The road to rebuilding my self-confidence has been long and winding with plenty of bumps along the way. It has been five years since I was fired from my job as Communications Director of Iowa Senate Republicans, and one year since my very public trial against the State of Iowa. My life has changed in ways that I never thought it would, and now I am strong enough to know my worth and ensure that others know theirs, too.
To understand what I mean by having low self-confidence, let me paint you a picture: Over the course of five years working for Senate Republicans, I went from optimistically and proactively doing my work (writing newsletters, press releases, talking points, radio scripts, and social media posts) to fearfully piecing words together, hoping I wouldn’t be noticed, keeping my head down awaiting the next verbal lashing. I was beaten down, crying daily, praying to make it through the day and hoping my family wouldn’t notice the burdens I brought home.
This is what sexual harassment and the subsequent retaliation did to me. The lewd, disgusting comments and jokes about me, my appearance, and my work broke me down. It led me to counseling, antidepressants, a strained marriage and the loss of a job. These bumps in my winding road were painful, but I want to talk about it in the hopes that it will resonate with others. I want to show them that my winding road is relatively smooth now and theirs will be, too.
One sharp turn in my road was a decision to sue the State of Iowa for wrongful termination, retaliation, and sexual harassment. After my fourth complaint of sexual harassment and my bosses retaliating against me, claiming my previously stellar writing and work were substandard, I was very suddenly fired. My four-year legal battle against the state ended in a win for me and a huge sense of vindication that my work was NOT substandard. I could get a job (albeit not in politics) after my name was publicly dragged through the mud, and I could survive the nasty things people said about me (internet trolls are the worst!).
I finally realized that I was mentally strong. I could handle a lot, and of just about anything! It was like a light bulb switched on in my mind. It helped me see that no one should go through a work situation like what I experienced. No one should be beaten down to the point of exhaustion at their workplace. No one deserves that. I want to help others realize their worth and help empower them to change their work environments for the better so they do not become beaten-down victims. That’s why I’m on a mission to end workplace harassment in my lifetime.
Advice to all: If you see something, say something. It is OK to say something, in the moment, after the moment, just bring it to light because if you don't draw the line, people will continue to cross that line and think it's OK.
Interested in talking to Kirsten more? Reach out her via firstname.lastname@example.org to experience her newest initiative: "The training is anti-harassment training, but in a more basic form, it's culture change training. What I offer is more than a 30-minute stodgy video. I offer comprehensive, positive change for an organization. I'm targeting organizations looking to invest in their workforce and foster positive change to boost productivity. Too early to tell about legislators at the Capitol - but my efforts are non-partisan. This is a non-partisan issue!"
Watch our Wednesdays with Whitney chat with Kirsten Anderson below!