On "Me Too"

 
 

I shared my story many months ago, but in light of the recent “Me Too” hashtag, I felt called to both re-examine my own narrative and how it relates to my purpose in the world. I also had an experience of sexual exploitation, and similar to many others, was silent about it for years. So much of my work, both personally and professionally, is about using my experience as fuel to find and express my own voice, become the true leader of my life, and support other women to do the same.

When I was twenty years old, I worked as a model for a year in Israel. I was encouraged to pursue this work - I was beautiful, they told me, and I “had potential.” Despite the external validation, during this time, I felt a deep sadness and confusion on the inside. People often told me that I was hard to read, which, as I reflect on now, was because I didn’t know who I was and felt unsure of how to present myself to others. In rare moments when I could understand parts of myself, I simply chose not to listen. Instead of getting curious about the the emotions of my inner world, I pretended to not feel anything at all, to live in denial; so I was left with a sense of detachment and numbness to life.

A few months into working, I met an agent from Los Angeles who was thirteen years older than me. From the very moment I met him, he showered me with compliments and praise. Our relationship gradually built, until I found myself going out to visit him in LA, under the pretense that he would “support my career.” While out there, my naivete quickly caught up to me. He was not interested in supporting me in any way, or even in who I was. He was interested in my body and in taking advantage of my wide-eyed and trusting spirit. After three days of living with him, while in a state of both silence and fear, I had a complete breakdown; an explosion of emotion, where everything I had suppressed over the past six months came pouring out of me. I reached my threshold and had no idea how I got to where I was or how I let this man manipulate me; how I didn’t speak up for myself. I felt small and powerless; like a trapped little girl.

When I left LA, I entered an internal hibernation where I shut most everyone out and refused to talk about what happened to me. When people asked questions, I was evasive and terse in my responses. I denied what I had went through, and pretended that I was strong enough to get through it on my own. I chose to be silent myself because it felt safer than to be vocal.

Overtime, after deep processing and healing work, I entered a journey of unpacking this period of my life, determined to both understand what happened and how to move forward.

How had I reached a place where I couldn’t recognize myself? What were the beliefs I had about who I was that took me so far beyond my own boundaries? I knew in my heart I had so much more potential than the small, powerless girl in that bedroom who believed she wasn’t good enough, that she wasn’t pretty enough, or talented enough; who believed she would be seen as a failure if she stopped because it’s what all young models had to go through. I clung tightly to these beliefs for a long time, until life caught up to me and I finally pulled the trigger and said: NO MORE. I am done. I will not “stick this out;” I have nothing to prove to anyone. I will not follow this path or this man. I will find my own way, create my own path, and be the leader of my own life. I will find my voice and NEVER again allow someone else to speak for me.

In order to do this, I needed to learn about who I really was so that I would never again find myself in a situation where I was a victim to life. I needed to learn about my passions, wildest dreams, and paralyzing fears; who I was without the influence of others and as the true leader of my own life. I made it my mission to carefully rebuild myself from the inside out and began a journey of self exploration through yoga, coaching, and traveling.

Overtime, through hard and fulfilling self work, I started to uncover my own values and reveal the inner voices that lay buried deep inside of me. I developed more clarity on what I wanted out of life and how to go about getting it. I started to become my own best friend and found my own voice. I gradually bloomed into the confident, independent, female leader that I am today, with a deep trust in myself and my capabilities - something that feels invaluable; like a precious gift.

Regardless of how far I’ve come, or how far I go, I will always be a lifelong student of what it means to be comfortable with who I am. It doesn’t matter how confident I become - I am constantly revealing new parts of myself and shaking up the inner waters. The difference now is I have a solid base. Even when my identity is questioned, I have a strong foundation on which to fall back. I have the inner knowing that I can make it through anything.

My experience from silence and powerlessness to discovering what it means to feel comfortable in who I am, to be the leader of my own life, has inspired me to support other women as they begin their journeys of finding their own way in this world. My hope is that as women, we each find our own authentic self expression and grow unconditionally comfortable in all the layers of who we are, for the sake of unlocking and unleashing our highest potential. I am committed to  empowering women with the confidence and tools so that they never find themselves feeling small and silenced in the same dark room I ended up in; so that they are equipped to speak their truth, to express their independence, and share their voice with the world. So that as women, we can be the leaders of our own lives. So that life doesn’t happen to us; it happens for us.

Talia GutinComment