"Every step you take forward, you’re not going backward. So, appreciate that you are working towards that journey. Don’t allow someone else’s dark choices to define you and bring light to your purpose."
Transformational Culture Expert and founder of Fix Your Culture, Tanya Waymire has been leading the most prestigious retail companies and organizations for over 25 years. She engages in transforming culture by increasing companies' productivity, sales, and profits during times of uncertainty, tragedy, or great economic shifts. Tanya is a nationally published author, business and sales strategy speaker, and an accredited P.C.C. coach with the International Coach Federation. The strengths she shares in communication, conflict resolution, and leadership greatly improve any organization or team she engages with.
SWY: You go into more detail in your Tedx Talk but if you don’t mind sharing - What is your story with childhood trauma and abuse?
TW: From as early an age that I can remember, which I believe is roughly three, my grandfather would touch me, but he would act as if it was a game. Everyone would be asleep and then suddenly I was this special person who he got to play this game with. As I got older I realized what was happening wasn’t right. He would come in while I was asleep, and I would lay there traumatized. I was afraid that if I woke up I wouldn’t know what would happen. As children, we fear adults and elders in a capacity of consequences. This went on until I was about nine years old. There was this defining moment where I thought if I don’t tell someone, I don’t know where this is going to go. I shared what was happening to me with one of my parents and it did stop, but the family dynamic didn’t change. I still had to be around him. Moving forward and what I could find as a positive outcome from what I went through, was that I learned how to forgive people that didn’t ask for it. When you can forgive someone without them asking or being deserving of it, you find you start to get back your sense of being, and unless you have been abused, learning to do this is a difficult thing for others to understand.
SWY: What have you learned about yourself in the process of telling your story?
TW: One is that I didn’t plan on telling it. It had been this deep, dark family secret. Only specific people in my life were aware of it. As I got older, I felt called to share my story one-on-one with others. I had a choice, such that I could choose to let what happened to me continue to tell me how to live my life or how to feel. If I chose to do this, I would be giving my power to them. So, I decided I am too strong to let that continue and decided to stop it. It doesn’t matter how old you get, if you have suffered it and don’t own it, there is still that piece that you don’t want to be judged by it. So, once I was chosen for the TEDx Talk and started preparing for it, it brought back those feelings of what happened. What I learned about myself in the process is that it doesn’t matter how old you are, you still have a sense of vulnerability. You have to remember you are stronger than that.
SWY: Why do you think so many individuals are scared to share their story? What keeps people silenced?
TW: It’s the fear, the fear of breaking up their family, the fear of not being loved, the fear of not being believed. There is a fear of further loss; you have already lost your power, your self-worth, your trust in others. So, that’s why I think people stay silenced. Fear likes to keep you in the status quo, so reaching beyond what fear is trying to give you with positive intention causes you to get out of the status quo, but fear doesn’t let us do that. If we can learn to understand the positive intentions of fear then we can learn to not give it the grandiosity that it takes on.
SWY: What is one piece of advice you would give to a child or youth who is suffering from trauma and abuse and wants to heal, but doesn’t know how?
TW: Firstly, if it is currently happening, it's unlikely to stop until you tell someone. There are plenty of victim advocacy resources, but make sure you share it with someone so you can get a partner to help you to make it stop. If the abuse happened, don’t believe you are okay because you are just “here”. What happened to you affected you mentally and emotionally. Typically, the abuse would have happened when we are children. As children, we haven’t formed our own beliefs yet. We gain our own conscious beliefs and values from what others believe and tell us as children. So, if you don’t understand how all that operates, you might stay a victim to it. We have to realize that when we say to ourselves, “I’m here, I’m fine,” it doesn’t always play out that way in our lives. For me, I had chronic bad relationships, and I didn’t realize how that was tied to my self-worth and abuse that I endured. Until you work through the mental and emotional pieces, the effects of the abuse are going to continue to show up in other ways in your life.
SWY: What is the most important thing you want others to understand about being an abuse survivor?
TW: There is work to be done, but we tend to beat ourselves up because of what happened to us, and if it happened repeatedly, we would repeatedly beat ourselves up because we couldn’t stop it from happening. There has to be a level of appreciation for yourself for every step you take to being more yourself instead of powerless. We want to be powerful - full of our own right. Every step we take towards becoming powerful, we have to appreciate it. Don’t beat yourself up for taking one step and not four. Being an abuse survivor is not a quick fix. There is a shift from going to I am a victim, to I was victimized and now a survivor, but there is work to be done. So, don’t give up on yourself.
"Every step we take towards becoming powerful, we have to appreciate it. Don’t beat yourself up for taking one step and not four. Being an abuse survivor is not a quick fix."
SWY: In your Tedx Talk, you explain that people have the power to become “whole again". What do you mean by this? What are some ways that people can achieve this?
TW: Whole to me is physically, emotionally, and mentally. You are one whole being. Though physically you got control back over your body when the situation stopped, you haven’t necessarily got your mental or emotional status back to what it was prior. If you go along the line when you are abused and recognize that this is a problem emotionally, you can seek out the knowledge, understanding, and wisdom towards this emotional healing. That’s another step to becoming whole again. Every step you take forward, you’re not going backward. So, appreciate that you are working towards that journey. Don’t allow someone else’s dark choices to define you and bring light to your purpose. Every human being is designed with a purpose and to be here with an intention. Abuse throws us off those tracks at such an early age that many people never get back on track. So, I want to create an image that helps people understand that they are here to shine and bring light to their own great purpose.
SWY: Can you speak to the intergenerational aspect of trauma and abuse? Why do you think that, for many families, this cycle of abuse goes on for so long? What do you think needs to be done to break it?
TW: As a child growing up, the conversations that would happen about abuse in the media were that if someone was abused, you were twice as likely to become an abuser. As someone who was abused, I was petrified that one day I would be destined to be an abuser. So, when I became a mother that thought came back to me again - Is my destiny to abuse my child? Never have I ever had a thought about abusing my own child. As I became an accredited life coach and I learned about neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), we as humans have a choice. The first thing is to understand is that when we are children, other people’s beliefs are being poured into us, and because of this, it shows us how at some point in someone’s life they get this thought to go out and abuse children. That individual has a choice. They chose whether they act, whether they do it. So, I believe that the cycle of abuse continues at the rate it continues because there are groups that want to pity these people. Not holding them responsible and accountable for what they have done is, in my opinion, why it has been allowed to continue. The only way to stop it is for people to stop taking away the personal accountability for doing it and make sure that every human is aware that it is their choice what they do and not put it on someone else.
SWY: Your story shows an incredible amount of resilience. What does resiliency mean to you?
TW: If you are someone who has been through this journey of becoming whole again, you don’t feel resilient. You always have this voice in the back of your head that you have to constantly work against because it’s a matter of rewiring your mind. I think what resiliency means to me, is that my choices are my choices. I can respond and react to someone else’s choices, but I am here for a reason and that reason would not have a negative intention. I try to stay focused on my legacy in life. We are all here temporarily, so if I waste the time that I’m here and don’t serve with what I was designed to serve in, then I’ve wasted my time. That is where I think my resiliency comes from.