Last Friday, I was invited to speak on a panel at a Women's Leadership Summit just down the road from where I live in Korea at a university where I used to teach for a semester. Looking out on the audience from the panel, I was struck by what an incredibly diverse crowd it was: female foreign dignitaries, Korean women, Asian women, African women in brightly hued traditional dress, and a handful of men. The panel I was on consisted of a woman from Ghana, an Indian woman, a Korean-American woman and me. Throughout the Summit we talked about our own journeys and how we were able to get to where we were. One question from a male audience member struck me: "How do we work WITH women? I mean, I have not had any training on this or seen anything like this at my company..."
DON'T BE AN UNDERESTIMATE(HER)
A fellow panel speaker and woman I deeply admire in the community here talked about how she had gone from being in her words, "A lawyer on Capitol Hill in D.C. to Darren's wife and Natasha and Logan's mother here in Korea." She further went on to say that people underestimated her when she first started out as a lawyer because she was younger, a woman, and shorter. She didn't care, because she said she just worked extra hard to prove herself. It made me think of my time at Yonsei, writing a book, heck every time I go speak at a conference. Then I realized it was something that I actually did all the time. Not just to women, but to young people, old people, and yes even the woman who had organized the entire Summit and Gala where I was speaking. Holy cow.
BE AN ACCEPT(HER)
This has got to be one of the most challenging things for me to do WITH myself. Most recently, a great self-accepting exercise has been to record my audio book. Not only do I have to listen to myself, but I have to record my own voice reading my own thoughts. What I've realized though in all of this is the more self-acceptance I have, the greater my acceptance is of others, regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, and religion.
BE A MOTIVATE(HER)
I get this question a lot from people who come to my workshops: How do you stay motivated? Listening to countless women on panels overcome significant struggles not just in their home countries, but in different countries they had lived in, it struck me that they were all internally motivated and driven. That's what got them through. So perhaps motivation is more about looking WITHin as opposed to externally. And then when you share your story WITH others, it is all the more motivating.
BE AN INSPIRE(HER)
As with acceptance and motivation, I think inspiration comes from WITHin first. If you think about a time in your life when you wished you were where you are now, you will be inspired. I know. You may have to read that sentence again (!). Once you're solid WITHin then it radiates out to others. At the gala, several young Korean women came up to me and told me how inspired they were with what I had to say. What I wanted to tell them was it has taken me almost my whole life (and is still a work-in-progress) to stay true to myself, be myself, and be WITH myself.
BE A COMPLIMENT(HER)
From ball gowns to bad-assery, I complimented women I met that day at the summit and later at the gala. One woman had come in from Belgium and made home-cooked African food, another woman had designed and made the cake, women had gone from boardroom to gala chic within the blink of an eye, and what they had accomplished along their life journeys was astounding. Here's the one caveat to the complimenting: make sure they actually accept the compliment and therefore accept themselves and you in the process.
BE A SUPPORT(HER)
Sometimes all it takes is a hug, a pat on the back, a nod, a word of encouragement. During our panel, we talked about how sometimes women compete with each other because there are so few positions at the top. I found this early on in my career in my 20s, but speaking at global women's conferences, I have definitely not found this to be true anymore. I have had women support the heck out of me after just a 5-minute conversation, and I have tried to do the same for other women. A recent Forbes article proves that women who help other women are actually more successful. What?!
*Dedicated to + Inspired WITH all of the women at the Women's Leadership Summit + Gala. May you continue to create change WITH women + men*
As we danced to the music, I looked out at the women: they may have looked different on the outside, they may have had different experiences in life, but what brought us together last night was our calling to EMPIRE (EMpower + insPIRE).
Allow me to explain.
A few months ago, at one of my Happiness Workshops, I met a fellow Happiness + Success Coach named Dom. She had arrived in Seoul just a few short months ago, but was bursting with energy and excitement to create change in the burgeoning coaching space in Korea.
I thought this could play out one of two ways: 1) I could wish her well and see her as "competition;" or 2) I could collaborate WITH her, EMPIRE her, in the way I wish I had had a mentor in Korea when I first started.
I chose the latter.
On the phone before the workshop, she was her usual effervescent self:
"Kyla!! Are you excited? How are you feeling?"
"Yeah, I am feeling pumped!"
"Hey, let's come up with like a slogan or something we say before we do our workshops!"
"Ok...what did you have in mind?"
"You know...maybe we could combine EMPOWER + INSPIRE"
Silence as we were both in deep thought.
"How about EMPIRE!!" Dom shrieked excitedly.
At our very first W.E. (Women Empowering) Women Workshop last night, we were living and breathing what we had wanted to create for the women who attended the workshop: we trusted each other, we respected each other, we gave each other the space to EMPIRE, and we were ourselves.
After the workshop, two good friends commented, "It was so smooth. You guys worked so well together." Another workshop participant was surprised to learn that Dom and I had met just months ago. She thought we had been friends for years because of our rapport.
Over lamb BBQ dinner, Dom and I talked about the highlights of the workshop:
A friend who had come even texted me this after the workshop:
"Thank you for an empowering and brilliant workshop. I am so happy I came. It was a really wonderful, insightful, positive, and nurturing workshop. Loved absolutely every minute of it. And you were just so amazing and fantastic. Keep on moving forward!!! You are a superstar and my inspiration."
On the walk from dinner to Starbucks, I felt relieved. It was as if I had been one of the participants. I had struggled alone to create change in Korea. It was as if I had been facing my own judgment within. It was as if I had needed that EMPIREment just as much as they did. And I finally had a partner-in-EMPIREment in Dom.
Waiting for a taxi near some corporate buildings, Dom dropped the last EMPIRE bomb of the night:
"Kyla, what is it that YOU really want to do? I mean, I am grateful that I get to work WITH you, and you EMPIRE the heck out of me, and I wanna be like you in a few years, but what really gets YOU pumped up and how can YOU level up?"
I was stunned. I mean, hadn't we just walked out of an awesome collaborative workshop? You know, like that music video where Taylor Swift has all of her besties star in? Bad Blood? Where they walk out and their hair is blowing, their skin is glowing, and they just blew up a building...
I blinked to buy myself some time. She smiled as she always did, excited about my response.
"Well...I have this thing that I wrote on this long piece of paper covering the desk in my bedroom...it's just three words: travel, speak, inspire->empire..."
"Then do it! Make it happen, Kyla. You can do it. Level up!"
And just like that, when you think you have empired someone, they empire you back.
EMPIRE strikes back.
Thanks, Dom and all of the amazing women who helped EMPIRE us last night.
Last week, I wrote a letter to all men in the form of a blog post. If you haven't read it, feel free to check it out here.
In light of the Dr. Ford case and its verdict, I thought I would write a letter to all women, something I haven't seen out there. So here goes.
First and foremost, I adore you. Life begins WITH you. I am empowered by you, WITH you, no matter where you are from, no matter what experience you have had, and no matter what anyone else says. I just love being around you and your energy.
WOMEN WITH BOUNDARIES
Don't get me wrong. I love Doctors WITHOUT Borders, Teachers WITHOUT Borders, and any other organization WITHOUT Borders. I've coached a bunch of women who begin with, "Well, I just ended up saying yes to this person/situation/event and now I am super stressed out." It's like that nagging thread on a sweater. You think if you just pull it a little, it will come off, but actually what ends up happening (or at least to me) is that it just unravels even more, and before you know it you're walking your sweater to the tailor. Beyond your sweater that needs to be taken to the tailor, the result of not drawing boundaries is a total burn out, which is no bueno. So rather than going beyond your boundaries, if you create them WITH people, you may just be pleasantly surprised that they respect you MORE not less, and you'll have a lot less sweaters to take to the tailors!
SPEAK YOUR TRUTH
One particular session with my life coach, I lamented, "My friend is making me feel bad..." She asked a few coachy questions and then she asked the question that now plays in my head like a repeat song that won't stop: "Why don't you speak your truth and just tell her how she is making you feel?" I thought of a long list of excuses, you know, kind of like Taylor Swift's "long-list of ex-lovers": She would hate me forever, she would never talk to me again, she would hang up the phone, and the list went on.
Don't worry, I did speak my truth, and none of those things came to pass. In fact, I think our friendship is only stronger for it.
I think it takes practice though. We are taught to accept the unacceptable, keep quiet and look pretty, don't disturb the peace from a young age. So what I often tell clients, and what I do myself is I start SPEAKING MY TRUTH to people in customer service: Yesterday afternoon I was in a taxi and needed to go pee really badly. I knew it would be a pain for the driver to pull over, I didn't want to inconvenience him, but I decided to SPEAK MY TRUTH and he obliged by pulling over at a hotel. *Phew, crisis avoided.* You'll find once you get going that speaking your truth isn't all that bad, especially when you realize if you don't, it could escalate into a UTI! TMI?!
SAY THANK YOU
Last night, at a women's networking event, (the second I have put together since starting at WeWork), I noticed when I would do my usual Kyla-Goes-PR-Mode of introducing women I already knew to other women something like, "Oh this woman Gigi is such a badass, she has her own company," the woman I was complimenting would shrink down. Inevitably the response would be, "Oh, I am just a one-woman company," "Oh, I haven't really started it yet," or nervous laughter. One woman had a single out on iTunes, which caused quite the stir (in addition to her many other accomplishments), so we attempted to listen to it on someone's iphone. The songstress/fementrepreneur literally turned around and covered her ears. Ok, before you say anything, I'm not saying you have to be that Cocky asshole who says, "Yes, I am the best X in the world," but remember when you discount what you're doing you invalidate yourself. So just say "thank you." And if you need a little gentle reminder/good chuckle, check out Amy Schumer's hilarious parody of all of this on YouTube.
SORRY -> THANK YOU FOR YOUR PATIENCE
When I lived in Japan for three years, I felt like I was apologizing for everything: things that were not my fault, things that were beyond my control, for being single, not Japanese enough, for being too early to an event, and the list goes on. When I studied abroad in China, one of my best friends was Japanese. When we were getting off a public bus, the bus door slammed in her face, and she apologized. Meanwhile, the bus driver scolded her and told her she should have gotten off the bus quicker. Wait, whaaaatt?! Last night at that women's networking event, a woman showed up and apologized for not having dressed up enough, another woman apologized for not bringing snacks (even though that wasn't a requirement), and I found myself apologizing for seemingly interrupting a conversation. To break out of this Sorry Syndrome, how about replacing your Sorrys WITH "Thank you for your patience" instead?
YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL
I'm about to give you some shocking statistics. Are you sitting down? Maybe grab a cup of coffee/tea before reading on. In a Dove global study of beauty it was revealed:
YOU'RE NOT ALONE
When I began talking about my depression after my mom's dementia diagnosis, I was so terrified at being judged. What I found instead was a bunch of women in my amazing community here in Songdo who reached out to me, came over and talked WITH me over tea, shared their own stories of depression, and continue to support the heck out of me.
You know how we idolize celebrities? Well, recently, Gisele Bundchen was asked by her son, "What is a celebrity?" She answered that they are no different from others, but they just live their lives more publicly. Yes, and they struggle with the same challenges we do. Can you imagine the highest paid super model in the world would struggle with mental health issues and even contemplate suicide? I know, let that sink in a second.
She even recently wrote a book about it all: Lessons: My Path to a Meaningful Life. And of course, because she is so awesome, she is donating all proceeds from the book to a charity. In an interview on Good Morning America she cries talking about that moment she was out on her balcony contemplating suicide. If you need even more evidence that you're not alone, two journalists wrote this book called The Confidence Code. They revealed that the likes of Hillary Clinton, Sheryl Sandberg, and other global leaders also self-doubt just like us. WHAAAT?! I know. See? You're not alone.
DON'T PUT YOURSELF DOWN!
On a recent trip back to the U.S., I took a shuttle bus to the rental car center from the airport. Those shuttle buses--for those of you who have taken them--ain't the easiest things to board...especially with luggage. I recall this scene so vividly because this woman basically put herself down in such a dramatic and showy manner. I am sure, ironically, she didn't want to call any attention to herself at all. Once she boarded the bus, there was no more space for her suitcase in the luggage storage area; so her suitcase tipped over and she was at once mortified exclaiming, "Oh my gosh, I AM CLEARLY A HOT MESS!"
I can assure you, nobody was even thinking that. Well, nobody these days cares much about what anybody else around them is doing. I mean, she could have been doing a little song and dance for all anybody knew. Except as you can probably guess, everyone was preoccupied with their phones. So the next time your suitcase falls or something happens, rather than putting yourself down, just walk away calmly and smile remembering that we are all imperfect humans. Oh and do a song and dance, why not?!
If you've made it to the end of this letter, thank you--thank you for your patience (I won't apologize for writing a long blog post). And if you could pass this along to a woman you adore, then we have done something great together. We have created an incredible movement of women who support each other, work WITH each other, lift each other up, and help each other create those much-needed boundaries.
Oh and don't forget, YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL!
Wishing you Happiness,
I've never been a guy's girl. You know, the kind who will go to a sporting event with the team's jersey, drink beer, and yell in support. Once in grad school, with my friend Christy, after the Red Socks won the World Series, we were wondering what all of the fuss was about.
Yeah, we called ourselves Fake Fans. A high school friend of mine even bought me a Red Socks visor for fear I would get in trouble for not having any Red Socks gear during my time in Boston.
I've never really had a ton of guy friends. At my wedding, a few years ago, I remember looking around thinking wow, there's only one guy friend on my side. The rest were on my hubby's side.
I've always been a feminist: I grew up in a household that whatever a boy could do, a girl could do as well. That was just that. My mom was a working mom, my dad was a working dad, and when my mom went to work, my maternal grandma came from Singapore to live with us and take care of us in Hong Kong. My paternal grandma was the bread winner, supporting my grandpa (who was a gardener/painter) as a real estate agent retiring at the age of 72. My maternal grandma was the only one of her four sisters to fight for and get a high school education.
My dad now in his 70s cooks, cleans, and takes care of my mom who has early onset dementia. For her birthday, he made her a woodwork replica of her grandfather's 1940s Packard car with the license plate "DAISY" on the front (!).
In that bubble I grew up.
I have wanted to write a letter to men for a while now. Even my editor thought I should include a letter to men in my book, but I don't think I was quite ready to write one. Perhaps I was scared, nervous, worried about being judged?
Then I realized, I had to take my own advice that I give fellow fementrepreneurs:
SPEAK YOUR TRUTH!
So here goes:
Let me preface this letter with: We need you. We need you to move forward WITH us. We need you to create change. We need you to work WITH us.
EMPATHY > EGO
Sometimes when I walk home alone late at night, I tend to look over my shoulder more often. I quicken my pace, my heart beats faster, and I put my iphone away so I can be aware of my surroundings. I cannot assume that you have never had that experience, but perhaps you have come close? Well, that is how most of my female friends and I feel on a regular basis. We just ask that you empathize WITH us a little bit.
I think a lot of what happens when we are blamed for something is our EGO steps in: "Hey, I didn't do anything, I'm innocent!" I wonder if rather than REACTING to what our ego says, if we all actually took a mindful breath, and RESPONDED WITH empathy instead how that would look?
We might actually be able to move beyond the WHAT to the WHY and more importantly HOW to move forward WITH solutions.
A few months ago, I was having a lunch meeting with the then WeWork Community Manager of Gangnam Station and some of the other Community Associates, as it was his last week there. We started talking about hobbies:
Male Staff: Oh, I enjoy going to hotels and eating good food.
Another Male Staff: Haha. Do you go with HER?! (Pointing to female staff who looks bewildered and embarrassed)
Community Manager: Don't say that. You can't say that. That is considered Sexual Harassment.
And with that, the male staff who had inadvertently dropped a sexual harassment bomb stopped. I also stopped in my thought tracks, because this had never happened to me in all of my 8 years in Korea. I wanted to jump up and give the Community Manager a huge hug, but thought that might not be appropriate (given he had just called out sexual harassment) so I sent him a gratitude email instead. Sometimes in the moment, when a comment is made, or an inappropriate action is made, we women FREEZE. If you see that, please help to say something.
You may just save a woman's life.
A lot of what has been said about the #MeToo Movement and the recent Dr. Ford case have been in defense pessimism: #NotAllMen #BelieveWomen. This assumes we don't believe women and that not all men are well, you-know-whats. And although both may be true, how helpful are the hashtags to moving forward? What if we reframed all of this. Cue Science of Happiness music. What if we could inspire greatness in ourselves and each other? What if we could create change both WITHin first and then WITH others?
We could change those hashtags to #InspireGreatnessTogether #MenAndWomenTogether
What if we could sit down and have a hard conversation about:
BE A MIRROR and REMIND HER
Early on in our relationship, I would complain to my hubby about how I felt chub or I would put myself down/self-doubt; I would not take his compliments when he called me "beautiful." So one night he sat me down and said,
"Honey, I honestly mean it when I say all those things--I'm not just trying to flatter you. You're a badass. Stop putting yourself down."
I remember crying because I was so touched. Then he said something else:
"The focus of your work, your book should not be me. It should be YOU."
Drop the hubby mic.
Thank you for reading this letter and for being willing to work WITH us women, empathize WITH us, stand up WITH us, inspire greatness WITH us, and be a mirror WITH us.
Wishing you Happiness,
*This blog post is dedicated to ALL men out there. I believe you will work WITH us to create much-needed change.*
DEAR FUTURE FEMENTREPRENEUR,
I have always wanted to start my own thing. Perhaps I was inspired by my mom who ran her own successful real estate company in Hong Kong for decades. Perhaps I was inspired by my paternal grandmother who survived the internment camps for Japanese-Americans during WWII, then went to night school, and became one of the most successful real estate agents in her area working into her 70s in LA.
Whatever the case, it was in my bones.
"How did you start your own thing," Andrea asked, in her thoughtful and curious manner. Andrea and Catrina and I had met in college. We had all been part of CORE (Community Outreach Effort), a group that volunteered at soup kitchens and helped the community at large. We had decided to spontaneously meet up in Denver for the weekend.
Lounging in the living room of an AirBnb, after getting spa pedicures, we chatted away about life, work, money, men, and everything in between. I thought about her question, deep into the night, and wanted to do it justice, as well as inspire her and Catrina to do their own thing.
Here's what I came up with.
1. Hit the PAUSE button
Ok, so I know not everyone has the freedom to hit that button whenever, but in whatever form that can take for you at the time in your life where you are, whether it is a weekend, an hour at a coffee shop a day, getting up a little bit earlier in the morning, create some space in your head to think about what it is YOU really want.
2. Align, align, align
So the question I get asked the most is "How are you so happy all the time?" Let's think about that question for a second: is anybody ever happy ALL the time? Ok, maybe the Dalai Lama, but other than him? Yeah, I don't think so. The question to ask is "How do you align your core values/purpose in life so much that you can live a balanced life?"
3. Reasons to not start your own thing -> Excuses -> Action Plan
When I was thinking about starting my own thing, I hired a life coach who was doing something similar to what I wanted to do. I thought I had come up with the perfect reasons as to why I shouldn't start my own thing: I am not good at numbers, my Korean is not fluent enough, I don't have business experience, and the list goes on. My life coach called me out on those reasons, and renamed them EXCUSES. Whoa. For every EXCUSE I had, she was like, "You can outsource that so you can be in your zone of genius (the stuff you're good at)." So turn those reasons into excuses, and then come up with an action plan of you how you're going to move forward with each one.
4. IT Savvy ≠ Business Savvy
I talk to a lot of women (including myself) who will say stuff like, "Oh, I don't know how to do X,Y, Z on a computer" or "I don't have tech skills, or social media skills..." I have definitely been there a time or two or gazillion. You know the AirBnb guys? Well, the original 2 founders were art students from RISD (The Rhode Island School of Design). They had absolutely no tech background whatsoever. And now AirBnb is a $30billion dollar company. What?!
5. Brainwash Yo'self
I grew up believing that I was not good enough. I went to Harvard. Not good enough. I won multiple teaching awards. Not good enough. And the cycle would inevitably repeat itself. On a call with my life coach one afternoon, I began crying. "What is that all about?" she asked in her usual tough love kind of way. "I have spent most of my 40 years on earth believing I am not good enough." Her advice? Brainwash yourself into believing that YOU ARE GOOD ENOUGH. Whether you recite positive affirmations, journal how awesome you are, ask others what you're good at, a great business starts with a greater mindset.
6. Cheerleading Squad
Do you ever have those moments where you think: OMG, what have I done? I have gone so far outside of my comfort zone, and I don't even know... I think FemEntrepreneurs have those moments all the time. After you've brainwashed yourself into believing you are good enough, and you still have some moments (because you're human) where you think something you've done is crazy, make sure you have a tribe of awesome cheerleaders around to cheer you on. Not in an externally validating kind of way, but in a supportive/empowering kind of way. YOU CAN DO IT!
I often look to co-interview inspiring individuals for my FriYAYs WITH Kyla FB live episodes. I am always super motivated after speaking WITH these individuals: stuff they have overcome, stuff they continue to do to create change within, and how giving they are to others as well as themselves. Recently I chatted with someone who had come to one of my Happiness Workshops. She was an incredibly inspiring individual: out of poverty, she had overcome a plethora of career challenges all with grace, humor, and compassion. I was completely inspired. Then I thought, inspiration isn't just one way. It's two way, but we can also INspire ourselves WITH ourselves. Is there anything you've done lately that's inspiring? It doesn't have to be anything big. And remember, even though you may not think this is happening, you may just be inspiring someone else around you just by being you!
8. Tough Times + Purpose = STRENGTH
I once met this Finnish woman who told me she was going to run across New Zealand to raise awareness of IPV (Interpersonal Violence). What?! Then something she said struck me even more, "My purpose is greater than me. My body is just a vessel to carry this purpose out." Whoa. In tough times, because being a fementrepreneur is not always about rainbows and flowers, when you think about your purpose, it will help you stay the course. No matter how tough it gets.
9. 60% it!
A while ago, I read research in Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In that stayed WITH me: women only apply for jobs when they meet 100% of the job qualifications whereas our male counterparts apply for jobs when they meet only 60% of the qualifications. We assumed it was due to a lack of confidence, but further research suggests that it is about our perception of rules around hiring. Check out the Harvard Business Review article here. Whatever the case, 60% it!
10. Be Shameless about Help
I hear a lot of FemEntrepreneurs say, "Oh, I don't know how to do this or that." Well, in addition to outsourcing stuff (from No.3), shamelessly ask for help from your mother, your brother, your mother's brother, your cat--you get the idea. But also, GIVE help out as well. Once you master something that could save a fellow FemEntrepreneur time/money/tears share that. You will be surprised at how awesome it feels, but also how much you will learn/grow once you teach something you already know!
And never forget: YOU ARE FUCKING AWESOME!
*Dedicated to + inspired by my college buddies Catrina + Andrea, FemEntrepreneurs in the making.*
Remember when you were younger, and you would love shouting out, "Me too, me three, me four!"? It gave you a sense of belonging. You fit in. You belonged in the world. And that bought you street cred on the playground.
Thanks in part to all of the women who have spoken out against Harvey Weinstein, and Alyssa Milano's #MeToo campaign, almost every single girlfriend of mine on Facebook has copy and pasted #MeToo. A male friend of mine, somewhat bewildered at just how pervasive sexual harassment/abuse seemed to be, commented on his Facebook that it would be helpful if people added a sentence or two about what they had experienced.
Easier said than done.
Let's just discuss some terminology briefly before moving on. In the media and most discussions surrounding any kind of violence against women, the words "victims" or "survivors" are often used. Having actually studied domestic violence and human trafficking at Harvard for my master's degree, I thought I was particularly progressive using the word "survivor." That is, until I met Emilia Lahti who will be running the length of New Zealand to raise awareness of Interpersonal Violence. She was recently awarded Finland's Young Person of the Year Award amongst her many, many accolades. Total badass. You can check her out here: https://www.emilialahti.com/. She recognizes herself as an "overcomer" of Interpersonal Violence and wants us human-beings all over the globe to change the way we see those who come out of Interpersonal Violence as people who have overcome something--something insurmountable.
So let's use the word Overcomer.
Those less sensitive to the plight of overcomers of sexual harassment/abuse questioned the women who came out decades later about Harvey Weinstein: "Why didn't the women come out back then? Why now?" We all know that back then, well, nobody would have listened and even if they did, facing a powerful tyrant like Weinstein, they would have lost their jobs. Furthermore even today, research has shown that 16% of overcomers who report abuse/harassment in the workplace felt that the situation actually got worse. 2/3 of women experience sexual harassment in the workplace. 80% actually reported it, and 3/4 of those who did said nothing really changed. Read more about it here: https://www.theguardian.com/film/2017/oct/10/why-did-no-one-speak-out-about-harvey-weinstein
Even when we come out more informally, to colleagues or friends, we may not get the reaction we expect or worse, well, you just feel worse. In a conversation with two good girlfriends of mine, we were bemoaning the Harvey Weinstein women and how they were judged for coming out all these years later. One of these two friends told us how she had been sexually harassed by a male co-worker, and how she had told some friends of hers soon after. One friend said, "It happens to me all the time." The other friend said, "But you are so high up in your company, how is that possible?" Neither response really made my friend feel any better about what had happened to her. At all.
So here is my #MeToo story that took place in China, almost a decade ago. It was 1999, and I was studying abroad in Beijing at the Beijing University. I had landed an internship at The China Travel Service (CTS), one of the largest government-run travel agencies at the time. My boss was a loud, impatient man who would throw phones (back then they were larger than they are today), yell when he didn't get his way, and it was rumored he became the boss because of who he knew, not how well he actually did his job.
One weekend, I was blissfully on my way home after a swim at the swimming pool (I had gleefully found in the same building as CTS), when I ran into my boss. Up until that point, I had always thought of him as a father figure. Ok, an angry and slightly aggressive father figure, but a father figure nonetheless. He asked me if I wanted to see our new office space on the first floor, so I thought Why not? And followed him naively to the first floor. It was a weekend so no one was around.
"I will miss you when you go back to your country," he said referring to the fact that my internship was ending and I would soon go back to the U.S.
"Yes, I will miss you too..."
Then before I knew it, he had lifted up my tank top, and started trying to feel up my breasts. I was stunned. I knew if I pissed him off, I may not get paid, I may end up in prison in China, and I don't even know how I would use my broken Mandarin skills to get myself out of any kind of crazy situation...My mind was racing a thousand miles a minute. I quickly grabbed his arm, and told him we should go downstairs to the lobby (knowing that there would be more people around). Fortunately, he agreed.
It took me months before I could even tell my close friends. I have not yet even told my parents about that incident. It's not something you can bring up easily in conversation. "Oh yeah, by the way, I was sexually assaulted by my boss...in China..."
But here is what I say. Why not create spaces (offline or online) where we CAN talk about this stuff without fear of judgment, shame, or rape/death threats, or alienation, or any of it? On that playground, where you can exclaim "ME TOO, ME THREE, ME FOUR!" without any kind of fear, just acceptance, let's create that playground space for adults to speak freely too. Let's create a place for overcomers to truly feel they can overcome anything.
Happiness coach, Theta Healer®, author, WITH Warrior in Chief <3