This one got a bit self-analytical and emo. Consider yourselves warned.
Here’s a tragic realisation: I turn 24 in less than three weeks, and I have no idea how to stand up for myself.
To people who have no choice but to put up with me – to people where arguments are a natural part of the relationship – I can. My mother, Drummer Boy; I have no problem arguing with them (I should, but I don’t). Anyone else – colleagues, bosses, even friends – I can’t. And it’s got to the point where I need to learn pretty damn quickly.
Trouble is, once everyone has you pegged as a quiet one, one who won’t make a fuss, you’re kind of doomed. When you finally do put your foot down with a firm hand, everyone is taken aback and thinks you’re being a bitch. You end up over-doing it, because everything you’ve put up with over the previous weeks/months/years has gathered and grown, so by the time you get around to speaking up, it simply comes out as, “screw you guys, I can’t take this bullshit anymore,” Carrie-from-Homeland style.
I’m not even particularly laid-back; I’m pretty highly-strung. Things that make me hissy include but are not limited to: not having enough to do, having too much to do, being rushed, other people being slow, cold showers, the Boy not being a fully-qualified mind-reader, and my mother offering me food*. I know, I know – I’m probably going to spend a lot of time in some sort of therapy when I can afford to.
*She barely eats, but insists that everyone else eats loads. It makes me irritable.
Obviously, the problem with standing up for yourself in work-related situations is that there can be pretty serious consequences. If you’re just having a bit of a scrap with a loved one, the worst that can happen is a few hours of sulking and silence. If you try and point out – however tactfully and politely – that your boss is being totally unreasonable and that something needs changing, you could lose your job/have your colleagues turn against you, et cetera. Nine situations out of ten, those things won’t happen, but there’s still a risk, and it won’t always pay to take that risk.
It’s frustrating though, because I think it’s a confidence thing. It feels like there’s a part of my personality missing – the “no, I will not take your bullshit” part. It’s really sad but I think I’m just too scared of being disliked. (Having written that sentence out for The Internet to see, I realise how pathetic that is. Oh dear.)
I’ve half-wondered if it’s also partly a woman thing – I’ve been told many times that I’m too nice (it’s not even true! I can be a right so-and-so when things aren’t going my way, I just pick and choose who sees it) and I’m fairly certain that girls are brought up to be “nice” in a way that boys aren’t. Studies conducted in US schools found that girls receive harsher punishments for being “rowdy” (for example, answering the teacher back) than boys do for the same wrongdoing. Nice guys finish last, but nice girls go far (that isn’t true either, I am hugely in favour of nice guys. They’re better in bed, for a start). But I can’t blame society – like I said, it’s in my hands now. It’s time to take responsibility and learn how to be assertive. I’m not trying to be a ball-busting, hard-as-nails bitch, I just need a sodding backbone.
A piece of advice I’ve seen a few times is this: pick a role model, and do what you think they would do. Admittedly, it does sound like something you’d read in a teen girl magazine, but you don’t have to pick Beyonce as your “model” (I’m not nearly black nor American enough to pick her, anyway). Who would I choose? Caitlin Moran, Grace Dent, Owen Jones? Great, so my options in times of trouble are: making amazing puns followed up with devastating insights (Moran), saying something brilliantly snarky but very funny (Dent), or pulling out some well-chosen statistics and being fantastically socialist with a Northern accent (Jones. I say all that with admiration and lust though, he’s my current intellectual crush). None of that is applicable to my life at the moment, sadly. So that’s not much help.
Perhaps I should look closer to home. My mother? No. Confident she may be, but she still says “yes” to everything, knackers herself out, takes it out on the rest of the family, all the while pretending it’s all her idea. I love her, but I will not do the martyr thing. The Boy? He always appears to be incredibly self-confident, sometimes to the point of arrogance. I know it’s not genuine arrogance, but it doesn’t really matter – if you look like you’re confident in yourself and aren’t going to stand for any bullshit, then people are simply less likely to try and take advantage. Fake it til you make it and whatnot.
Pffft, as usual, I don’t know. If anyone’s got any tips or tricks, feel free to share.
In the meantime, there’s music:
I don’t know why I like this song so much, having always been pretty underwhelmed by the singer in question, but I cannot get enough of the lyrics at 2:58 – there are songwriters with three decades on her that couldn’t come up with lines like that.
And this song – despite the video being utterly bonkers, and the lyrics sounding like Avril Lavigne wrote them – keeps getting Stuck. In. My. Head. So now y’all have to suffer it too. (It is quite cute though.)