Anna Ptak

WHYITRIBE (THE REASON YOU THINK IT’S IMPORTANT TO CELEBRATE WHO YOU ALREADY ARE):

I think celebrating who we are is the first step to moving forward in our own identities. Celebrating who you are now helps you forget who you used to be, whether that be a person who was sexually abused, struggled with an addiction to drugs and alcohol, or had an eating disorder. Those labels that used to define you, no longer determine who you are or what you can do. Secondly, I believe that celebrating who are individually can bring us together as a community. Currently, people are less connected on a personal level due to social media. A phone call to check on a friend is now translated through replying with a simple comment on a very general status update about their day on social media.

Subsequently, it is easy to hide behind the façade of social media. Celebrating who we are as women creates a community where we live intentionally to grow in our relationships with one another.

NAME A TIME RECENTLY WHEN YOU SAID SOMETHING GOOD ABOUT YOURSELF / HOW DID THAT MAKE YOU FEEL?

I say something positive about myself every day privately and on social media. I try to keep each post relatable so others do not feel alone who have gone through things similar to me. I have been through some pretty hard things in my life. Between being sexually trafficked as a teen and sexually abused as a child, I have every single reason to be negative and angry. However, I have every single reason to be happy and have joy! The sexual abuse is over; I have a great marriage, and a wonderful life in general. My close circle will tell you that I have a very real and authentic understanding of who I am. When I say good things about myself, I feel empowered. Now that I love myself, every day feels like Christmas morning!

WHY DO YOU THINK WOMEN SHY AWAY FROM CELEBRATING OR PRAISING THEMSELVES SO MUCH?

I believe that women shy away from celebrating themselves for a few reasons. I think the first one that I can relate to is when women do not understand their self worth. When I didn’t love myself I thought that enjoying any attention shown to me was selfish. I didn’t think I was worthy of receiving attention. I would walk around with my head looking at the ground. If we do not celebrate who we are, who will?

Another reason I feel that women shy away from celebrating themselves is this societal idea that mainly celebrates women when they have a boyfriend, get married or have a child. This is very common in the south of the US. It can be really hard to celebrate a woman who gets a promotion when the society-based goal is to meet these other traditional expectations. Don’t get me wrong, I truly believe that mother’s are definitely worth celebrating. I just believe there should be a more equal level of celebration amongst women regardless of what season of life they are in.

HOW DO YOU OVERCOME THE TENDENCY TO DISCREDIT COMPLIMENTS YOU ARE GIVEN?

I used to struggle with this so badly! To add to what I said above, any time anyone would give me a compliment I would return it with a compliment. I remember during one of my counseling sessions I told my therapist that I felt selfish if someone told me that I was beautiful. I had to not only learn to love myself, but to have a healthy connection with other people. This sounds kind of crazy, but it all started with a hug. I entered a residential program called Mercy Multiplied in 2011, where I worked through my life controlling issues and learned life skills with Biblical principles. My counselor gave me challenges each week to help me progress in my healing. One week she told me that I had to ask for and receive a hug from two staff a week. I was terrified because that meant allowing someone into my personal space making me feel very vulnerable.

All of the staff at Mercy Multiplied are all highly trained, and are in constant communication so they know what challenges we had each week and how to support each resident individually. I decided to start with the Program Director at my home for my first hug since I was most intimidated by her. I remember I went into her office and asked for a hug literally shaking. As expected she said yes sincerely and gave me a hug. I remember I cried so hard after that. I finally let someone in. After that, receiving hugs have become a beautiful thing for me.

Another challenge that I was given was to look my counselor in the eye whenever I spoke to her. I about died when I had to do this. She gave me this challenge so I would learn how to connect with others in a more intimate way. This took me a while to grasp and do without thinking too hard. I found my healing and restoration through my Christian faith. However, I know there are many who not and want to be more open to confidence. I would suggest starting with different behaviors like I did. If you have healthy intimacy with others, it becomes easier to allow others to appreciate you.

HOW DOES SOCIETY REINFORCE THE IDEA WE ARE NOT ENOUGH AND HOW CAN WE TAKE THAT POWER BACK?

Honestly, I believe that if you want to have a voice you have to choose to use your voice to make a difference. At this point in my life, the majority of my friends are new parents. There are times where it is very hard to feel a sense of belonging or that my accomplishments are significant. I make sure to include myself in the conversations. One thing that women love to do is TALK! We love to talk to our friends about our challenges and our accomplishments. If we can shift those conversations from placing too much emphasis on our marital status and job to how we can relate as women a unified community that will say everyone is worth it!

Another personal example I have found where we can take our power back is in my experience working in the anti-trafficking movement. I have been working in the movement to end human trafficking for over five years. Throughout my career, I have met and worked with some incredible organizations but I noticed one thing that kept coming up: I was rarely offered compensation. I started talking to other Overcomers of trafficking and began noticing a trend that they too were rarely compensated fairly. We learned that many people in the more prestigious organizations do not see us as experts; we were seen as just a person with a story. I would speak at conferences alongside FBI, U.S. Attorneys and Direct Service Providers, sometimes sharing my story or conducting a training where they were being paid but I wasn’t. I tolerated not being paid it in the beginning because I was trying to get my name back out there. I remember one time when I was the keynote speaker at a 5-star hotel for a nonprofit’s black tie gala. The event was dazzling and they raised over 100k, but they couldn’t afford to pay me a $250 speakers fee, but they paid the other speakers.

I learned very quickly that if you want people to see you differently, you have to act differently. I had to carry myself and conduct my business in a way that attracted respect and someone who deserved fair compensation. When I spoke to people who wanted to book me as a consultant and speaker, I had to change the way that they saw me as an Overcomer Leader, and make them take me seriously. I feel like the same thing applies to women in general. If we want to rise above the traditional stereotypes society limits us with, we have to carry ourselves in a way that gets our voices heard.

WHY IS THE TRIBE MOVEMENT IMPORTANT?

I believe that THE TRIBE movement is important because we are to develop a community that has the power to change the cultural stereotypes that limit women. We become the steps that we take. If we do nothing, nothing will change. THE TRIBE movement is not only a catalyst for change, but promotes the principles women need to change the world!

About ANNA:

Anna Ptak is currently an international public speaker as well as an Overcomer and policy consultant in the movement to end Human Trafficking. Her personal focus is on the link between sex trafficking and pornography.  Anna’s role in the movement has been greatly focused around policy, law and curriculum development for safe houses working with survivors of sex trafficking. Anna assists in drafting legislation and testifying in various Congressional bodies, and has conducted speaking tours in both New York and California. Additionally, Anna launched her ethical fashion line sewn by Overcomers of sex trafficking in Nepal during New York Fashion Week in 2015. Anna will be releasing her next set of designs in the spring of 2018. In her spare time, Anna loves spending time with her husband, and their adorable puppy, Liam Alexander.

Occupation: International public speaker, Overcomer and policy consultant in the movement to end Human Trafficking

Website: www.facebook.com/mrsannaptak

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