If you don’t know yet, Monica Lewinsky has gone public with a Ted Talk. It is well worth seeing because she does what I’ve been inviting you to do:
Stop listening to your girly thoughts; that toxic inner dialogue that blames you for anything that goes wrong in your life.
She talks about being young and in love, and not making the greatest decisions at age twenty-two. She is tired of being vilified. She is claiming her power to tell her story, something I want to encourage you to do as well, as I share one of my own.
Which one of us hasn’t wished we’d made a different decision at some time in our lives? A decision that, if circumstances had been different, if you knew then what you know now, if you were the person then that you are now, you would take back in a heartbeat.
I know I have. In a time before sexual harassment at work was a concept, when I was a young mother living in a rural community with few jobs, I too lived through a time when I was held up to public rebuke. I had a high position in a very politically divisive work environment, in which I was blamed for virtually everything that happened, including all those areas over which I had no control. I was a psychologist and an author. I had run a division of the federal government, for goodness sake! I was hired as a star, and surely stars have special powers, don’t they?
I had one ally, a man who had more real power than I did. He was supportive, a great tactician . . . and very attracted to me. Yes, he was very helpful, but he wanted more in return than I was willing to give. When I’d confront him, he’d say: “You’re just so luscious, I can’t control myself.”
So I was the problem. What could I do? I wore more layers of clothing, no makeup, but I was who I was, and I felt I was in a no-win situation.
Making Peace with Your Story
That was the dance we did. Yes, I was dependent on him; I tried to maximize his positives to save my job, as I ran—literally—from another of his qualities.
Was this the first time I did this dance, this bonding with an abuser?
No. For some of us from troubled childhoods, this is a life script learned early and repeated often. We learn to depend on those who extract a very high price for us needing them. The good news is that we can change this dynamic by consciously acknowledging what we are doing, how we are feeling, and embracing our strengths.
Making Peace with Those Who Judge Us
By now, some of you reading this will be judging me, thinking surely I had other options than to endure this. But others of you have been in similar situations, situations you felt you needed to endure, and you know that sometimes we just don’t see the options.
We are all Monicas in some way. We’ve all made decisions we later regret. And we can all do what she is doing: we can know and share our real story.
Beginning today, the important thing is to stop blaming yourself.
Yes, stop those girly thoughts that hold you, instead of the other person, responsible. For me, this involved finally sharing the situation with my husband, letting him know what had happened and giving myself a break by reassuring myself that I did the best I could.
I’m not victim. I have power.
Four Ways to Correct Your Story
How to do this?
- Acknowledge how you have been seen, blamed, and misunderstood, which was not true, and understand how you blamed yourself for something that wasn’t your fault.
- Claim your truth.
- Decide if you want to share it, and how—merely by acknowledging some truths, you set yourself free, but others you may want to consider how to share.
- Notice and embrace how stating your truth makes you feel.
And let me know how this feels.
We are not victims. We have power.
Let’s stop blaming ourselves! Let’s correct our stories.
You’ll find more ideas for getting rid of your negative self-talk in my latest book, Girly Thoughts 10-Day Detox Plan: The Resilient Woman’s Guide to Saying NO to Negative Self-Talk and YES to Personal Power
Patricia A. O'Gorman, Ph.D., is a psychologist in private practice. She is noted for her work on women, trauma, and substance abuse and for her warm, inspiring, and amusing presentations that make complex issues accessible and even fun. She has served as a consultant to organizations across the country in preventative and clinical strategic planning. Dr. O'Gorman is a cofounder of the National Association for Children of Alcoholics, and she has held positions ranging from director of a rape crisis center to clinical director of a child welfare agency, and director of the division of prevention for the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). She is a veteran of numerous television appearances, including Good Morning America, Today, and AM Sunday and is the author of eight books including: The Girly Thoughts 10 Day Detox Plan (2014), The Resilient Woman: Mastering the 7 Steps to Personal Power (2013), and Healing Trauma Through Self-Parenting (2012) 12 Steps to Self-Parenting.