#MeToo, but look after you

Half image of fair skinned, dark haired young woman (photo by Bryan Agua on Unsplash) looking to the centre of the page takes up half of the square. The other is bright pink, including white text which reads "staying safe in the age of #metoo" and the logo and web address of Ceryn Rowntree, counsellor, soul support mentor and coach.

Timehop reminded me last week it had been a year since #metoo took over social media. And what a year it’s been, right?

Although in some ways it feels like nothing has changed, there have also been SO many changes...

Sexual assault and harassment are no longer whispered about, shameful things to have experienced, and that topic of what is and is not acceptable behaviour is something we’re having a real, honest dialogue about - something those members of society who would be much more comfortable harassing and assaulting seem to find especially offensive. Shame.

We’re not all the way to where we want to be - as we’ve seen in the news only too recently - but things are slowly changing. And a lot of that is down to the tidal wave of voices that began to speak up on social media last year.

However that’s come with a downside...

No, I’m not talking about the men who are apparently scared to talk to women now (although can I refer back to that Lynzy Lab song here please? I bloody love it!)...

I’m talking about the affect it’s had on the women that have been forced to confront their own #metoo stories - be that out loud or in our heads as a result of what others have shared.

Photograph (courtesy of Mihai Surdu on Unsplash) of fair skinned woman in grey sweater holding up handwritten sign which reads "#METOO" in front of her face against a dark background.

Now let me get this straight, I’m not saying we should’ve kept our stories quiet in case we hurt someone’s feelings but we do need to recognise that, as powerful and important as this sea change has been, it’s also triggered many many people.

It’s something I’ve seen firsthand in my client sessions over the past year, with more and more women talking about this.

They’ve spoken about how reflecting on their own past relationships and sexual experiences in the wake of #metoo has made them realise how much of what’s happened to them in the past just wasn’t ok.

And it’s forced them to recognise that some of the experiences they’re remembering, and still having with members of the opposite sex even now not only reflecting the behaviours that other people talk about, but also make them afraid to be around men.

It’s all huge stuff - huge, often painful and bloody terrifying stuff which needs to be dealt with.

When we realise that we’ve been badly treated, harassed, assaulted or even raped after years of being told we were overreacting, lying, or complaining about something that was at best totally normal or at worst our fault; that can be traumatic on every level.

And when we start to see the injustices and fears that link us back to those experiences reflected in the situations we thought we were safe in, or the people we thought we could trust? Well that leaves us feeling completely lost and unsafe.

This isn’t a post about changing that culture - there are loads of those posts around (and rightly so) but right now I don’t have the words to write another.

Instead it’s a post about taking care of ourselves in the midst of this movement and a culture whose toxicity is being highlighted more every day.

Because whether we want to play our part in that revolution or whether we just want to stay standing on the other side of all of this change, taking care of ourselves and working through all of that pain and triggering is something we MUST do.

Actually doing that means different things to different people, but as a starter here are just a few points to remember:

It’s ok to be not ok

What’s going on in our world right now is big, scary and painful. That can hurt. Whether you’re reflecting on your own experiences or suffering from the fears that come up when you hear the stories of those you love, know that it’s understandable to struggle, to feel the pain of these things and to be not ok.

You can take a break from the world

Turn off the news (this former journalism student and self confessed news fan has suffered from much less anxiety since she deleted the news apps from her phone and isn’t receiving multiple notifications a day that start with “Donald Trump has...”), log out of social media or even put your phone in another room for a few hours while you lose yourself in a book or a movie, catch up with people you love or do something that lights you up. The world will still be there, and you’ll be able to return to it a little more centered.

Find your circle and love them fiercely...

It’s times like these where we all need our people - the ones we know love, respect and honour us and who can be trusted to hold us or simply to hold space while we work through anything and everything that’s coming up for us.

Recognise those people in your life and hold on to them - by which I don’t mean see them every day, I just mean make time and space for them so you can be a light for one another in these dark days. (Note: The Marco Polo app has been a godsend for me this past six months - it keeps so many of my people right there at my fingertips and I love it!).

...then let them love you too

And remember it’s ok to let those people look after you too. We women are so heavily conditioned to be the caregivers that we all too often forget it’s ok to ask for and accept care too.

Let your loved ones share your burdens, mop up your tears and hold space for your pain. It’s not only something they “won’t mind” doing, but if your friends are anything like mine they’ll be honoured to support you wherever they can.

A portrait photograph of a dark-skinned woman touching a hand to her face as she closes her eyes. Photograph courtesy of Amisha Nakhwa on Unsplash

We don’t have to fight every single second

The world needs to change and we all have a role to play in making that happen. But even the strongest and most successful warriors need a break every now and then. No matter what social media will have you think, we do not need to fight every single second of every single day.

In fact, sometimes the best support we can give to the cause is going to bed early, watching a movie or meditating in front of an altar of something beautiful to gather your energies and remind yourself of the beauty and the peace that we’re working towards.

Seek support

You do not have to go through this alone. Let me repeat that: You. Do. Not. Have. To. Do. This. Alone.

Sometimes we all need more support than our networks are able to provide, or simply a disconnected person who can hold space for your journey without bringing their own fears and experiences to the table. Never feel afraid to seek out the professional support you need, in whatever way feels right for you.

Your feelings are valid, your experiences are valid, YOU are valid

If #metoo has taught us anything over the past year it’s that the experiences so many of us have been told to downplay for so long are anything but irrelevant; and that the things we’ve come to accept as “just part of being a woman in society” are truly valid fears and worries.

Whether you’re working through your own experiences or stuck in a place of fear based on other people’s stories and experiences resonating with parts of your own life, it’s important… no it’s VITAL that you remember your feelings are valid, your experiences are valid, and most of all YOU are valid.

You don’t have to speak up

I don’t know about you but a simple scrawl through my social media each day right now leaves my head whirling and me convinced that I need to speak up and shout about all of the things; most of all my own story.

Sometimes I will, because that’s important to me. But it’s also important to remember that it’s OK to step away, process our thoughts and feelings, support activists and campaigns in whatever way we want or need to, but speak only if and when it feels right.

And the most important part of that is when it comes to telling your own story. The groundswell of support for #metoo is amazing, and it’s been a wonderful thing for women everywhere to know that we’re not alone in our experiences. But your story is your own, and you do not owe that to anyone.

In fact in this time of reiterating boundaries and settling for nothing less than what’s right for us, the only person you owe anything at all to is yourself.

And what you owe? To take care. Because it’s that attitude of remembering how important we are and honouring our own needs, whatever they may be, which will truly change the world step by step.

#equality #progress #balance #mentalhealth #tribe #support #soulsupport #thepast #feminism #counselling #change #stress #news #pain #selflove