Hello, hello… this is Susan Hyatt and it’s GO time.
This is the 44th episode in a series of GO podcasts to wake you up on your Monday morning and get you going.
In this episode we’re talking about…
- How Beyonce has inspired me to stop numbing myself
- What it actually looks like to “stay awake”
- A fun challenge I have for you to stand your ground, speak up, and stay awake in your life
Want to read the full transcript? Here ya go:
I’m not going to sugarcoat it: today’s topic is pretty intense—but it’s one that’s so important to discuss. And yes, you know it… we are going to talk about Beyonce.
If you’ve listened to Beyonce’s newest masterpiece—Lemonade—then the following words will probably sound familiar to you:
“I tried to change, closed my mouth more, tried to be soft, prettier, less awake. Fasted for sixty days, wore white, abstained from mirrors. Abstained from sex, slowly did not speak another word…”
When I listened to Beyonce saying those words, I felt chills. Particularly when she says: “Less awake.” Because I know what it feels like to try to make yourself “less awake.”
After surviving a violent sexual assault in my twenties, I was faced with a tsunami of emotions that I had no idea how to manage. The grief, the rage, the shame—it pulled me under. I did what most survivors do: I tried to numb and soothe myself any way that I could. I tried to make myself feel… less awake.
How did I make myself feel less awake? Well, for starters, I threw myself into my job and used my work as a distraction. I also distracted myself with daily binges on chips and margaritas, French fries and bottles of wine. I kept myself “numb” and “busy” in a million different ways—so busy that there was no time to think, no time to feel. I told my story to almost no one—not even my own husband, for quite a while. The shame was too enormous. I kept my mouth shut.
Sadly, my story is not unique. Every woman I’ve ever met has been “silenced” or “shut down” in some way or another. Sometimes the assault is sexual. Other times it’s emotional, verbal, or physical. Other times it’s so subtle that it’s almost imperceptible. Key word: almost. But it’s there. It’s the undercurrent of our lives.
My beautiful teenage daughter Emily was recently told (by a man) that she’ll never get into Columbia University because it’s too competitive. “Don’t get your hopes up.” (Underlying message: You’re not smart enough, you’re not worthy.)
Em was told (by another man, incidentally) that she should stop wearing red lipstick. “You’d be prettier without it.” (Underlying message: It’s your job to be pleasing for men.)
I know women who went on their first diet when they were ten or twelve years old. Throughout their entire lives, they’ve been told, “You’re such a lovely girl, if ONLY you could just lose some weight…” (Underlying message: your life is more valuable if your body looks a certain way.)
Female politicians are routinely mocked by people who wonder if their menstrual cycles will make them less effective leaders. Just turn on the nightly news to hear this kinds of delightful discourse!
I’ve received hate mail—even death threats—from men and women who feel disgusted when I post swimsuit photos on Facebook, or when I share my political beliefs online. “What a terrible role model.” “You should die.”
I have learned that when the world tells you to shut up and disappear, you have two options: agree / disagree.
When there’s a story burning inside of you that needs to be told, you have two options: close your mouth / speak up.
When your emotions feel almost too intense to bear, you have two options: fall asleep / stay awake.
Please stay awake.
You might be thinking, “Yes. I want to stay awake. That sounds beautiful! But what does that actually mean? What does that look like in my every day life?”
Here is a very practical assignment for you:
This week, I want you to be attentive to the moments in your day that make you want to numb out, escape,
It might be an insulting comment, a frustrating email, a misunderstanding, maybe a situation at home or at work. Be attentive. Try to detect at least one moment, this week, where you feel the urge to numb out, escape, apologize, shrink away, silence yourself, or disappear.
When that moment arrives, I want you to RESIST the urge to stay silent or numb out. Resist. Rebel. Refuse. Instead, speak up. Hold your ground. Listen to your intuition instead of stuffing down your feelings. Make a scene. Whatever “being awake” feels like to you, do that.
Here’s an example:
When that man told my daughter that she should stop wearing red lipstick because “You’d be prettier without it,” my daughter said, “I am not wearing it for you. I am wearing it for me.” DAMN!!
She could have said nothing. She could have sweetly said, “Thanks for the advice, sir!” or “Wow, how interesting.” But NOPE. Instead, she seized the opportunity to speak her mind and, in doing so, maybe this particular man had a moment of awakening, too. Or maybe not! Haha! But Emily definitely chose to stay awake, in that moment, and I’m so proud of her for that.
What does “staying awake” mean to you? What does it feel like for you?
Does it mean speaking up? Sharing your story? Correcting someone who is woefully misinformed? Taking a brave step forward instead of ignoring your calling or purpose? Does it mean choosing to feel your emotions instead of numbing yourself out?
Whatever “staying awake” means for you… I urge you, and I challenge you, to do it.
When one woman chooses to stay awake, the room changes.
When millions make that same choice, the world changes.