To the one who abused me at work

I see you.

I feel your shame you pushed onto me because you didn’t want to feel it yourself. I feel the feelings of incompetence you deflect. I feel not good enough just like we both felt as kids.

We handle our shame differently. I wanted your approval because love was conditional growing up and tied to my behavior. For you, the constant shame must’ve been unbearable — so much so that you learned to make your shame other people’s shame. You put me down because you feel small. You teach others to see me as small to make the lie real. False accusations, sabotage, and verbal abuse are your tools.

When I accepted that humans could be capable of this behavior, I felt let down. So let down. I fought back for myself and everything I’d suffered.

But your story already won.

It won with those who feared they’d be next if they didn’t “yes” you again and again. It won with those who didn’t want to sift through right and wrong because it was too much work and they had the luxury of ignoring it. It won with those who bought into your kissing up because they need lots of yesses, too. (That’s why they hired you — you are one of them.)

I saw no way out. HR wouldn’t help. Higher-ups ignored me. My union tried to help, but we just waited and waited for decisions. My friends got sick of hearing about you and didn’t know how to help. Same for my family.

The thought of choosing between a paycheck and healing was too much. I didn’t know how I was going to pay my mortgage if I left, but I also didn’t know how I could keep going back to work when I felt like an attack dog was watching my every move, every day, waiting to pounce.

I thought about ending it all.

Then it hit me.

Your shame wasn’t my shame. Your incompetence wasn’t my incompetence. Your problems weren’t my problems.

You see, you don’t define me. No one does. Not my co-workers. Not my parents. Not my siblings. No one.

I define me.

If executives get to define the work culture where your behavior is tolerated in the first place, I get to define whether or not I put up with it. I get to set boundaries with you. I get to start looking for another job or decide I’ll quit today and temp because your problems aren’t mine and it’s too much emotional energy to deal with the emotional issues you refuse to address.

I get to decide if I’ll ever let another boss or even human being define me again.

I get to define what ideas I subscribe to and what I throw out with the garbage.

I get to define my entire purpose on this planet.

I see you.

But from now on, I also see me.

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