I’ve been thinking a lot about the word “believe” these last couple of weeks.
What does it mean to believe?
I watched with the rest of the nation as Dr. Ford’s voice shook telling her story. I watched as the national conversation became about whether she was to be believed.
I follow author Tara Mohr on Instagram. On the day of the hearings she wrote:
“The story could have been shaped as one about investigating (truly investigating) a potential crime, or as a story about rape culture in teenage life, or about the patterns of abuse we see amongst powerful men—or all of those.
"But that is not how the story was shaped for us. The title was given: “Is she telling the truth” and that question was made the central theme. The shaping of the story is intended to shape us as women. It is supposed to teach us that the first question to ask a victim is not “how can we help?” but “are you to believed?”
It is intended to imprint into our hearts that if we speak up, we will be met not with compassion, but with skepticism from our fellow human beings when we most need their support.
The story is crafted to vivify for us the caricature of the conniving woman and the good guy wrongly accused. It is here to teach us women to become skeptical of each other, and then, even worse, to become suspicious of our own memories and experiences.”
Do I believe her?
What DO I believe?
Do I identify as a believer, or not?
Mohr continues, “What will I weather for what I [believe]?”
This is a challenge to me. Do I have strong enough convictions to actually use my shaking voice for something I believe?
I started having conversations with people about what it means to be believed. Many shared with me times when they WERE NOT believed. Many shared the trajectories of their lives were deeply affected.
Shirked opportunities. Lost friendships. Isolation. Shrinking into being small and hopefully unnoticed.
I have faith that this is not how God intended for us to live!
I have weathered abuse in past relationships. It’s SO hard to admit because I think of myself as someone who is very smart and aware and has a high EQ. How could I be complicit (compliant? complacent?) for so long?
I get all hot and red and sweaty. It makes me relive stuff I want to forget. I don’t ever lead with that story because I have never identified as a victim of that abuse. It doesn’t even feel like my life. The mind is funny like that. It’s like I’m rewatching someone ELSE’s tapes.
But did it happen?
Yes. It did.
And like SO many women in the last few weeks, this national conversation of “Is she to be believed?” triggered me:
Memories of feeling trapped and silenced in a terrible relationship with someone who was supposed to love me.
Memories of girls in my classes when I was teaching years ago, who confided in me that they had been assaulted by guys they were dating.
And then, when I encouraged them to be brave and report it, and sat with them as they did, they were questioned.
By FEMALE officers.
“What were you wearing?”
“Were you drunk?”
“Did you ask for it and then, maybe change your mind?”
It brought back the memories of watching those same girls lose their light. They retreated. They isolated. They were minimized at 15. They were changed.
Many of us call ourselves “believers” using it as a synonym for believing in God. Or for being Christian. Or for believing in something Divine and whole, and good, and powerful.
I am a believer.
Though my religion is not overtly part of Compliment's narrative, I often talk about my relationship with God and how my faith has saved me in great times of loss and defeat.
My faith muscle has been strengthened in the last few years again and again—in building this business from nothing, in moving through extraordinary loss, in finding tremendous love again, in my long road to motherhood.
I often talk about our duty here on earth to be the light for others. That our lives matter most when we have impacted the humans around us for the better.
To do this, to truly live this, takes courage. It takes massive amounts of vulnerability.
What if we say or do something that offends someone? What if I end up being wrong?
And then the refrain rises: What are we willing to weather for what we believe?
I actually posted a meme on Compliment’s Instagram the day of the hearings, a quote by Maya Angelou:
“Each time a woman stands up for herself, she stands up for all women.”
Guess what happened?
Over 200 people unfollowed me.
Seven people left scathing comments deriding ME for believing. Complete with eff words and vitriol.
I clearly offended a few people.
I chose to delete those comments because there’s NO WAY I’m going to tolerate trolling on a post that is meant to encourage using your voice.
Over 1700 people liked the post, which is cool.
Either way, I’m at a place in my life where my feelings about myself are not impacted by whether or not I’m getting likes on Instagram.
This post was simply indicative of what I already know to be true.
You will not please everyone.
You won’t even be believed by everyone.
Things you actually lived through. People will tell you it didn’t happen that way. That you’re wrong.
Our voices matter.
I BELIEVE THIS TO MY CORE.
Does this make me a chump? Am I a fool to believe the things that people who have courageous, albeit shaking voices tell me?
I’m ok with that. Because 99.9 times out of 100, those shaking voices are telling the truth. Don’t quote me on that stat. But you know what I mean.
In the off-chance, I believe someone who is lying? That will require my vulnerability to say I was wrong. I'm ok risking being wrong, ESPECIALLY when it means that more often than not, the people around me will feel like there is someone in their corner.
I’ve taken into consideration what this means for me as a woman, a wife, a mother to sons (!!!), and someone who has endured.
It’s actually not an easy road to be a believer.
It means we often have to look at hard things and have compassion for people or situations that may make us uncomfortable. Upset. Triggered. Challenged.
But that’s how I want to live this life. I choose compassion. I choose to believe.
I will always want someone to feel safe enough to come to me and share their heart and know that they will be met with empathy. That I will see them and hear them and believe them.
The day after the hearings, graphic designer, (and my former student!) friend, and fellow mother of 2, Tuesday Bacich, reached out to me.
She said she wanted to DO something about all the feelings she was harboring around the national narrative.
She was motivated to be LOUDER. Being an advocate for personal growth and mental health, she is fighting for herself, and every other who has had their sanity questioned, health affected, and heart broken.
Maybe it could be something around the immense courage and vulnerability it takes to speak your truth when you KNOW people are going to try to dismantle not just your words and memories, but your humanity.
Again, what are you willing to weather for what you believe?
So we teamed up to bring these limited edition mugs into the world. This is the platform we have.
These mugs are reminders of who we want to be, and we have a feeling that there may be people in this community who want to let the world know who they are, as well.
The most powerful thing someone can do is to reach out to another human being as the imperfect, messy human they are. It shows great strength to be uncertain and authentic and unpolished and confused. To say, “I’m hurting.” Or “I’m sorry.” Or “I forgive you.” Or “I don’t know.” Or “You might think different of me, but….”
And then TELL YOUR TRUTH.
This is what true courage is made of. Vulnerability is not easy. Like, ever. So we hope these words, sitting on your desk each day, will serve as the encouragement you need to speak your truth.
I imagined this mug sitting on my desk in my classroom. I wish I had it then. Every teacher, every counselor, every single person in the helping professions should have one.
Our hope is that this mug serves as a message to those you interact with on a daily basis, that their stories are safe with you. That’s the given. This is how we want to live—as the person who believed someone when they spoke. Whether they share their trauma, or the dreams they hold tight in their hearts.
I AM A BELIEVER. I BELIEVE.
Are you? Do you?
These mugs are on presale for 20% off through Oct. 16 and will ship out the week of Oct 29. Use the code BELIEVE at checkout.
Until supplies run out, we will be donating 5% to our Compliment Scholarship Program (like always, to support underrepresented women pursue break the cycle of poverty) and an additional 5% to Futures Without Violence, an organization Tuesday and I both love and support, particularly for their focus on education.
From their website: Striving to reach new audiences and transform social norms, we train professionals such as doctors, nurses, judges, and athletic coaches on improving responses to violence and abuse. We also work with advocates, policymakers, and others to build sustainable community leadership and educate people everywhere about the importance of respect and healthy relationships.
Then, I want you to know this:
I see your vulnerability every day. I see it on my Instagram and in my DMs. I see it in the emails you send me. You are walking your talk.
And I believe you.
I believe that your experiences and your heartbreaks have brought you to this moment in time.
I believe that you were put on this planet for a reason.
I believe that you have significant and important work to do in your little corner of the globe.
I believe that your dreams are worthy and that you… YOU… ONLY YOU have the power to use your voice in your unique way.
I believe that it's your duty to make those dreams come true to better serve our world.