When I create a personalized career defense plan with my VIP clients, one of the most important steps we take is to map out the results they want to get and what they need to do to get those results. When mountain climbers plan a huge climb or when Olympic athletes train for a major competition, they know that mapping out their results not only means specifically envisioning what they want, but it also means training their minds to think like the person who got those results.
I hate all the garbage ideas that if people are homeless or poor or victims of crimes, they somehow did something wrong to deserve it or there is something wrong with them. I think you see this kind of fake “positive thinking” and “law of attraction” stuff in a lot of professional and spiritual settings, and it does nothing to help you change your situation – it just piles on a bunch of judgment and guilt on top of what you’re already experiencing.
Most women who have experienced harassment know this kind of blame all too well. We are assumed to be honest until we challenge a man in authority, and then our believability comes into question – suddenly it is like we are dirty and there is something wrong with us that created this other person’s bad behavior. People start telling us that they “believe” us as though that is a gift and the default would be to assume we are liars. This adds so much judgment on top of the fear you are already experiencing.
Jennifer Freyd, a professor at the University of Oregon, does research on the concept of “institutional betrayal,” which she defines as “wrongdoings perpetrated by an institution upon individuals dependent on that institution, including failure to prevent or respond supportively to wrongdoings by individuals (e.g. sexual assault) committed within the context of the institution.” For many of us, harassment itself is an experience of institutional betrayal if we experience it in a place we think is supposed to be safe. For example, when a man brags about his feminism and progressive politics and then turns around and harasses women, the hypocrisy can become a betrayal. Then, when we start to talk about the harassment, we often experience another level of betrayal when institutions and support people are not willing to become allies.
This can be genuinely devastating, and so nothing I am saying in here is meant to minimize that. I am saying all of this with the purpose of empowering you. Trying to spread some kind of positive, wishful thinking on top of that betrayal only makes us feel worse.
Managing your thinking is the key to that empowerment, though, and not in a fake way of forcing yourself to think things you don’t really believe are true. When I strategize with my clients, I help them map out their plan for the actions they want to take and the results they want to get. All of that starts with their thinking. If the only result you get from changing your thinking is to truly take back your power over your time and energy, that would be enough. But, what I often see, when my clients truly start to use this strategy to defend their careers and claim the work they love as their own, is that they are also able to make institutional and social change as well.
This is a selection from Career Defense 101: How to Stop Sexual Harassment Without Quitting Your Job. For a free copy of the book, visit www.CareerDefense101.com. Or you can purchase online via Amazon or Barnes & Noble (paperback $16.95, hardcover $24.95).