As sexual harassment cases continue to surface, more and more women are coming to terms with their own experiences of sexual harassment, abuse and assault. In doing so, there are a lot of complex emotions to navigate, including shame and anger. How can you address these negative emotions and meet them with forgiveness and compassion?
Confront assumptions you have about yourself
While the #MeToo movement is important, we shouldn’t stop there. When social activist and founder of the original Me Too Movement, Tarana Burke, was named one of the “Silence Breakers” by TIME Magazine, she had this to say, “…if we are to eradicate sexual assault in our lifetimes…we must confront some of our long-held assumptions about ourselves.”
So, what are some of your long-held beliefs about yourself? Do you believe you’re worthy of love and respect, as well as healthy and mutual sexual intimacy? Or, do you think that when it comes to sexual harassment, it’s almost expected for men to treat you badly?
Counteract shame with self-love
Almost everyone interviewed for TIME‘s Silence Breakers piece “described wrestling with a palpable sense of shame.”
But why is shame so common among women who’ve been sexually harassed, assaulted or abused? It’s all because these actions are so dismantling and inappropriate, and it’s hard to make sense of them. And this is where shame comes in handy.
Shame helps you make sense of something incomprehensible. So, if you believe that you’re an inherently bad person – defective and unacceptable – it’s easier to explain why you were harassed.
And for this reason, shame keeps women from coming out sooner. Then, to compound this, they feel ashamed about their silence.
It’s scientifically proven that shame damages a person’s physical, emotional and psychological wellbeing. So, it’s not enough to say #MeToo. It’s time to transform your victim-blaming mindset into a compassionate one.
Here are some simple ways to cultivate more self-love
- Practice meditation
- Practice saying no to seemingly inconsequential things. You have a right to do so, and it will make the bigger No’s easier to say
- Read The Personal Bill of Rights daily
Feel all your feelings
According to Dr. Laura McGuire, a university sex educator, “Everyone has the right to feel, claim, and process their experience in their own way.” So, allow yourself to experience your emotions, whatever they may be.
Let this be an act of self-love. There’s no need to judge or shame yourself anymore. There is room for all emotions. Paradoxically, the more you allow yourself to feel your emotions, the less power they have.
Journalling can be a helpful way to identify and process difficult emotions.
Teach others how to treat you
If you want men (and women) to treat you right, you don’t have to look dowdy and downplay your beauty. This won’t help you escape sexual harassment, despite what Big Bang Theory actress, Mayim Bialik wrote in her New York Times op-ed, Being a Feminist in Harvey Weinstein’s World.
There, she says you can have the “luxury” of being overlooked by powerful men if you “don’t represent an impossible standard of beauty.”
But dressing well, looking beautiful and taking care of your entire person are silent directives to everyone you meet on how you’d like to be treated. Unfortunately, some men (and women) will mistreat you anyways, but that doesn’t mean you should neglect yourself and stop shining brightly.
For many others, you’ll be the best teacher, showing others how they ought to treat you.
Share your story
In sharing your own #MeToo story, set your intention to regain power and free yourself from the victim state. Sharing your story should help you come back bigger, better and stronger.
What’s more, you can help other women do the same by validating their stories and experiences. When it comes to sharing, there’s no room for jokes, judgment and retaliation.
Get to the root problem
Tarana Burke asked women everywhere, “When you hear #MeToo, will you stand up to say #NoMore?” And the French responded oh-so-elegantly with something a bit more blunt, Balance ton porc, or expose your pig.
Everything always sounds better in French, right?
But this goes past finger-pointing, blaming and shaming, because as Brené Brown teaches, shaming is never constructive – whether it’s directed at the victims or the perpetrators.
Instead, it’s time to realize that men who act out are coming from a damaged past, an outdated belief system, and a biased society, and culture. This is not to say that you should excuse them, but it can help to explain why men have continued to sexually hurt women over the centuries.
#MeToo can shed awareness on this fact, but it won’t change the root problem. But here’s something that will: talking about good and appropriate behavior with your children, boyfriend, his friends, your friends, colleagues, etc.
Will sexual harassment, assault and abuse end overnight? Definitely not, but you can make a relevant impact on the #MeToo movement and help to cultivate truly powerful women and men.