Two years ago, I wrote and performed a piece called ‘Have Faith’, a poem that speaks to the struggles I – and many others – face as women. A year ago, I shared my experience about sexual harassment inside and outside the workplace, something extremely difficult for me to do given the potential cultural, social and career repercussions.
Today, I am confident that sharing these stories was the right thing to do.
I’ve been overwhelmed by the support, both private and public, for what I’ve shared. It was only in sharing that I found out I was not ‘alone’. Many friends, family and strangers contacted me with their own stories and experiences. My fears about career prospects were alleviated when concerned colleagues supported me and stood by me as I took time off to process what I had gone through. My workplace had the right culture to offer support and this experience has in no way held back my career progression.
After I performed Have Faith as part of Multicultural Arts Victoria’s Common Ground, I got a message from Ava Senaratne thanking me for my poem which deeply resonated with her. Fast forward two years, Ava is now my editor at TCK Town and a very good friend of mine. We have overcome many challenges I yearned to transcend in the poem. We inspire each other daily to persevere and reach our full potentials, both professionally and personally. It is because of her that I felt confident enough to pitch articles and share my ideas of what being a feminist really means to me (to be published in the upcoming mini TCK Town – stay tuned!).
Last week, a friend I hadn’t spoken to in a while contacted me, reaching out as she was facing a similar sexual harassment experience of her own. She was feeling overwhelmed and felt I might be able to help. I was gobsmacked; if I had not shared my experience a year ago, she would never have realised she had an ally in me who was able to give her advice based on actual experience and understanding. I felt so happy to be able to meaningfully help in a horrible situation. She is now armed with the right knowledge and support to challenge her harasser, and I cannot be prouder and more awed by her courage.
These are just two examples among many where I have found sharing the not-so-good parts of my life has helped myself and others around me overcome some pretty crappy situations.
Don’t get me wrong – in a culture of over-sharing, I am not advocating that every story needs to be shared or that it is always appropriate to do so. I also realise in some workplaces, particularly ones with small circles, it is difficult to ‘rock the boat’.
What I am asking is for you to consider whether your experience may help just oneperson, and if yes, would you be comfortable and confident enough to do so in a way that helps rather than hinders the abilities of others to overcome that experience. If you are scared of the reaction in your workplace, then in an age of open borders and increased online interactions, is it the right one for you?
Because you never know. Years down the track, someone might reach out over what you’ve shared, and you will be that one person who is able to help.
Photo credit: Vessels Ministry
Originally published on LinkedIn.