Our Story Is Our Power

I sit here with some fear in my stomach, knowing I am about to share this story that very few people have heard. Interestingly, the same reason I am afraid to share this story is why I have to share it. I struggle to share because I know that by doing so in this beautiful community, it is here for everyone—and that is intimidating, but also quite freeing!

I’ve kept my story in a tidy little box where it isn’t a bother to me or anyone else. Inside this box, it has so much power over me. It is running circles around me. I CANNOT keep it there. It is time to share this story, to take back my power, live in the honor of my truth, and take this journey back to myself.

I thought I couldn’t tell my story because I wasn’t an expert. I cannot talk about shame as if I were Brené Brown. I felt it wasn’t acceptable for me to lie on the bathroom floor crying, like Elizabeth Gilbert and Glennon Doyle, if my life isn’t falling apart on that scale. I also felt that I hadn’t conquered enough to stand up with them as a warrior myself.

What if we all thought we were important enough to be heard? The very reason I admire these women, who are some of my favorite authors and speakers, is the way they’ve put their stories out into the world. I may not have a PhD and do focused research on shame like Brené, but I can assure you I am an expert in shame. I know that while I sit quietly with my shame and my story tidied up in this box with a bow, everything that is attached to this hidden story continues to grow.

When I choose to hide the truth of my story, then it suggests you need to be ashamed and hide your own story.

What I know as a fierce truth is this: My shame grows your shame.

It is finally time for me to go back to who I was as an 18-year-old girl. I have left that girl alone, afraid, and confused. She has been alone and ashamed in the woods for far too long. She deserves to be able to say, “I was raped—a boy had sex with me without my consent.” She has the right to feel violated and to feel her trust waver and fall to a million pieces on the floor. She gets to recognize that her dreams about romance, and falling in love, and making love for the first time, were all shattered that night.

For so long, I have tried to justify it…to see his side…to make his actions excusable. Maybe in doing this, I thought I was also excusing my actions, choices I made that put me in the position for this to happen to me.

I now realize I was not only a victim of rape, but I was a victim of the culture of rape in our country. No girl or woman should be made to feel so much shame for something that was done to them, or made to feel it was their fault. Even as I write this, I feel the “but what if…” and “maybe I…” creeping into the back of my mind.

It is time I stood with that young woman in the woods. Time I picked her up off the ground and told her what happened to her. Time I told her she doesn’t need to hide. I can tell her to be brave and share her story, and that all these years later, when she stands up and says, “me too,” she will be part of a movement that says it will never be acceptable for a man to force himself upon a woman. Ever!

This was such a traumatic experience for me that I immediately compartmentalized it. I had no idea it had happened to me. I remember being back in the house with my girlfriend just afterwards and she and I were in the restroom, and I said, “Weird, I’m not expecting to have my period—it’s like clockwork.”

I was totally in denial.

It wasn’t until almost a year later in a psychology class when my professor was talking us through the process she might use to help a patient access a blocked memory that I discovered this happened to me. It came flooding back to me like a movie as I sat in the back of that classroom and began to cry. It was earth-shattering: both realizing I had been violated by someone whom I thought was my friend (and actually still was my friend), and that I had been able to hide this from myself so completely.

I was ashamed for having let this happen and shameful for not knowing.

I have three daughters, and I need them to know it will never be OK for this to happen to them. And they need to know I would die fighting for them and would not back down if someone violated them. In knowing I wouldn’t back down for them, I realize I should extend the same fight to myself.

Now is the time in our history where we stand together. When the MeToo movement started, I found myself sitting in the anonymity of the space behind my computer. I would see a friend’s name and then I’d see her post “me too,” and then another, and another, and another; and my heart would break. I was thinking, How did I let her go through that alone? How did I not know? How are there so many of us?!

In my silence, in the safety of my silence, I feel I somehow failed all of you, and my daughters. I feel this is so much greater than just this initial “me too.” It is really a voice for every injustice, for every group suffering inequality, being given less power, and being quieted and swept under the rug. We cannot let this culture put us in small boxes in separate corners, fighting different battles—or silent and too afraid to fight.

It can be intimidating to tell our stories, not because we are really afraid of sharing the story, but because we are afraid of how it will be heard. What if we knew we all have an important story? That our journeys, while infinitely different, are all the paths we are meant to live, to learn, to grow, and then teach and share?

My passion for connecting women to their story, their journey, and each other is what led me to create my company, Lotus Sojourns—to give women the opportunity to unlock their story, to let it out of the box they carry it in, and heal.

Here’s the thing (and I say this for myself, too): Your story doesn’t have to be bigger. It doesn’t have to be badder, or messier, or darker, or harder! It just has to be yours!

To tell your story, your don’t have to overcome, or to be smarter, or wiser (though you probably are). Your story, your life, and your experiences are the one thing you have that sets you apart from everyone else. Your story is your truth, and your power!

I do see now why convention keeps us quiet, bound by these chains of shame, because I already feel it—when I take back my power, I am mighty. When you take back your power, you are mighty.

When we say “No MORE!” together, it will be a thunderous roar.

Christine Winebrenner Irick

About the Author | Christine Winebrenner Irick

Christine Winebrenner Irick founded Lotus Sojourns, a transformational travel company that creates connection amongst a global community of women and uses the transformational power of travel to help women connect with themselves and their story. Christine is married and has three daughters. She currently lives in Denver, CO.

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4 comments to "Our Story Is Our Power"

  • Kara Valentine

    Wow, wow, WOW…an incredibly moving piece. Thank you for sharing, Christine…honored to stand beside you as we thunderously roar. 😘🔥💜🌈

  • Carly Anne

    Thunder up, lady. You’re powerful and so incredible. Thank you for your courage.

  • Mary Williams

    Wow. Thank you for sharing your story, Christine. It’s inspiring to know you and witness your courage and vulnerability. Thank you also for creating your company, a platform in which women can come together to connect on a global scale, share their pain and joy, and uplift and empower each other. 🙏🥰💞

  • Andrea Costantine

    So beautiful, Christine. Thank you for being brave enough to share you story and giving others permission to do the same. And you are so right, we cannot compare our stories as bigger or less than someone else’s, they are just our stories and they have power and weight in our lives no matter the scale of their public measure.