The moment a girl becomes a woman: a story of psychological abuse - Part 1
I observed women around me falling over and over again. I did not think that at some point in my life I might fall too.
Greece, Southern Europe
Story by Maria Sotiropoulou. Edited by Melaina Dyck
Published on April 9, 2021. Reading time: 4 minutes
This story is also available in
From a very young age, I listened to stories about powerful women. Encouraged by the words of my mother, I grew up with the perception that I should never let anything or anyone break me. In my mind, I carried an image of how an independent woman should look: a woman who stands on her feet and faces every obstacle and enemy.
Growing up, I slowly began to understand that life is neither a fairy tale nor a film of empowered women in a male-dominated space. I observed women around me falling over and over again, no matter how hard they tried. However, I did not let this clip the wings of my own aspirations and dreams. Most importantly, I did not think that at some point in my life I might fall too. I had yet to realize that the glamorized image in my mind did not reflect reality.
Many have tried to warn me–and they still do–that the field of politics in which I want to work in is male-dominated. When I started working with my organization, I was quite pro-active. Due to my naïveté and lack of awareness of the industry, I ended up ignoring various red flags—something we tend to do when we are excited and frightened at the same time. This is especially true in situations with unequal relationships where one party holds a position of power and authority.
The world of powerful people in suits, political discourses and public engagement enchanted me early on in my student years. I took every opportunity that came my way, without taking into account that some things are “given on your plate” more easily than is actually the case. I believed that I was on the right path, as I perceived each given opportunity as a step closer to my dreams. Of course, each step also came with its own challenges, but I took those as for granted and normal, as later I would receive the prize I earned. Or so I thought.
No one warned me that these difficulties would include manipulative, patronizing, and sexist attitudes. I assumed that for each step taken, I would have a "mentor" looking after me, showing me what is right and wrong, ethical and unethical. And most importantly, I accepted judgmental words as ordinary within that space; as “just the way it's done.”
From bitter comments about my appearance and my femininity, to the fact that with a strong and extroverted personality people said that I would give “everything in my power” in order to get what I wanted, all those terrible words I merely understood as an innocent "teasing" and "friendly advice."
After a while, it dawned on me that the advice of my “mentor” was not always legitimate. I started to take initiatives on my own, following the path I had mapped out myself, without always asking for specific advice. I did not want to fit into the mold someone else had created.
But this became a turning point in my life, which unfortunately I had not predicted. I was expected to always do my best, but never to surpass my “mentor.” I did not know how bad it would become.
Read a version of Maria's story published in Greek.
 Due to potential backlash, the name of the organization has been omitted.
How does this story make you feel?
Do you have any questions after reading this story? Do you want to follow-up on what you've just read? Get in touch with our team to learn more! Send an email to [email protected]rrespondentsoftheworld.com.
Talk about this Story
Please enable cookies to view the comments powered by Disqus.
Subscribe to our Monthly Newsletter
Stay up to date with new stories on Correspondents of the World by subscribing to our monthly newsletter:
The moment a girl becomes a woman: a story of psychological abuse - Part 2
A story by Maria Sotiropoulou
I want to advise people to start speaking up. The day I realized I was ready to talk was the day in which this little girl finally felt like a woman. Read more...
> United States
Gender-based Hiring in Engineering: Insulting Today, Inspiring Tomorrow
A story by Izzy Bauman
5 min English Audio available
I have been fortunate to be shaped by incredible women in my field, and it is my conviction that with time, my experience will be less of an anomaly. Read more...
My Life as a Woman in India: Goddess of Many Virtues, Except Wealth
A story by Charu Thukral
Despite strongly standing to society’s demand of being a ‘superwoman’, my mom has hardly received appreciation for her efforts. Read more...
Explore other Topics
At Correspondents of the World, we want to contribute to a better understanding of one another in a world that seems to get smaller by the day - but somehow neglects to bring people closer together as well. We think that one of the most frequent reasons for misunderstanding and unnecessarily heated debates is that we don't really understand how each of us is affected differently by global issues.
Our aim is to change that with every personal story we share.
Correspondents of the World is not just this website, but also a great community of people from all over the world. While face-to-face meetings are difficult at the moment, our Facebook Community Group is THE place to be to meet other people invested in Correspondents of the World. We are currently running a series of online-tea talks to get to know each other better.