed deep down some version of the catcalls on the street, the gropes on the subway, the slaps on the ass, the leers, the kisses, the grabs, the rapes, the coercions, the intimidations, the threats, the fear for our lives. We have grown accustomed to the glances over our shoulders, the silent headphones in our ears, the keys between our knuckles, the fierce posture and determined walk of our bodies and alert assessments in our minds.
And that says nothing of the media. We are bombarded with the objectification and degradation of women on a daily basis. And here we are - our own presidential election - sending hateful messages loud and clear, every day.
But we are coping. Magnificently. I mean, really, it’s a wonder we show up everyday.
Yet what is the cumulative impact?
If we continually experience assault and degradation, we are always protecting ourselves.
And if we are always protecting ourselves, we are not able to BE our selves.
And what is that doing to us? To our lives? Our sense of selves? Our careers? Our relationships?
As I think about the treatment I have experienced, witnessed, tolerated, rationalized, coped with, buried deep in the memory of my body, I begin to take a tally of this impact.
It affects what I wear, how I stand, how I walk down the street, how I make (or do not make) eye contact. Whether I respond to a greeting with openness or defense in my heart. It has affected what jobs I take (or leave in the midst of agony and chaos) and what careers I consider. It has affected my intimacy with every lover, including my partner of 15 years. It changes how I talk about consent to my son and to my daughter, and how I know that the information and the tones are somehow different.
It has kept me from speaking my voice as loudly or as openly in the classroom, the living room, the bedroom, the conference room, and here, the internet-room.
It has – in many places in my life –sent me into a place where I can pretend I am protected.
WHAT. THE. FUCK.
That is NOT ME. I am not the hiding type.
And neither are you.
Now, yes…we have been victim to lots of bullshit. And it’s important to acknowledge and to grieve that.
But that is not going to keep us from being who we are.
And it’s not going to keep us from doing the work we are called to do.
So, let’s step out, shall we? And let’s, as Michelle says, get to work.
We – as our true selves - are needed.
Below are my four steps to stepping out of hiding and back into who you really are.
1. Share your stories.
Find a trusted friend, family member, or group of like-minded and supportive confidants and share your experiences. Listen deeply to and acknowledge each other. Do not compare your experience to each others. Hurt is hurt. Do not try and remove the hurt, or the anger, or any other emotion. Just hear it and let your friend know that it makes sense that they feel the way they do. There is tremendous power in being heard. Hear them and let your own story be heard too. Talk about how it’s affected your life. What it holds you back from. How you are staying hidden.
Maybe bring some tissues. Or a punching bag.
2. Re-discover your YOU.
Think about a time in your life when you were really in your element. When you were tapped into who you are and what you are capable of. It could be anything. Maybe it’s a time when you took yourself by surprise. It could be a moment with a person you love or a kick-ass presentation for work, or a tough situation that you were able to navigate against difficult odds. No wrong answers here, loves. Now describe yourself in that moment. What qualities do you see?
Write those words down.
Those words describe you. And those qualities…you have access to each and every day. Because they are you.
3. Identify one place in your life where you want to step back into the you that you know yourself to be. Think about a role, a situation, a relationship where you want to see that person show up again. What’s one small action you can take towards that person? This can be and is the smallest step ever. And it’s just one. It’s not “I’m gonna run a marathon” or I’m gonna change careers” or even “I’m gonna repaint my living room.” It could be as simple as “I’m gonna look at paint colors.”
4. Take that step.
Repeat as needed.