I’ve always tried to look for the silver lining or tried to recognize that there is a purpose to all life’s events. I’m one of those “everything happens for a reason” people. As I forge ahead in my new career, happier than ever, I’ve been able to do some reflecting on three defining moments that caused me to learn tough lessons about trust and compassion. These three experiences allowed people to take advantage of my kindness, fear, or ignorance.
This is not a debbie-downer post but more a cautionary tale that I wish I could have read for myself 20 years ago. Would I have even listened to my older self? Probably not. Hopefully someone out there is much wiser at that age than I was.
I was a young fool in love as we all once were. A personal relationship had turned sour and it was time to divide our life in half and split the items and beautiful dog we acquired together. I intended on spending my life with this person, and while his actions caused great pain toward the end, I never thought that my kindness would be taken for granted. Through the belief that everyone’s best interest was being considered, I was left stunned by the constant tricks as well as the financial and emotional toll that took place.
What I learned
Kindness is a wonderful gift, and there’s never enough of it in our world. While we cannot control what others will do with our gifts, we can walk into situations and relationships with our eyes wide open. Had I taken my romantic hat off, I would have been able to protect myself and possibly prevent some of the turmoil that lasted longer than the relationship itself. Luckily, I didn’t swear off romance and found the loving and lasting partnership I deserved.
Even as I reflect back on this instance that took place 11 years ago, my chest tightens, my eyes water, and I feel that fear all over again. I entered the workforce with an understanding that sexual harassment was tolerated, widely popular, and accepted. This was just the way things were. I did what a lot of other young women did at that time – kept my mouth shut. In fact, a group of us kept our mouths shut until many moons later, someone spoke. Once it was discovered by multiple parties, we were forced to tell the story we swore we’d keep. Rather than being protected or cared for, we were used as pawns in a greater game for men to become more powerful and wealthy.
What I learned…
Fear is our early warning sign that something is wrong or danger could be ahead. When we allow this to cloud our judgement, the environment becomes ripe for others to take advantage. Sometimes, it prevents us from having the courage to stand up for what’s right. The man in charge of HR and this operation set himself up for success, and I’m sure he doesn’t think twice about how he badgered us and forced us to sign paperwork without proper explanation. Had I consulted with someone outside the organization and not let my fear overtake me, I would have had more clarity on the situation and had someone who was in my corner to protect me.
This final lesson came as I reflected on organizations who say they have your back. They are there to celebrate your achievements, support you in times of turmoil, and look out for your best interest. It felt that way – until your best interest conflicted with theirs. I’m almost embarrassed to admit that at such a seasoned time in my career, I was taken for a fool when it was time to part ways. As you become worried about your future and how you’ll support your family, any money thrown your way is a relief.
What I learned…
Ignorance can be bliss in that sometimes, we don’t need to take on the problems of the world. Everyone longs for relationships and environments that add value to our lives. Sometimes, however, the image that is portrayed doesn’t match the true values held inside. Had I just inquired about the possibilities and not taken their word for face value, I could have gained more in the end.
I hope you’re seeing a theme here. It was just recently that I noticed this pattern of leading with my emotions and trusting individuals who I thought cared for my wellbeing. The lesson is not to be skeptical of everyone, fearful of tough situations, or cynical about executive staff. In addition, it’s hard to remember each of these situations without being self-deprecating. Why didn’t I know? Why didn’t I see it? Why didn’t I just think about it for more than a moment?
The takeaway is to just be inquisitive. Ask questions. In these moments, it’s important to sit back, reflect on situations as they happen, and seek advice when you need it.