It is a common perception that women tend to hold themselves back, both in their personal and professional lives. But one woman is looking to change that mindset among her peers.
Author Dr Arvat McClaine’s recently launched her book, When Black Women speak, the Universe listens – A glimpse into our personal power and rightful place in the Universe, which she says aims to help women tap into their personal power.
She told the recent book launch at the Sidney Martin library of the University of the West Indies that women need to be mindful of the stories they tell themselves about themselves.
“Every move that we make is contingent on the way we answer one question: Who am I? Every decision you make is based on who you think you are,” the resident of Richmond, Virginia told the audience.
She recalled her own struggles with self-acceptance after being sexually abused at a young age.
“As a black woman I’m not supposed to be the smartest one in the room if there are people of other races, particularly white men. As a victim of abuse, I’m not supposed to have any personal power or self-esteem. Growing up as a poor person I am supposed to accept ‘good enough’ and figure out how to survive on less.
“As the child of an alcoholic parent, I’m supposed to put my dreams on hold while I take care of other people’s messes. So I spent my life playing small, being timid, and not just accepting, but expecting the short end of the stick; daring not to dream because after all, I had to deal with reality. But I’m finally realizing that I am not the story that I’ve been telling myself. I made that story up. I am connected to the source of all there is and I can tap into that power at will,” she said.
Like most victims of abuse, McClaine admitted she was initially hesitant to speak about her ordeal. However, it has helped in her healing process.
“I decided to tell the person who is now my husband, so he was the first person I told, and his response to me made me want to share it with other people. And then I’ve been telling and it’s been a very healing thing for me,” she said.
“I think it’s extremely important [to speak out] because even if you push it down and you kind of don’t think about it, you’re still carrying it around every day with you; you’re carrying it like a weight. And I specifically remember when I felt like the weight of the world was lifted off of my shoulders and I no longer had to hide it. And so I think it’s important for healing that people share their stories, and hopefully it will be an important step where it will reduce the incidence in the future,” she added.
Acting tutor and Coordinator of the Women and Development Unit of the UWI Open Campus Cecilia Batson-Rollock also said it was important for women to speak out against abuse.
“With the surge of sexual harassment cases being highlighted internationally, I can’t think of a more important and timely topic that at this point in time,” she said.
The book has also received the endorsement of Dr Luz Longsworth, principal and pro-vice chancellor of the UWI Open Campus.
“The true message of this book is an affirmation, I think, of the power to choose and to break free from the ties that often keep us earth-bound, particularly women who tend to accept as normal, limitations to what they can achieve, and what is listed as being good for us.
“The universe listens, but it also responds, and the stories shared by Dr McClaine of her own dialogue with the universe inspires us to commence our own dialogue,” Dr Longsworth said.
Dr McClaine also credits Barbados for providing the inspiration to write this book, even though she admitted to being unimpressed with the island on her first visit in 2002, which she described laughingly as “absolutely the most boringest ten days”.
“Every day I was saying how much longer before it’s time to go home’? But I was just so used to the hustle and bustle and running, running, running. And Barbados forces you to slow down. And so on day ten I was so happy to get on the plane. And when I looked out the window, I saw a rainbow and I just started crying and I told my husband, ‘I don’t want to leave’. . . . From that day we made plans to come back in 2003, and we stayed for five months. And then we came back again in 2005 and stayed for three years.
“I definitely enjoy the water, the rainbows. It’s a different environment here and I enjoy the people, the cliffs. It’s a different vibration here. It infuses my spirit. It makes me feel alive and free and I just loved it,” she said.