Be wary of people’s motives! The community didn’t teach me much about stranger danger or how to advocate for myself. I found myself in uncomfortable and even dangerous sexual situations throughout my first year of college because I didn’t know how to say no to people. I had to teach myself to be assertive. Being selfless and self-effacing might work in the Shalom group but it has no place in the social sphere of today. It will only make you look like prey to unscrupulous men. Own your weaknesses and strengths and learn to use them. I no longer worry about feeling rude when I am uncomfortable with a situation. I speak my mind and make an exit. I’d much rather be known as a bitch than a pushover.
With regard to friendships – some people may want to accessorize you when they hear your story – i.e. “This is my cult friend!” That type of behavior makes me uneasy. I do not like to be reduced to my background, especially when that is such a small part of who I am today. Friendships should be supportive and uplifting, and involve a mutual give and take. Don’t feel bad about being selective with whom you give your time to. You don’t need negativity to bog you down while you are building your new life. Say adios to the haters and don’t look back.