There's so much courage unfolding around us with harassment stories coming forward on a daily basis. Which is why with the harassment climate the way it is and the fact that I thought I had somehow "outgrown" harassment, I was shocked to have been recently placed in an uncomfortable situation while having my picture taken.
My daughter accompanied me to the photo shoot that took place in a fairly busy hotel lobby. I enjoy bringing my babies to work with me when I can, but I quickly wished I hadn't.
As we walked up to the sofa were the photographer's equipment was set up he looked over at me and said “oh my, your body looks really beautiful in that dress.”
My face got hot and I hoped my daughter didn’t hear him.
Then I wondered if I heard him correctly. I dismissed it and continued with the shoot, standing in position as he rubbed his hand up and down my calf then patted it and said “oh, this is nice.”
He was saying the words, but I was the one feeling gross. I felt a pause after his hand groped my calf, a shock, but then I dismissed it, choosing instead to look at my daughter who was pretending to hold a camera, taking pictures of me.
Looking back, the harassment situations I have encountered – at work, at school, in public places, I always felt a pause after the improper comment was made or hand was placed inappropriately. My inner guidance system was warning me through my body, alerting my every cell that I had been mistreated, but my logical brain wanted to keep going with whatever I was doing - walking to class, going to my office, finishing the photo shoot, anything to move past the confrontation.
I overlooked the pause, when it wanted to talk to me. It would have said “this isn’t right, and no one else has to agree, this is your body, you get to decide and say no. You don’t need to find an excuse for him, you need to politely exit the situation and say that was inappropriate. Speak up. The confrontation isn't a battle, it is your truth.”
There are far greater atrocities happening every day. Things that are unimaginable, things nowhere near what I have experienced. But when we let the “small” things slide, we open a crack in the door for darkness to enter. It starts small, then it grows bigger.
After the experience in the hotel lobby I told a couple of my friends. I asked if what I experienced would be okay with them had it happened to them. They both gasped and said “no way Danielle!” They told me what they would have said in the situation, and then I wondered why I didn’t speak up. And then I started to feel bad about not speaking up.
Why didn't I speak up? I knew better. I've amassed a pretty sweet personal tool kit thanks to life's experiences, and I'm more tapped into my intuition now than ever before trusting my inner guidance in all facets of my life, so why did I stay quiet?
And what I figured out is, I kept going and didn't speak up because it's what I had remembered to do from past experiences.
The Reframe: I never reframed the previous harassment situations I experienced. I left them as they were, and they lingered that way: the harassment happening, not feeling able to speak up, feeling uncomfortable, unsure and confused afterward. And so when the situation was brought to me again, my body did what it knew to do – feel the pause, freeze, dismiss it, question it then feel ashamed later. It was my auto-pilot response.
Our bodies keep memories, and chemical reactions are set off based on these memories. To change my future, I needed to re-create the memory of my past. Not relive it in a painful way, but walk through it like watching a movie, only this time change the ending.
I took the time and reframed the situation, and this time I said "excuse me, I feel uncomfortable when you touch me like that and talk about my body in that way. This probably isn’t a good fit. I’d like to reschedule this photo shoot with another photographer.”
I AM POWERFUL became my mantra and my emotional response was upgraded with the reframe - my shame transmuted to empowerment.
Aligning with our inner power, listening to our inner guidance system and then acting on it is the catalyst for the energy behind shame to be transformed to empowerment. But the action must be taken. We must speak up for the transformation of energy to occur.
The Pause Intuition, inner knowing, that feeing, inner guidance system, however you label is, it is always available to us if we become available to it. I've made a commitment to linger in the pause a little more and not race past it. And I’m going to teach my daughters and my son to linger in the pause a little more. That pause is when our intuition can speak to us - when we check-in and listen/notice the feeling, even if it's for a few seconds.
That resistant feeling, that “bad” feeling, is always present when something is said, or contact is made that is inappropriate and not consensual. And it doesn't need to be validated by anyone else. That feeling is not misplaced or wrong. It is truth and will give us the next best step to take.
I eventually did speak up and found out I wasn’t the only woman this had happened to with this photographer. And that’s the thing, we are never the only ones, so it’s up to us to say something. We can see the tide of harassment changing with social media splashes of high profile celebrities, but it’s happening locally every day as well.
It takes a brave heart to speak up, and I’m so proud of the women and men who are allowing their voices to be heard. I want my kids and you and your kids and everyone to know it’s never okay to be touched or spoken to in a way that is inappropriate or gives us that “bad feeling” pause, no matter how “small” it seems.
To teach them, we have to talk about it and tell them our stories (age appropriate and at their level, of course) and then, sooner than later, the stories will be fewer, and our strength stronger, and our conviction in ourselves and our bodies never questioned.
This happens to both men and woman, but my experience is as a woman, and I want to appreciate my body for all that it is and we all have that right. We can wear high heels, dresses, whatever we want, and we aren’t asking for boundaries to be crossed. We are simply being ourselves. And that we should never have to defend.
It's time to pay attention (something I know you do very well), and then speak up. When we all contribute to the changing tide, our ships will rise faster and harassment will no longer be just something we tolerate. It will be unacceptable. Always.
Do you have a story of harassment? Or certain cues you receive letting you know something isn't right? I would love to hear from you. When we share our stories our souls are released from shame and the burden is lifted. I know it’s not easy to share, but it’s important to speak up. I would love to hear from you.
This is our time, the current is moving in our favor, let’s take it and be heard.
With so much love,
PS I am not a therapist, and I speak only from my experience. This blog is just that, my experience, in an attempt to encourage us all to speak up and to serve as a reminder that we are not alone. There are so many who have suffered so greatly, please make sure you get the help you need.