Editor’s note: Yesterday we published “Dear Women — If you don’t want to be victimized, first stop victimizing yourselves” by Paula Schwarz.
In the article, Schwarz wrote:
“#Metoo, I had a gender-mindblock. #Metoo, I victimized myself by trying to be ‘the perfect woman’ for a while. #Metoo, I sent out wrong signals to men. #Metoo, I am against a society that promotes a self-image of women as being luxury items on a market. #Metoo, I think that we have to step up as women and be proud of who we really are – rather than to serve some stupid roles in society that are old and harmful.”
The article provoked a severe reaction, with many people calling on Schwarz to share her personal story in arriving at her perspective.
This is her story.
I am very thankful for all the negative remarks about my last article because it has shown me that there are women out there who truly fight for something.
Yesterday, a very nice lady who felt offended by my article met with me to discuss it. We spoke about my personal connection to the topic and concluded that it’s not something that I touched on enough in my last article – probably because it was too hurtful at the time. I didn’t realize it up until that very conversation.
If you don’t mind I would like to tell you about my own experience of victimizing myself – the lady confirmed that it might be relevant and I hope to become friends with her some time in the future. It was a very nice, productive and inspiring meeting after we had found a way forward together.
So here it is, my own story.
I am half Greek and half German.
I have two brothers and I am the only woman of the next generation of my family. My family is very conservative and very rich. As both a child and an adult, I perceived and still perceive money, culture and a position of power as weapons that people use to control their surrounding.
There was a moment in time, this summer (!) where I woke up from ‘my old life’ as a victim of my own social surrounding that was dominated by the position people had chosen for me that was connected with an inheritance.
I was so shocked about the fact that it had taken me 27 years to finally get that I am truly worth so much more than just the ‘place’ that was meant for me in society.
This summer I wanted to step down from the inheritance that was meant for me because I could not talk to my family without hurting my own soul. As a successful woman, I had reached a point where my personal achievements and work posed an insult and a thread to them – also because I am more successful in my work and enjoy it more than my older brother.
I just love asking questions, that‘s what I do, and when you’re not allowed to do that because you are a woman and women are not meant to cause too much uproar then I guess in a way the questions become a method of your soul to show you that it’s alive. The questions I had around logic always reminded me of the fact that I am not just that. I am not just someone who is happy with wasting a lot of money and having ‘fun’ experiences.
This brings me to my next point: men.
At one point I had to admit to myself that I am attracted to men who want to possess a certain power over their woman and perceive women more as ‘an extended arm’.
The woman is like a luxury item they purchase with expensive things like apartments, cars and clothes.
I suffered very much in my life because I was socially schizophrenic: inside I somehow knew that I was ‘not a vase’ because apparently I was asking the right questions. Outside I payed great attention to looking a bit like a barbie and to following a stereotype image of a woman: long blonde hair, hot and somewhat provoking to the senses because of short skirts and high shows. I also used to wear quite a bit of make up.
Being smart, I even looked up cuteness — aka. childlike pattern — so put make up on my face ‘in the right way’ and to look more attractive.
Having an eating disorder was somewhat normal for me, it became something like the normal price you just pay for having a nice body.
In my relationships with men I always reached a point where the questions I ask as a free spirit and mind became a problem. These questions were also a very big problem for my own family because they posed an insult to members of my own family. Women are not meant to be too smart. ‘When are you going to stop?’, ‘Have you not finally had enough yet’ they would ask when I would bring home awards. I used to try and explain this to the outside world, but so much effort was being put into the upholding of a ‘healthy’ family image that people didn’t understand what my problem was. From the outside everything looked so perfect and no one was speaking up about the fact that we were protecting a castle of lies. I was part of the problem. I was part of a degrading family and I victimized myself.
I attracted men who are narcissists and like to control others because I felt like this was ‘love’ to me. It was something I knew and felt close to from the experiences with my family.
I lost the connection to my own body and sexuality because of the eating disorder and this constant feeling of ‘not fitting in’.
The only friend I took with me from my childhood to my new life recently said to me that ‘that was my ticket out’. When the eating disorder started it was the first time that I understood that ‘I cannot take it anymore’ without rebelling against all these things that ‘I have to do’. Somehow I was fighting, early in my life, to deconstruct this image of me that I was building.
Later on, the eating disorder became, as I said, also a tool to make myself look a certain way but in the beginning it was more about feeling my core in disconnection to the outside world.
I am shocked today to look at the ‘Stockholm syndrome’ I had with men. I am sorry to myself for taking to long to understand that my family had brought me to a point where this feeling of ‘never being enough for the family‘ is something I was mistakenly labeling as love.
I am sorry to myself for having separated my soul from my body for so long.
Every time I would reach a new milestone in my work with refugees my family would get more appalled.
My parents had built big houses and I started organizing them at some point because I just saw that things were inefficient and I wanted to do good. They hated it. They, and also the men I dated, saw it as a problem that I was at some point known as ‘the refugee girl’ because to them a social and political topic of such intensity is not fashionable.
Again, I feel like they saw me as their arm – part of themselves. I was still dressing and putting myself out there in a way that is ‘not me’ because I didn’t feel strong enough to be who I really am – and to get to know myself better.
To conclude this story, I think it’s important to say that I received a document this summer in which I had given all my rights to represent me in all transferable legal matters to my father. The document is three pages long, I received it in encrypted form after I decided to step down from my inheritance of hundreds of millions of Euros.
My father was ‘guarding this money’ from the past generations for the next ones – and so him and people around his had labelled me down to a number. I was 18 when I signed this document, it was shortly after I finished high school, I am now 27 years old. When I asked my father about the reasons why he kept this from me for so long (we never spoke about the document again after it was signed) he again expressed that he was given the task to protect this money by his parents. I realized that my mother is a loving woman who is okay with being blind – and she had given this blindness to me also. She was okay with not questioning in exchange for material goods and so I consider these questions around the logic and the root cause of things as being a blessing for me personally because today I feel alive.
I cannot tell you how beautiful it feels to know that I was always right. I was never crazy. I was just part of a construct that was sick and I was strong enough to understand that there is so much more to life than money, status and luxury.
It helps me very much to dance and let out my feelings in physical ways.
My mother is a psychologist, so I know quite a lot about psychology from experience – I both visited therapists and learned about psychoanalysis. I think that we have a heart to feel and a brain to think.
In psychoanalysis you think your feelings. Your heart doesn’t work this way. It’s like I was for a long time using the wrong tool. When you want to build something you don‘t ask your hammer what to do.
You can use the hammer for other things, but it’s not the right tool to use. The hammer will never give you the answer to your questions.
It’s hard for me to follow my heart.
I feel like a baby, taking new steps every day. It‘’s particularly hard because I feel like a baby without a mom. I let go of my family after I had received the document. It’s healing to know that I was always right but I am with all my heart sorry to myself for taking a while to get myself out of this surrounding.
Every day is a new beginning.
If you are in a situation that resembles my own experiences, I would like to tell you that you can free yourself, that you are most probably not crazy. This freedom will take your old life from you and it will hurt you at times but it will be worth it and you will probably feel it every day – the pain means that the old world is breaking down and you are getting a chance to redefine yourself. For me, meditation was the greatest discovery and gift. It taught me that there is no reason not to follow your heart and I feel that I am finally using the right tools to build a strong and real foundation for my life as an empowered woman.