Archive for October, 2016

Why we need to Shine light on the Shadow

My general rule when writing my posts is to not dip into political waters. And this post is no exception. But every time I read the news or open social media I’m bombarded with political updates that test my belief in political culture – or at least the culture behind it in many countries.

The current election season in America is a case in point. Although I don’t live in the US, my proximity means I’m not immune to the influence it assumes on North America. We share many, but not all values and viewpoints.

My nature is to look beyond rhetoric and mudslinging to what lies underneath as a way of understanding the values and behaviors of society, where we’re lacking and where there’s possibility. When there’s an earthquake of fear and distrust pushing then it is time to pay serious attention.

If there’s one potentially good thing that could come out of the American election, it is this: to shine a light on the shadow women continue to experience despite great gains towards equality.
out of the shadow

It’s a shadow of haziness where subtle sexual aggression that is often passed of as “it’s just him”, “he doesn’t mean it” or “it’s nothing” slam up against “it’s because you’re pretty”, “you encourage it” or “keep quiet”. And so we learn early on in our lives to keep such behaviors in the shadows out of fear, confusion and safety.

I’m talking about unwanted advances and unsolicited judgments by men toward women who still believe such behavior is perfectly okay. These are the behaviors that don’t leave a physical mark or make it into the courtroom. These are the everyday actions that women endure, put up with and perhaps pretend didn’t happen. And it still goes on.

I could write a page of examples I’ve experienced in school or workplace during my lifetime, not to mention times I’ve been heckled, groped or harassed socially. I could tell you how dis-empowering it feels being chased around a desk by a boss or be cornered at a family event by a male in-law relative with an unexpected and unwanted tongue kiss.

What I’d rather do is have an open conversation about how this kind of behavior still exists and what we can do about it going forward. The events and behaviors around the US election have given us a huge opportunity to take this can of worms and really examine it for what it truly is.

The truth is the oppression and objectification of women is alive and well and not relegated to a few men in a locker room. It exists in the boardroom, the lunchroom and down the hall by the water cooler.

So what if we all started by suspending judgment on whether or not it exists and start asking each other and ourselves simple questions to help create awareness and understanding of this critical issue:

1. What exists within the shadow of subtle sexual aggression, unwanted advances and unsolicited judgments by men toward women? What does it look like?

2. What do women feel when they experience the shadow?

3. Why do women not call out the perpetrator as an aggression occurs?

4. How have experiences of the shadow gone on to influence women’s lives?

5. What do men feel when they engage in subtle sexual aggression, unwanted advances and unsolicited judgments?

6. What do men feel and do when they witness another man engaging in this behavior?

7. How does the current culture of your workplace support, deny, ignore or disallow shadow behavior?

8. In what ways are we culturally enabling this behavior to perpetuate?

9. In what ways can we let go of blame and collaborate to educate each other of the danger and damage of shadow behavior?

10. What will it take for you to become part of the solution of shedding light on the shadow?

You may be thinking this is a simplistic way of addressing a complex issue of long-held beliefs and behaviors. And that is exactly the point.

Yes it’s shameful treatment of girls and women. Yes it’s unacceptable. And yes it has to end. But until we talk about it and try to understand all the perspectives involved, it will continue unchecked.

Whether it’s at the dinner table or at work, let’s use the opportunity of shedding light on the shadow of sometimes subtle and often upfront sexually intimidating or unwanted behavior that has too long been pervasive in our society.

Are you ready to start the conversation?

Need a Break? Take It!

DISCLAIMER – THIS IS ADVICE ON SOMETHING REALLY SIMPLE

This spring and summer was incredibly busy for me – knee surgery, daughter’s wedding, elderly parents’ health issues… You get the picture. By August I couldn’t move! I had nothing left in my gas tank to give.

This wasn’t the same experience I’ve had of being overworked and completely burnt out. This was different. There were no specific issues bringing me down other than an accumulation of life events and other people’s needs of me.

The obvious thing for me to do was take a break. And I did. I re-calibrated by enjoying walking, spending lazy evenings with my husband and basking in the warm sun. Of course I didn’t disengage completely. I still worked with my clients and did the household chores. But I gave myself permission to slow right down and put myself first – no guilt, no shame.

It’s autumn now and I’m back in the saddle full speed ahead with my business, social life and energy to burn.

So why is it we have such a hard time giving ourselves a break?

I know, you’ve heard it before – especially if you have family obligations. How you have to take two hours to pamper yourself or meditate just so you can be alone. Great ideas, but that’s not what I’m talking about.

I’m curious about why, when we’re in the middle of “our time”, does guilt rear its ugly head? That little voice in our head asks, “who am I to sit here lounging when there’s so much to do?”

If who’ve read or listened to Brene Brown you know what I’m talking about! And if you haven’t, I highly recommend it. She has the research to back up this intersection of guilt, shame and putting yourself first.

And here’s a reminder to you: you’re living your life for the long game – the marathon. You need down time to refuel your physical, spiritual, intellectual and emotional selves.

Trust me when I say it’ll be worth it. A little magic happens when we remove ourselves from the daily grind, noise, or whatever else you call it. It forces us to slow the pace and look inward, which in turn enables us to become open. Openness is the key to aligning to your authentic self and seeing opportunities, possibilities, hearing what others are really saying and experiencing the beauty of the everyday.

Sound a little flaky? It’s not! Sure there’re times when the speed and intensity of your life increases. But living with constant haste should not be your normal. Giving yourself a break more than occasionally is actually how you’re meant to live. I’m not talking about mental health days. This is about building “you time” into your daily, weekly, monthly and even yearly schedules. Your life and those closest to you depend on it.

I went looking for an inspirational quote about guilt to end this blog. I couldn’t find one because guilt is really only useful when you’ve done something detrimental to yourself or others. It isn’t related to doing something right or good for you like taking a much-needed break.

So go ahead and give yourself permission to put yourself first and take a break. It’s that simple. Chances are, others will thank you for it!