“You will do as I ask”, he barked whilst menacingly brandishing his gun, “or else I will kill you”.
Even though it was a beautiful sunny day, inside me it felt like a snowy, treacherous, angry storm.
I was only 13 years old. This big person was forcing me to do something against my will in order to appease his own sick fantasy. What was I to do? I visualised all the protective techniques available to me so that I could defend myself from this monster. None of these helped me against a crazed man who was hell bent on my destruction. I hated every second of what happened next.....
That incident stuck with me and with it began a very painful time in my life. For the next few years, I hated and was weary of all men and boys. Slowly however, I began to notice trends amongst the people of the opposite sex. Not all men were bad and wanted the same thing. Not all men or boys wanted to be with me with the sole intention of using me or my body. Not all men were like the monster who had forced himself on me.
Over the next two years, I experienced highs and lows, moments of uncertainty, untold anger against mankind, a lack of self confidence and mistrust of everybody, regardless of who they were. I began to stereotype all men whom I came into contact with, and mis-interpreted their sincere emotions as excuses for them to take advantage of me.
I found myself not trusting my instincts. I fell into “Goafer” mode. In order to suppress the craving for stability, love and trust that I so desperately sought, I would do everything anyone asked me to. “Run to the shop and get me some sweets”, somebody would shout. Immediately, I would drop everything and do their bidding. “Shine my shoes, do my homework, clean the dusters, fetch this....fetch that.....” As the requests arrived, so too did I race off to complete them, hoping that someone would tell me how good I was, and how much I deserved to be loved and appreciated.
Little did I know, that kids between the ages of 13 - 15 had their own problems, and also needed approval and generally had low self esteems and lack of confidence. Nobody was particularly interested in boosting my confidence, or help me search for solutions to my problems.
One fine, beautiful day, as I walked toward the tuckshop, my imagination creating exciting images in my mind, I vaguely heard someone scream to get my attention. I turned slowly to gauge where the sound was coming from. Shocked out of my reverie, I looked at the speaker and her groupies surrounding her, mocking me with their,‘You are not fit for anything good’, kind of look.
“Get me a cold coke, NOW!!!!” she demanded, much to the great delight of all listening.
Hateful images flashed through my mind, pain gripped my heart, painful memories ripped through my body and suddenly, I had a distinct urge to hit her. Barely controlling all my suppressed anger, frustration and hurt of the past, I lunged at her with frightening speed. She never knew what hit her that day.
I verbally blasted her about the injustices of bullying, of being taken advantage of all the time and the for whole world’s lack of consideration for people who were quiet, and unassuming. I lambasted her for unashamedly using people to get her what she wanted, and never giving anything back or even saying thank you. I screamed at her for not acknowledging people as human beings, because they did not have the money, expensive clothes or even fancy things to show off with.
When I walked off, I felt like a new person. I knew instinctively that this was my “Turning Point”. I never ever let anyone dictate to me again. I learnt that my actions were a result of my own behaviours. I understood then, that no-one can tell me what to do or force me to do anything. I also realised that not all people were bad. There were only a few bad apples and that did not spoil an entire orchard of pure goodness. All I had to do was Choose!
So from that day on, I chose to become authentic to myself. I stood up for myself and stood up to be counted. I refused to let opportunity pass me by. I volunteered to do the things which made me a better person, never those which degraded me. I learnt that the only person who could really give me the love and acceptance that I craved, was Me! I had to be happy with me, before other people could love me. I loved Me for who I was!
I forgave myself and all of mankind for what happened to me, because at the end of the day, one incident does not define who I am and who I will be for the rest of my life!
Inner strength is prevalent in everyone. The trick is to access it, wield it and all its power to achieve all that your heart desires. Inner strength is knowing forgiveness for all of life’s imperfections, accepting that people are human and prone to making mistakes, and that what we put out is what we get back.
I used my “incident” to humble myself and be more empathetic towards all that I met. I also found that every person harbours an incident/s which defines how they react or open up to people. I must never assume that people know what I have been through. In the same way that I must never assume that they have had perfect lives.
After all, as Eleanor Roosevelt so elegantly put it, “Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent!” And I will never give my consent!
31 January 2005