Until a few years ago the expression “having a thick skin” was pretty foreign to me; but that’s exactly what I grew in order to battle through two of the most trying years of my life – a season that taught me how to discover my true voice and stand up for what’s right even when it’s hard to do. Living through sexual harassment isn’t what I expected when I took on a new job – and certainly not what I asked for – but like so many of life’s trials, it changed me for the better.
I don’t often share this story – as it’s quite personal. But the truth is, our stories are meant to be shared. They enlighten us, inspire others, and sometimes change lives. When I was faced with a workplace bully, I had a choice – quit and walk way…or use my voice to stop what had been taking place long before I even started there and hopefully make a difference. It required some introspection – did I have the strength? the support system? – and most importantly, could I really just walk away and leave a festering situation? My decision was clear. I simply couldn’t leave things as they were, knowing that patterns would continue and others would be hurt. But I also wondered, with a long-time pattern in motion, how was I supposed to make a difference?
I won’t glorify it and tell you it was easy. In fact, it was the hardest thing I ever did, and so many times I wanted to give up. But I drew strength from my amazing family and kept listening to the voice inside of me that became louder as I fought the process. And I’m so thankful to share that it indeed made all the difference! The perpetrator was finally held accountable and let go – and more importantly, policies were changed to stop the same thing from happening again. My thick skin you ask? Well, it still hangs in my closest, pulled out from time to time when I need it. But my inner strength has never faded – I wear it well in fact; and my heart sored the day my perpetrator’s predecessor heard my story and responded by telling me “that’s leadership.” I went on to work for that organization for several more years; and when I left, I did so knowing that I made a difference and that one voice can truly change everything.