Why we invalidate ourselves in toxic work environments

Why We Invalidate Ourselves in Toxic Work Environments

No Soy De Aquí nor from there

A series centering on the search for belonging, healing, and fumbling towards liberation!

By Christine Leone 

Send questions about the self, healing from racial trauma, and liberation to [email protected]. Include your name and location, or a request to remain anonymous. Letters may be edited.

Why We Invalidate Ourselves in Toxic Work Environments

Q. Hi Christine – my workplace is toxic. The culture is full of white institutional values like individualism, urgency, competition, all-or-nothing thinking, and perfectionism. But even though I KNOW it’s unhealthy, I want to do well at work. Instead, I just feel like a failure. Why do I keep invalidating myself? -Invalidating Myself

Answer: So, you have done your homework and are now better able to recognize the collective delusions that foment white cis male landowning superiority. However, even though you have this awareness, we still live within the abusive systems that many of our fellow humans remain willfully ignorant of or are consciously upholding. I get it. Through my own journey, I have come to understand how, just like an abusive relationship, once you know the dynamics of abuse, you can decide how to respond in a way that aligns with the goals and values you have for yourself.

Just like abuse, delusions of supremacy are grounded in power and control and require various methods of abuse and intimidation to maintain that power and control. I have worked with many survivors of intimate partner/family violence and sexualized violence. I have also experienced abusive relationships and work environments, and the dynamics of power and control are similar. (These similarities are worthy of deeper exploration in another blog post). Suffice it to say that the more you understand the abusive dynamics at play, the more power you have to make informed decisions about your own life. Here are some things to consider while you navigate abusive environments upholding delusions of supremacy.

  1. Know that you are not alone and that there is nothing wrong with you for feeling the way you do. Awareness of our society’s abusive nature can feel very isolating – particularly if everyone around you is silent about it. When everyone else is complicit or silenced by fear, it can cause you to gaslight yourself. You may begin to question if you are good enough. If you are being too sensitive, reactive, or weak. You are none of those things. The anxiety, the loneliness, the burnout you feel is your nervous system telling you something is wrong. Listen to it. Even amidst the delusion and gaslighting, your body will always guide you back to the universal truth that you, me, are divine beings, and you inherently matter.  
  2. You get to decide how to respond once you understand the abusive dynamics at play. For some, this may mean quitting and finding a job where it is possible to feel valued. For others, it may mean pulling back on how much energy and time you devote to work so you can channel your energy towards community work. You may want to invest energy in transforming your workplace. You may decide to start your own business where you can create a culture of inclusivity, compassion, and care. For some, it may mean finding ways to care for yourself and engaging in small acts of resistance (if it is safe enough to do so). Whatever you decide to do, once you understand how you and others are being abused, you get to determine how you survive and thrive afterward.
  3. Create a culture of care for yourself and others. Pay attention to what makes you feel peaceful, joyful, and restored, and follow that. Whether it is a warm shower, a cuddle with your cat, praying, dancing to your favorite song, or connecting with others. Whatever gives you life, do those things and do them as often as you can because when we are in abusive environments, our bodies are under chronic stress. Engaging in activities that regulate your stress response can help you make observations and decisions from a calmer and more centered place. Remind yourself that part of the power and control tactics of delusional white supremacy culture and colonization is disconnecting you from your own body and fellow human beings. Particularly for people whose identities are in the crosshairs of oppression, your self-care is not only an act of love; it is political warfare (Audrey Lorde).
  4. Be the change you want to see in the world. By this, I mean treat yourself and the people around you with the same care, compassion, and dignity you want to see in the world. Hold yourself and others accountable for crossing boundaries that align with social justice and mutual care. Hold onto reciprocal relationships and distance yourself from the ones that suck you dry. Take care of your mind and body as best you can with the resources you have available to you. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction; whatever you exude, you will receive in return. It is ancient knowledge, and it is science. Everything you do matters. You matter. You are powerful. So, think about how you would like to wield that power, especially if you are privileged. Whether you seek love, connection, care, or justice, be that for yourself so you can be that for others.

The abusive nature of systems, workplaces, and relationships that are designed to keep folks with white or cis-male privilege in control is designed to be invalidating. The self-gaslighting that results happens when we are unaware of the abuse. Once you become more aware of how the abuse is wielded, the veil lifts. With this clarity, you understand that they invalidated your power because you threatened theirs. With this knowledge and practice, you can begin to embody your power and share this power with others.

Stay tuned for our final weekly post in this series next week! 

Last week’s post: How Can We See Things Clearly When We Are Living in the Matrix?

Christine Leone, LCSW, ICDVP

Christine Leone, LCSW, ICDVP

Hi, I'm Christine, and I'm a counselor who helps people explore healing through liberation practices. I currently offer counseling services here at Chicago Compass Counseling and specialize in EMDR, anxiety, and Race-Based Traumatic Stress. If you're interested, you can read more about me on my about page.