This was originally published in The Dejure Club newsletter a couple of months ago, but it’s an issue that still continues to hit close to home. Maybe you’ve never struggled with speaking up or people pleasing. But if you have, this letter is for you.
Confrontation makes me upset.
This isn’t something you want to figure out near the end of your Law degree. But it’s true. I hate making others feel uncomfortable, and I’m prepared to let a lot of things slide. It’s to the point where if a waiter brought me the wrong order, I would take it just to avoid making a fuss.
It wasn’t until I was sitting across from a friend that I realised how toxic this pattern of behaviour was. With latte’s clasped in our hands, he blamed me for everything that went wrong. Even though he’d misinterpreted my actions, I found myself shouldering the whole blame and apologising for everything even though he’d also played a significant part in hurting me.
Why did I do that? Why did I completely invalidate my own hurt and excuse his actions just so he could feel ‘right’? As I reflected on this, I realised I was almost always playing down my own needs and diminishing my feelings to make others feel comfortable. If someone was rude to me, I’d laugh it off. If someone disrespected me or spoke down to me, I’d bite my tongue and bury the hurt.
I don’t know how or why, but somewhere along the way I learnt to be submissive and a pushover. I don’t advocate my own needs because I’m afraid to hurt others or rock the boat. But where does that leave me?
Another friend was constantly cancelling on me at the last minute. I’d always make excuses for them like ‘they’re busy, so it’s understandable’ or ‘they have a lot on their plate, it’s fine.’ But with every ‘It’s fine’ or ‘No worries!’ text, I realised I was validating their behaviour. I was implicitly saying that it was ok for them to disrespect my time and keep flaking out on me because I’d never get mad.
Here’s the thing: if you don’t tell people their actions bother you, they’ll never figure it out. If you don’t assert your boundaries and your needs, people will continue to repeat their ways and you’ll continue to be walked over. If you don’t respect your own feelings, how can you expect others to?
I think a lot of this stems from fear. Fear that people will leave us if we come off as too difficult or not eager to please. Fear that we aren’t as ‘important’ as others. So we undermine our position, compromise on our priorities and play off our pain.
But girl, can I tell you something?
You are fearfully and wonderfully made. You are worthy of being heard. You are allowed to assert your needs. You are allowed to say no.
Someone else’s age, race or position of authority does not make them ‘better’ than you. It does not give them licence to devalue you or make you feel ‘less than.’ It is one thing to give grace. It’s another thing entirely to let others take advantage of your selflessness. If you are constantly being walked over or looked down on. If someone makes you feel like your feelings are invalid or you’re unworthy – then girl, you have got to speak up!
And so, for anyone who has ever felt misunderstood, unheard, or unseen. For the ones who have been too scared to speak up. I see you. I am with you. I am for you. So now I’m standing up for myself. Yes, give more grace than you get. Yes, give others the benefit of the doubt. But stop invalidating your needs or feelings for others. Girl, speak up!