On knowing your worth and adding tax…

“The most terrifying thing is to accept oneself completely.”
C.G. Jung

It’s so very easy to doubt your own worth. In a constant barrage of beautiful, successful people, it is quite normal to feel unable to fit in or to fit the mold. Every comment, every rejection, every judgement only serves to make you feel more and more worthless. People can be cruel, dismissive and sometimes hateful. And we are faced with these types of people every single day – often our friends, colleagues, and sometimes, our lovers.

starburstThe truth is that we allow people to treat you the way they do. Nancy Roosevelt was quoted as saying: ‘No one can make  you inferior without your consent.’ Your energy, confidence and attitude is the currency that others will transact with. I know many people who have settled for less, and accepted the cards dealt because deep inside, they don’t believe they deserve more. They seem to have it all together in their life, but when it come to relationships, they just can’t seem to shake the habit of dating cruel or unloving people.

When I look at my life, I’ve created and controlled my bubble of career, friendships and community. I adore my tribe and place huge amounts of reliance on this bunch of oddballs that I have chosen for myself, whether for a season or a lifetime. I choose who I invest my time and energy on, and when, and I place value on that time. I am blessed with wonderful friends and my inner circle is sacred and thoughtfully selective.

However, in my relationships with men, I haven’t always placed the same kind of value on my time, energy and emotions. I’ve tolerated men who don’t appreciate me, who don’t value my heart, who take and take, who don’t call back, who have disrespected me — I’ve allowed men to not treat me what I’m worth and not really placing a value on my own worth. I’ve made excuses, justified and eagerly re-entered the game of push and pull with men who clearly don’t really value me much at all, chipping away the low self-esteem that got me there in the first place.

It has taken me years of heart aches, heart tramples, picking up that phone when every cell in your body knows it’s the unhealthy thing to do, obsessing, infatuating, idealizing,  for me to finally realise that all I am doing is de-valuing myself.

Self-love takes time. But with each babystep I grow in confidence and contentment in my relationships, as I have in other areas of my life. I’ve stopped apologising for who I am and have learned that I am enough. I embrace my imperfections both physically and within my personality, recognising that those imperfections are part of the beauty that makes me, me. I am less likely to put up with behaviour that brings down my feelings and emotions, and I have become better at calling out people when they do such a thing.

Know your value and don’t accept being treated in a way less than you deserve. You deserve to be treated the way you treat others, and vice versa. The minute you negotiate your self worth and accept less, you say to the universe that you don’t deserve any better. Change for yourself  but don’t change out of the wrong reasons to appease someone or in hopes that they will like you more. If they judge you for who you are now, they aren’t your fit.

The moment you start recognising your own worth, you will find it much harder to stay around people who don’t.

Know your worth and add tax.

 

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“There is a surrendering to your story and then a knowing that you don’t have to stay in your story.” – Colette Baron Reid

I’ve held off on publishing this post for a long time. It has sat in my drafts folder, waiting to be put out there in the world, waiting for the day I feel brave enough for my story to be told.

You see, the thing is, I applaud and admire other women who tell their story yet keep my own held back and share it only with those who get close enough to uncover that deeply held part of me.

Then this video appeared on my Facebook feed and resonated so loudly within my heart that I knew that it was time.

“I didn’t think I was important enough to draw boundaries around what people could or couldn’t do with my body.”

When I heard those words, it was like someone had switched on a light and given me the words that I could never find before. The words to explain why, 11 years after it happened, I still struggle and blame myself. The words to explain why, 11 years ago, I refused to go to the police. I refused to report what had happened to me. I told my flatmate and my best friend that I just wanted to erase what had happened from my head, my heart and my broken soul.

I didn’t believe that I was important enough to draw boundaries around what people could or couldn’t do with my body. I believed that somehow people would say that I had brought this on myself because I flirted and drank and danced with the stranger. Because I accepted the offer of a drink from him in a dark, smoky nightclub. Because I asked him to walk me home when I started to feel dizzy and unwell.

He walked me home and then, within what should have been the safety of my own bedroom, he took advantage of the effects of the drug he had spiked my drink with, the drug that was now flooding my system.

I didn’t fight back as I couldn’t lift my arms. I asked him to stop in the midst of my drugged and confused state and he ignored me and carried on. It hurt and I cried in pain, feeling frustrated that I had no control. I couldn’t get any control of the situation as I blacked out and came to then blacked out over and over again.

When I woke in the morning to him still in my house, sitting on the edge of my bed, tying his shoes as if it was the most normal morning in the world, I felt such doubt and fear and confusion. Was what had taken place the night before okay? Why is he still here? Did I allow that to happen? Was what he did something I should just accept and let be?

He left and I pulled my aching body out of the blood-soaked sheets of the bed and curled up in the corner of the bathroom. I could smell him on my skin and I could feel the bruises and aching between my legs. I turned on the shower to the highest heat I could cope with and sat on the floor of the shower for what must have been an hour, allowing the scalding water to burn my skin and allow me to feel a different kind of pain. Any other kind of pain.

I called my best friend and cried down the phone the moment I heard her voice. She immediately got on a train and was at my door within a few hours. No matter what was said, I refused to report it. I couldn’t even consider it. I believed, and still do at times, that it was somehow my fault. That what happened could be explained away. That I was not important enough to draw boundaries around what could happen with my body.

11 years later and after 2 years of face-to-face counselling, learning how to cope with my PTSD and learning what my triggers are, I still struggle at times. It still affects everything. My relationships, my social life, my coping mechanisms – every aspect of my life has been impacted by this one night in September 2005.

But I never once wish that I had reported it. Reliving the experience is hard enough when it happens in flashbacks and nightmares – I can’t imagine reliving it under interrogation from a judge and jury with his face looking back at me. I don’t know that I made the right choice. Sometimes I wonder if he went on to do the same to other women and if reporting him to the police would have prevented it. Unfortunately we do not live in a world where a rape victim is treated with the same amount of empathy as a mugging victim. In these past 11 years I have discovered inner strength that I would never have imagined. But that inner strength would be destroyed by a legal system that victim-blames and sympathises with the perpetrator.

Instead, I did what many sexual assault survivors choose to do – I tried to move on with my life. There’s no single thing all assault survivors should do after their attack — we all respond differently, and we all heal differently. And, as the survivors in the video make clear, we need to be trusted to choose the response that is right for us

As for me, I fight in my own way. I found an inner strength and purpose that kept me focused and motivated. I involve myself heavily in the V-Day movement. I talk to people about victim blaming and rape culture. I almost never tell my own story but I findways to influence and talk. I get proudly labelled a feminist and call people out on their hypocrisies. I educate myself and I listen and support and care when another woman tells her story – it has taken me so long to tell my own, they are my heroes .

I used my pain and brokenness as a catalyst for making change and a difference in my own tiny corner of the world because my story is one of millions. One of millions.

Most importantly, I now know just how I important I am and how completely in control I am of what happens with my body.

Live In The Question…

“You can’t write a script in your mind and then force yourself to follow it. You have to let yourself be.” – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

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I’ve never been the kind of person to have a life plan. At least, not since life threw enough curve balls for me to give up on the idea of a plan. Plans are different from dreams and goals and bucket lists. Plans involve specific expectations and inevitable disappointment should the plan not come to fruition. They don’t allow for questions. They pretend to have all the answers and expect your heart to already know what to do next.

I often get asked by friends and family what my ‘plan’ is. To quote a friend: “How long are you going to be away? You can’t do what you’re doing forever. You need to make a plan.”

The problem is, I can’t identify one person in my life who has followed their plan. I don’t know anyone who’s life has worked out exactly how they wanted. And, when it doesn’t work out, they panic and swiftly re-evaluate and create another alternative, adjusted plan, desperately finding temporary answers to the questions in their lives.

img_0104I’ve learned a lot about letting things be. I’ve learned that letting things be allows for spontaneous moments that I could never predict and people I could never have planned on.

I’m also learning to live in the questions. I’m not meant to have all the answers and sometimes the ‘not knowing’ leads to better places and people and experiences.  I never expected or planned to be in Tanzania. I do not know how long I will be here or where I will find myself next.

“Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart. Try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books written in a foreign language. Do not now look for the answers. They cannot now be given to you because you could not live them. It is a question of experiencing everything. At present you need to live the question. Perhaps you will gradually, without even noticing it, find yourself experiencing the answer, some distant day.”
Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

 I’d rather live in the question and live out my curiosity than plan out what my life will be.