Hard Lessons: #MeToo


Hard Lessons: #MeToo

Second of a three-part series on hard won lessons the first year as an introverted business-woman / -creative:
is there a way out, and if so, how is recovery like?

This post was written on 24 January 2018
4 min read / 891 words


2017 marks the first full year of Joy At Large. Anyone who has tried will attest to both the sudden exposure and acute vulnerability women face in running their own business.

There were several valuable lessons but the ones I wish to share came through the deepest dips from which I made hard recovery: I chose to share three hard won lessons I hope will make anyone going through something similar feel less alone.

Lesson 2: #MeToo

My encounter happened around the time testimonies about Harvey Weinstein and subsequent #MeToo stories hit news outlet and social media feeds. It was both painful and cathartic to learn how many ways women experience abuse of power and trust. Women in other industries, women who are my friends. 

I talked about the reaction of complex systems when they experience trauma. My instincts wanted to shut me down and shut me up. Taking lessons from my first burnout, I knew better than to swing to another extreme.

I started to speak about it. I kept appointments with friends and when they asked how I was, I spoke the honest answer through the knots in my guts. There was not one girl friend who escaped a similar experience. I wept for weeks.

Looking on these conversations, this is a systemic issue, one of unjustified entitlement. There were men, some of influence, who gave apparent support when I spun out on my own. Some of these turned into strange requests to meet and travel, creating this invisible line they believed they are toeing safely behind. I found this analogy while trekking in the aftermath: when walking, bigger rocks are easier to navigate than gravel because they are easier to see and plan around. It is easier to spot a threat when it is someone you don’t know than someone you trust. 

Without the kindness and restorative love of friends, recovery would have been far more tedious. The books, advice, and mostly the listening ears of women I get to call friends, and the stories of other women who gathered courage to step out of the shadows of fear and shame. 

I have very little to offer about ways to avoid this; predators hunt, which means they apply effort to seek out prey and they hide well, under the guise of friendship, a long-term relationship, someone who is known to be helpful to many people, or be known for a 'good', 'purposeful' thing. If you have the misfortune of crossing paths with one, always follow your intuition and ignore the stories which justify behaviour that disturbs you. Saying no is not enough - run. Cut them off. Even if it's bad for business. Always choose what will allow you to look at yourself in the mirror, years from now, and know you were on your side. 

I was lucky. This happened within a discrete amount of time. For those who encounter this on a daily basis, I can't speak to your experience with enough understanding other than to say that you are not alone, and your story is true. Truth gains strength with evidence and a collective voice, and becomes a force greater than the power of abusers. 

Of all the help received, I found these the most instrumental in crawling out of the experience alive, determined to live with vulnerability and love:

Speak about it. Talk about it. Even when the words land like sawdust on your tongue, practice them. Be honest when friends ask how you are, and do not fear their words. You were not stupid. You were not naive. You will be met with exceeding kindness.

Find a coach. Find a coach you trust to speak with.. They are invaluable to your development. I have known and been supported by Jess over a year. She shows both compassion and is a strong advocate of my intuition. One of the few questions that accelerated my recovery was: what would life look like if you stopped processing [what happened].

Read about it. Amongst the stories and book recommendations offered to me, some inadvertently, some knowing what happened, these were the most helpful:

  • the chapter about Bluebeard by Clarissa Pinkola Estes in her seminal book Women Who Run with the Wolves
  • about extreme zero-empathy profiles in Simon Baron-Cohen's Zero-Degrees of Empathy. Understanding psychopathic and narcissistic behaviours gives invaluable insight into patterns of conversations, and relationships.
  • And a healing read which through my sister gave me the courage to speak up, is Brené Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection.

Write until you can’t write anymore. Introversion encourages writing as a way to handle the weight of memories and making sense of emotional chaos. This lasted three months.

Release it. Let it travel. Turn it into art.  I parceled all my notes into a blog and published it all. It satisfied to create something of art from ugliness. It will remain anonymous until it wants my name: ask me if I can help.

Be angry and physical. Take up self-defense classes, like Krav Maga. The immediate effect is a way to channel your anger through physical means. Practicing attacks on an attacker trains your mind to believe you are worth defending, hostility worth surviving.

Lastly, Live. Process your lessons, then stop processing. It will be difficult to trust again, but work to open your heart. A mentor explains this: exercise some level of discernment, but remember, human experiences are accessed by vulnerability and curiosity; vulnerability invites hurt. If you choose to optimize your human experience, you will be hurt. Live with this knowledge wisely.

Ever learning, unlearning, relearning,

2018JoyJan, ExperiencesComment