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#430605 - 04/09/13 06:19 AM Why can't I stand up for myself?!
theIrregular Offline

Registered: 07/23/12
Posts: 52
Loc: Canada
Hey all,
I've been having some problems with one of my superiors at work. For those of you who don't know, I work as a baggage handler at the airport.

I had an workplace injury last September and I have since been on 'modified duties'. I am not supposed to lift heavy things until the tendon in my finger heals. My HR manager keeps calling me and asking me when I am coming back to regular duties and during his last phone call he said, "Come on, man. Let's go!". As if I could somehow control how fast my finger heals.

Even though I am not expected to, I still lift things here and there because I want to make myself useful. Atleast, that's what I tell myself. I often thing that may be the real reason is that pretty much everyone looks down on guys who are on 'modified duties' and I just want everyone to like me.

Anyways, the superior in question is always asking me to do things. No one in the company likes him because he's incredibly lazy. The first time I hated him was when we had to ride a tractor together. He's well over 200 lbs and I was sitting next to him, his thigh was touching mine for the entire ride. I was deeply disturbed.

One day he called me 'honey'. I was so enraged, but didn't say a word to him. Then, there was the time he said, "Can I abuse you?". I was speechless. I was sitting on a tractor and he was in front of it. He then said, "I know you are on your break, but drop this baggage cart at the gate". I wanted to mow him down with the tractor, but I said nothing and did what he wanted.

He called me 'honey' again today, but this time I said, "Don't call me 'honey'!" and I walked away. But what really derailed me happened at the end of my shift. Our shifts ended at the same time and he caught up to me as I was waiting for the elevator.
As we waited, he said, "let me show you how to throw a punch" and he proceeded to punch the elevator door. "you have to twist your body, like this". Unsure of what to say, I said, "good to know", in a sarcastic voice.
Once we got in the elevator, he wanted to show me how to deflect a choke hold. When I didn't respond, he moved in closer and took my hands and placed them on his neck.

Then he showed me how to do it. I was so caught off guard when he grabbed my hands, I looked up to see if there was a camera in the elevator, just in case something happened. I felt really uncomfortable with him touching my upper body. By the time he finished his 'lesson', I realized that I had just stood there frozen the entire time. It was like I was 10 all over again.
Once we exited the elevator, he kept on saying stuff that he thought was funny. And I, instead of saying to him, "If you ever touch me again without my permission, I will kill you!" (which is what I really wanted to say), I just pretended nothing happened and fake laughed at his 'jokes'.

I hate the 10 year old kid who couldn't stand up to his abuser. I hate the 26 year old that kid barely grew up to be, who still can't stand up for himself.

And why the f**k are some people so clueless about boundaries? It isn't really that difficult, is it? I keep thinking, if only I were slightly more 'macho', people would stop messing with me.

I am furious with myself because I can't seem to be able to protect myself from either of these people.

#430606 - 04/09/13 06:24 AM Re: Why can't I stand up for myself?! [Re: theIrregular]
overcomer4life Offline

Registered: 02/25/09
Posts: 198
Wow! All I can say is I FEEL YOU. There are times when I should be able to protect myself and have no regrets about doing so. However, if there's a chance that somebody else's feelings could be hurt or what have you, I usually sacrifice my own happiness or well-being for theirs.

I tell myself at least once every 48 hours, "This has GOT to stop".

If history repeats itself, I'll be saying it again in the next few hours. LOL!

Hoping it gets better for you.

#430609 - 04/09/13 06:40 AM Re: Why can't I stand up for myself?! [Re: theIrregular]
genedebs Offline

Registered: 11/09/12
Posts: 378
Loc: MO
Their regular

Maybe if you were more macho... But the truth is he is aware of boundaries, and violates people's boundaries. He looks for weakness that he can take advantage of. You said he is lazy and is hated by everyone. He is probably asking lots of people to do his work for him.

He is violating you. When he called you honey, he was violating you. he was disrespecting you. When you refused then he escalated by demonstrating his physical power to threaten you.

He senses you are vulnerable and he takes advantage. This supervisor is an A--hole.

You need to tell your H R guy to talk to you doctor. When he gives you a release then you will be at regular work. You need to decide whether you want to get into it physically, or not. I assume you want to keep it non-violent, at least from your side.

You may need to take his behavior to H R and make a complaint. He has assaulted you. You don't want to have to press charges. Also you don't want to make it he said she said, so you need to use the camera on you cell phone in the future.

I would be pissed at the supervisor. You anger at yourself is because you are re experiencing the your inability to protect you or get the protection you needed.

Please be less judgemental of yourself.

#430610 - 04/09/13 06:46 AM Re: Why can't I stand up for myself?! [Re: theIrregular]
DavoSwim Offline

Registered: 02/06/13
Posts: 397
Loc: Midwest

I understand your story completely. I am unable to stand up for myself as well. I want so much for people to like me, that I sacrifice my own dignity time and time again. I am afraid to stand up for myself, afraid to defend my right to exist and to be treated with respect. Each time it happens, I'm transported back in time to when I was 11 and being abused by a priest, having to comply with his demands because he was a man of God. These days, I don't feel I have the right to protest, even though the request isn't my job, and to follow instructions means I must demean myself. Afterwards, I always create a scenario in my mind where I'm strong and I tell off the offender. That loop plays over and over in my head, trying to override the truth. Yet I don't learn from this. It doesn't give me strength to stand up for myself the next time. I hate myself sometimes for letting myself get walked on - I feel I must have done something wrong and I deserve it. The same line I used to justify my abuse. I just get so furious with myself for not being able to protect myself.

#430621 - 04/09/13 12:23 PM Re: Why can't I stand up for myself?! [Re: theIrregular]
EdfromNYC Offline

Registered: 02/18/10
Posts: 334
Loc: New York City
Hi. I've had many of the same issues my entire life but I am starting to get some relief. I was a victim as a child and carried that aura with me into adulthood. I was around people like this who sensed that I had porous boundaries and could tug and pull at me and set me off. However, I am learning to take care of myself and recognize my needs and emotions and accept that they deserve attention and protection.

When someone crosses a boundary, I have many ways to deal with it. I avoid that person. I have absolutely no personal interaction with that person. I am only around that person if other people are around. I don't react with sarcasm because that somehow adds fuel to the fire. Actually, I try not to react on the surface even if inside my body is telling me to fight or flee. I tell other people about it, people in my support groups, therapist, etc. and ask for coping strategies. If I was waiting for the elevator with this person, I would find a way not to get in it with him. This isn't about fear for me - it is about maybe not yet having the skills to tell someone to step back and stop doing a certain behavior, accepting that is where I am in my recovery/life and simply avoiding sick people.

My CSA and childhood abuse and neglect has made me emotionally/mentally/spiritually ailing and I recognize that I am working toward more "fitness" in those areas. I also recognize that there are other people out there who have no concept that they are sick and suffering people and will spread their emotional/mental/spiritual sickness if they can. It is up to me to recognize that they are "ill" and I am not responsible for making them better, for not making them avoid their own shame by dumping it on me. It is their shame and I am learning to let them stew in it themselves. It is not my burden to carry their sickness.

You are taking care of yourself by posting this and asking for help. There are possibly simple strategies to avoid as much interaction as possible with this man and keep talking about it with others.

Edited by EdfromNYC (04/09/13 12:25 PM)
And more, much more, the heart may feel,
Than the pen may write or the lip reveal.
Winthrop Mackworth Praed

#430628 - 04/09/13 01:03 PM Re: Why can't I stand up for myself?! [Re: theIrregular]
ThisMan Offline

Registered: 01/23/13
Posts: 778
Loc: upper south
Hi, Irreg-
Your HR said... "Come on, man. Let's go!"....?
Sooooo.... go with the story you just shared. Your supervisor is obviously way out of bounds and needs a good reality check. As does his superiors. The terminology of
- being called "honey",
- hearing the phrase anywhere, let alone at work of "can I abuse you?"
- the fact that he TOUCHED you in the elevator after showing you how to "throw a punch"
...seems not only loaded with inappropriate sexual innuendos but also peppered with subtle physical violence.

These are a given.
1- he's a jerk and a half
2- as supervisor, he has placed his company at risk
3- as the employee, you have been made to feel intentionally unsafe
4- his behavior is not your problem- its the COMPANY's problem
5- the company can give you relief
6- he won't stop on his own because he wants control

In my experience, this has nothing to do with you being more masculine or younger or anything else. I view him as a predator who has found someone of a different spirit. If I were guessing, I would say you are generally a nice, polite man who hesitates to be rude or embarrass someone else. And he has picked up on that.

Not so long ago, I received some attention that was inappropriate in a professional setting as well. I listened to my instincts on this one. I received "predatory style" texts. I came to MS and shared and the guys here suggested I wait to see if more came. Guess what? They arrived four weeks later. I am waiting for one more, in silence because this individual was told she crossed my boundaries. If this "one more arrives", I will have her job, I will visit her superior, I will file a complaint with her licensing board. Listen to the advice you pick up here. These guys are wise because of experience. And make a list, make it direct, make an appointment to chat with HR, and let them know that you expect the matter to be taken care of. Then when the next harassment takes place, things are in motion to dispose of this jerky individual.

Don't blame yourself for this guy's behavior.... like everyone has already said... we have been there. My best to you.
For now we see through a glass, darkly.

#430633 - 04/09/13 02:05 PM Re: Why can't I stand up for myself?! [Re: theIrregular]
overcomer4life Offline

Registered: 02/25/09
Posts: 198
Sounds like ThisMan is giving you fuel for a harrassment suit.

#430637 - 04/09/13 02:48 PM Re: Why can't I stand up for myself?! [Re: theIrregular]
EdfromNYC Offline

Registered: 02/18/10
Posts: 334
Loc: New York City
The harassment suit or going on the record can be a great idea but it really depends on the culture of the place where you work, the organizational structure, whether you will be supported for taking action or not supported, the size of the organization, etc. If you decide to go on the record, consult others outside the organization too.

But the suggestion to keep private records and to talk with others is definitely the right course of action. We support you since we understand what it feels like to be an adult and not be able to stand up for ourselves.

Edited by EdfromNYC (04/09/13 02:54 PM)
And more, much more, the heart may feel,
Than the pen may write or the lip reveal.
Winthrop Mackworth Praed

#430640 - 04/09/13 03:16 PM Re: Why can't I stand up for myself?! [Re: theIrregular]
focusedbody Offline

Registered: 02/03/13
Posts: 542
Loc: NY
Hi, the Irregular.

Like Ed from NYC, I have lived at times with this sense that people can and will approach me at any time. It does go back to early experiences with boundaries being crossed.

You are most important here. Your safety, physically and emotionally. I have found that by respecting that first of all, I help myself be present.

When I am present, my instincts follow. They can react in whatever way that makes sense to me, not someone elsem That's important, because most abusers are looking for you to do that is a predictable reaction to their advances. I have no problem making what seem like irrational refusals to do something normal. For instance, if I see my brother acting a little dissociated when I first say hello I know he might be crossing a boundary with me in the next moment. I take my time, breathe and ask myself what I need to do or say. Sometimes it's walking away. Sometimes it's saying something that will not ignite the situation, but nonetheless makes it clear that I am present and accounted for. Even though he is not consciously aware of it, this sends a message that I know where the boundary is.

This can frustrate my brother or whatever person is trying to find a "way in". I think for many years I was afraid of where such a frustration might lead. Recently I found that if I am clear about what I think and feel, it is more likely that the abuser will bring this frustration to themself. This is because what they really want is to get their pain onto someone else. When I am present, their pain bounces off of me instead of me being its receptacle.

This has been a lifetime of learning to get here. Standing up to someone may be something like this, but real abusers are inviting you into conflict so that they can do what they want to do. So I don't think so much about standing up to someone as being present in the way I want to be.

I hope the communication here can help you find the space you need to feel safer.

Lose the drama; life is a poem.

#430646 - 04/09/13 06:24 PM Re: Why can't I stand up for myself?! [Re: theIrregular]
1lifenow Offline

Registered: 03/07/11
Posts: 437
Loc: west coast
I feel for you bro. most of us could have written this post too. Glad u did.

Issue 1 , get a dr's note. Just tell the sup the dr said true healing takes time. If he has any questions , tell him to talk to the doc. Ur just following dr's orders.

Issue 2, wow, this guy is totally riding you. I had that many times in many work/life settings. I felt like the pilsbury dough boy - squishy and anything but tough. Seathing but frozen. One boss said to me 'why didn't you just say stop', another saw the look on my face and said 'don't take it personally'. What bs.!

My suggestion is to try to be more like the abused whoopy in The Color Purple. That dinner scene gives me chills every time I watch it. I didn't think I could live it until I did. Not out of any sense of bravery or fortitude, I , like Rosa Parks on that bus that day was just tired. Now I know I can do it. So can all you. There is a reason they call this scene about Celie standing up for herself the best scene.

Bullies will always see the vulnerabitly in us, that's just who we are. What they wont see is the fight that has been dying to get out. Give it permission. We don't want to make waves or rock the boat but they don't seem to share that same level of respect, so when in Rome , act like a roman. Toga optional ; )

The others are right of course, he has to be reported if he persists. But in the times you are alone with him, put your phone on record and if he starts it, ask yourself if you have had enough and respectfully finish it.

Rock on brother.
Please keep us posted.
Cheers grant

Edited by 1lifenow (04/09/13 07:33 PM)
The need for love lies at the very foundation of human existence. Dalai Lama

WoR Barrie 2011

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