The last couple of months have been a blur — I had been so busy putting down roots in a new city and jumpstarting the holiday season, I had not had a chance to really process the cascade of sexual misconduct reports in the news. Not until December slowed down, and it was suddenly end of 2017.
The last day of the year was punctuated with yet another male celebrity accused of sexual assault. The headlines permeating the news elicited a kind of “not him, too!” response as I read the details of unacceptable behavior committed by someone I had always considered a great example of success and accomplishment.
Later that day, as I watched the shaken news anchors deliver the details of his story, I could tell I was not alone in my struggle to accept. It’s more difficult for me to stomach this kind of news when the accused is someone I’ve admired or trusted for years. While behaving well in the public eye does not excuse private transgressions, it does make such news extra-difficult to hear when I like the actor, producer, or writer I’m now hearing horrible things about.
I can’t help but think of the young men and women who must have looked up to him as an example of a successful, accomplished, respectful, and respected adult.
More important than my difficulty processing the news, however, is that I deeply appreciate the shift we are witnessing.
Women started this tidal wave of truth by using their community, their voices, and the platforms they had – and society is responding differently than ever before. This powerful precedent, helped along by all the women and men who have ever spoken out about abuse and harassment, has inspired more people to come forward and call out inappropriate actions by powerful public figures.
Even better, we are watching real consequences affect the accused. It’s almost unbelievable to watch real accountability play out on the news cycles: contract cancellations, job terminations, blacklisting.
Having witnessed the truths that often surface in close friendships, during client calls, and while facilitating or attending women’s groups or retreats, I can attest to the huge numbers of women that have been the victims of unwanted and inappropriate sexual behavior. Sadly, most women I know have experienced assault and harassment — and most of these women felt like they had to hide what happened to them at the time. I know I did.
Many of us know this problem has lurked behind the curtain in almost all environments – public and private. This toxic suppression of the truth feeds the cycle of less opportunity, less advancement, less encouragement, less mentorship, that perpetuates sexism in education and workplaces all over the country.
I see this wave of truth as an opportunity for cultural and personal healing and rebalance. Being victimized is traumatic — and finding ourselves in a situation, culture, or relationship where we don’t feel safe enough to tell our truth interferes with our ability to heal.
When being blocked from healing can leave us feeling fractured, telling our truth can help us feel whole again.
What Can We Learn From All of This?
Opportunities to understand more about ourselves and others can be found in the most challenging circumstances.
When something pushes our buttons, we may look away from the discomfort or ignore the feelings or memories that been triggered inside us. We might avoid talking about it with others.
But what if we turned toward our triggers and used them to expand our awareness?
When we feel uncomfortable or triggered we are presented with an opportunity to understand more about ourselves and others…
Asking hard questions of ourselves and identifying personal truths around difficult subjects is empowering.
The following are a few questions that may illuminate truths and prompt beneficial, mindful discussions with ourselves:
– Has it always been acceptable to laud a movie hero or spokesman, and ignore their secret offenses?
– What are we to do when we greatly admire a person’s work but disagree with how they choose to behave as human beings?
– Where in my own life am I operating outside of authenticity?
– Are some of my choices made out of habit?
– Do my choices help lift and carry me in the direction I am trying to go personally, professionally, spiritually?
I know many people are grappling with what to think as news surfaces that more and more men choose to behave differently in private than who they appear to be in the public eye. These are not simple questions for us to sort out… but the mere act of sorting shines light on a truth that applies to all of us: We either consciously or carelessly choose our actions.
Each time we make a choice in the world, whether it’s with a small gesture or a great work of art — a whisper in someone’s ear or a speech seen by millions of people around the world, we are saying, “This is who I am.”
When our choices are in alignment with who we want to become, we are living authentically.
Conversely, when our private and public faces are at odds, we are living out of alignment and supporting a disconnection within ourselves.
Every day, at work and at home, we make choices that help us become more disconnected, or more authentic. The truth is our connector. When we choose to live in the truth, we lean into authenticity and wholeness, enabling us to move one step closer to bringing our best selves to whatever we pursue.
Is there an area in your life where truth might help you live more authentically? The start of a new year is a powerful time for self-reflection and fresh choices.
It can feel challenging to embrace a more authentic way of being. We can take inspiration from other women who have boldly, and at times very publicly, stepped up and told their truths.
We don’t have to start with big choices or life overhauls for truth to matter in our lives and the lives of others. Even small choices help us to embrace more authentic living. As we live from our authentic truth, we inspire other women to do the same.