**To give you a heads-up, just in case you are not comfortable listening to such topics being talked about, I talk about being assaulted (obviously not in graphic detail or in fact much detail), as well as being sexually and racially harassed in not one, but two jobs, and being stalked, harassed and assaulted at university.**
Recently I’ve heard a number of stories where the person had been mistreated in some way, often quite seriously, whether it was at work or in a personal capacity and they’d decided to stay quiet because, well, they don’t want to ‘make a scene’. Time and again I see people making decisions and it invariably leads to heartbreak–their own.
So, in this week’s episode of The Baggage Reclaim Sessions, I felt that it was time to speak out about speaking out. As a recovering people pleaser who has kept my silence in minor and very serious circumstances out of fear of making waves, of alienating, of making others, including the perpertrators feel bad, of being seen to be ‘difficult’ and other such things, I’m all too familiar with this struggle. We imagine that we’re going to literally or figuratively torch, for an example, an errant ex’s belongings just like Angela Bassett’s character in Waiting To Exhale (still love this film!).
But often, our idea of ‘making a scene’ and being ‘difficult’ in using their voice to utter, “This happened. I didn’t like it. It made me uncomfortable. It was wrong because _________”.
I felt that it was time to talk about some extremely difficult experiences that each resulted in me eventually speaking up for myself regardless of what the ‘repercussions’ might be, and how I gradually came to appreciate myself for doing so.
Speaking up and yes, sometimes speaking out, means representing who we are. It does mean standing up for ourselves, advocating for us and basically having our own back.
Speaking up for one’s self is something that many people struggle with, especially us people pleasers, recovering and otherwise, but we gradually learn, often through painful experiences, that habitual silence gradually crushes our souls.
We’re not meant to suffer.
The right thing is not always the easy thing. We often think it’s easier to be silent or to be super nice about something, but then we privately give ourselves a hard time for not having had our back.
What is also clear from the many stories I hear, never mind what I read in the media, is that the shady people of this world are often reliant on us being nice (read: not making ‘waves’ by calling them on their BS and creating natural consequences).
They think our kind, loving, compassionate, sometimes over-empathetic ways will extend to giving them a free pass.
When the friend I referred to in the podcast had the new boss who had screwed her over, praise her for being so “nice” about things, it lit a fire in her belly because she realised that this person was mistaking her kindness for weakness. It resulted in her getting a massive payout instead of her accepting a lesser role than what she’d been in prior to her maternity leave.
I’ve also learned from firsthand experience and events of recent years that shady folk don’t get away with their actions. They invariably overplay their hand because they think they’re outwitting everyone, that they’re clever, invincible, beyond the law or disapproval, and that is never the case.
Karma doesn’t work on our beat, our set timeline, but it does come around in due course.
I want to stress that I don’t think speaking out about discrimination, harassment, assault, abuse and the like are ‘easy’–my experiences have been quite the opposite–but I also know that it is precisely because more and more people have spoken out, started to question and overturn old norms, that we’re confronting the emotional baggage of society.
At the same time though, it’s also important for those of us who have been through these experiences that it hasn’t always been possible to speak up and we have very specific reasons for not having done so. We don’t need to shame us over having kept our silence but we do need to acknowledge the impact of that silence or the events themselves on our wellbeing and self-esteem, so that we can take care of ourselves.
I hope that what I share in today’s episode helps at least a few people feel less alone, to stop blaming themselves, to stop trying to work out what they did to ‘make’ someone else violate their boundaries.
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