Perhaps, I have been too humble
TW/CW: Rape, Sexual Assault
It would be an understatement to say I have been getting on my own nerves lately. I have not been feeling my energy. It has felt desperate and sad, and irritating in the way I hope sand irritates an oyster’s flesh. I could not shake the feeling of trying to make peace with my circumstance and also absolutely hating every moment of it. I felt torn and tortured and when I feel that way, I turn to art. I was listening to Janet Mock’s Surpassing Certainty and the following excerpt stopped me in my tracks:
The remnants of that night never left me. By instinct, my thighs tightened for years every time a man hovered over me. To this day, anytime I pass a fragrance counter or a woman wearing Happy, I am taken right back to that bed on that snowy night. Anthony stripped me of the comfort I was just beginning to enjoy in my body. He reminded me — someone who had grown up with the Spice Girls and Destiny’s Child chanting "Girl Power" and "Independent Women"— that no matter how empowered I felt, I could still be disempowered, made small and vulnerable…I never thought that this would happen to me by a classmate, someone I knew, someone with whom I had already been intimate…Every once in a while, regret surfaced in the form of what-ifs and the dozens of different things I should’ve done. I blamed myself for being so needy, for seeking the company of another that night. I blamed myself for being too cheeky, too familiar, too comfortable. I blamed myself for not saying no loudly enough, for not deepening my voice in a commanding way. I blamed myself for pursuing my sweater on his bed. I blamed myself for not screaming, scratching, punching, kicking, resisting.
This ceaseless soliloquy made sleep impossible for the months that followed, and I retreated to long, hot, pitch-black showers, crying into the darkness, wringing myself out, clearing my mind and cleansing my body.
My body, no matter how much I grew to accept it, could be violated, I realized. No matter how much I learned to embrace it, it couldn’t always protect me from unyielding force.
We have continuity in our bodies, which hold experiences that never leave us, experiences our bodies conceal so we can keep going. They hold tightly to them — until we have confidence to trust our bodies again, to loosen their grasp. This relaxation never came to me. My body did not rest. It did not yield. It remained clenched for nearly all of my twenties.
I blamed myself for not saying “no” loudly enough. I echoed as I rewound the audible recording reciting the passage word for word right after the author. I blamed myself for being so needy and seeking the company of another that night. I repeated the sentence over and over again while a stream of hot salty tears filled my eyes and overflowed down my cheeks pooling in the crease of my cleavage. It was perhaps the first time I seriously considered that it wasn’t my fault for being lonely. Something about her words, saying them as my own, in my voice and with my own knowing released me of the guilt. It really and truly was not my fault. Even as I type those words, it brings me to tears. I did not know I did not believe that. I was unaware of how much I was carrying in terms of guilt for having made the wrong decision, for giving into to my emotional cravings, for ignoring intuition but the truth is, I could not have known what was going to happen that night. In our previous encounters, there was never anything remotely violent or aggressive, even with alcohol, even with loneliness. It happened, but it was not my fault.
Something about the release of that weight made me see things differently. Made me see myself differently.
I need to bet on myself. Now. Not when I feel comfortable with a couple of hundred dollars in the bank, not when I get a job that has dental benefits, not when a man tells me I’m beautiful, not when my mother tells me she is proud, NOW! I do not mean to dismiss those things, they are wonderful, but I do not want my self-appraisal to be contingent on things that are external to my own being. I, in and of my Self, am enough.
That said, I took my list of projects and I pushed forward. I decided that I was going to publish my book. Here, on my blog first, but only in part. I will release parts of it with fundraising goals to accompany the release of each portion. I get asked about “my book” so often, I pray that now I am surrendering to divine timing, this effort will be a productive one.
I also decided to move forward with accountability coaching. I want to take on a cohort of coaching clients for 6-week individual sessions that also have collective digital components. (Stay tuned for both of these in the next couple of weeks!)
I still want to do the podcast, and I still want to do Jamaica, but both can wait. I am letting spirit guide my decisions and listening to the vibrational energy around my each option prior to taking a step forward in its direction. Right now the energy is leading me towards writing. Towards using my voice and also towards coaching others to do the same, cultivating more empowered leaders.
Similarly, I have to know that everything I am leaving and letting go of served its purpose during my time fo survival, my time of humility, my time of feeling so very heavy. But the truth is, I am not heavy, I am light and the dark is afraid of me. I have no reason to be humble, I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I am divine, radiant, creative energy. I will no longer be staying in places and spaces that expect my best when only offering in return their bare minimum and calling it a learning experience. I am worth more. I am worthy of more. I am worthy of good things, I am a hard worker, I am capable and motivated and insightful. And most of all, I am tired of feeling I do not measure up when I know the ruler has no metrics for my magic.
I am not just tired, I refuse.
Just last night I wrote the following to a coworker of mine: I’m 35. And somewhere around 27 I really started to internalize that nobody was “thinking about me” so I needed to do what made my heart soar. I don’t mean that callously. I mean [that] no one was judging as harshly as I assumed they were. That was my own inner critic. I was completely unaware of how much pressure I put on myself until after I was sexually assaulted and I began suffering from anxiety and panic disorders as I was unable to compete with the old me. Now I truly can’t afford to harbor negative thoughts. I can’t hold cynicism or judgment or fear. I have to speak it so it dissipates. I have to reclaim my power by acknowledging it and reminding it that I am more powerful, more resilient, more stubborn lol. It’s daily practice. For me, writing it out is how I move forward. And it’s also been very lucrative in that some of my richest relationships were formed from storysharing.
This has always been my gift and it is here I will make a home and begin my second profession. Accepting my pivot and coming to the table believing myself the greatest at what I do. I am taking my cues from Shawn “I guess I got my swagger back” Carter. I am leaning into my Muhammad “Impossible is NOTHING” Ali. I am reveling in my Megan “Cocky as fuck, everything about me poppin” Thee Stallion. I’m feeling all Cardi “Look myself in the mirror, I say we gon' win, knock me down nine times but I get up ten” B.
And I don’t know if it’s the truth, but perhaps I’ve been too humble all along. Perhaps in my carrying the weight of responsibility for my assault I was stopping myself from manifesting the very best. I was energetically punishing myself and it wasn’t humility at all, it was punitive and prohibitive and for that, Jessica, I am so sorry.
I didn’t know. But I promise now that I am aware, I will work hard to continue the journey of forgiveness. I will work to change the narrative. I will work to internalize my brilliance and my light. I will do this as I pursue my creative endeavors and my audience, my clients will be endeared to my vulnerability. They will know that I am not helping them because I have all the answers, I am helping because I am another being on this journey who is willing and who is making themselves available because I am good at helping people see the best of themselves. I learned that lesson right here, in this space, in this mirror, with myself.
JESSICA WILLIAMS, PHD IS A STORYTELLER WITH A COMMITMENT TO INTERSECTIONAL SOCIAL JUSTICE, AUTHENTIC DEVELOPMENT, AND THE INCREASE OF LEADERSHIP CAPACITY. TO BOOK HER FOR WRITING, COACHING, FACILITATION OR SPEAKING ENGAGEMENTS, VISIT: WWW.JESSICAJAMESE.COM
You can also show support by SHARING this post on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook or Pinterest and/or sending a donation: